Celebrate The Wins

Author, Sonna Evans

A couple of years ago when I was an intern we would always start off our team meetings by celebrating the wins. This was a new concept to me; taking time out to think over the past week and recognize ways that God had worked in my life, or in this instance, in the ministry. I came to love this practice.

I love this concept because my mind tends to go a little towards the negative side. I’m not necessarily a pessimist by definition, but I do struggle with being judgmental and critical and too often that lends itself to a more negative focus. However, when I spend time with the Lord and ask Him to show me His handiwork, He does.

This week I have had a lot of wins. Some bigger, others smaller, and some…well the word silly comes to mind, maybe because they made me laugh. God is NOT silly, but I do believe He has a sense of humor. Here are some wins from yesterday:

  1. My history with yard sales is dismal – I never make much money – but this time I asked for help and had several people donate awesome items.
  2. I changed the date from the 22nd to the 29th to give myself more time to get things together. Turns out that on the 29th  there was a huge rummage sale at the school around the corner and we had non-stop customers from 8 in the morning to 1 in the afternoon. Crazy!
  3. A friend that wanted to be a part of the yard sale could not participate after I changed the date, but the night before she had a change of plans and was able to be there to help and keep me company. We had a great day together!
  4. I took the leftover items to a local thrift store, but hey would not take one of the chairs because it had a stain on it. As I started to think, “What am I going to do with this chair?” a woman walked by my truck and said, “Oh, what a beautiful chair!” I asked her if she wanted it. She said yes and actually had a vehicle big enough to take it home. Score!
  5. My kids were ALL available and willing to help most of the day and did so with joy. A neighbor who I don’t see much of was home and came over and we got to talk as her daughter played with my friend’s daughter. Relationship building!

Wow! I could go on and on.  And these are just wins from yesterday. Each win had significance and  meaning for me for a variety of different reasons.

God is good! Did you have some wins this week? Has He been working in and through you? I would love to hear your wins. It would encourage me and spur me on as I am …just living the thing!

And let us consider how we may spur one another on…encouraging one another…. Hebrews 10:24-25

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Apple Pie And Fractions…

Author, Adrienne Yerzy
…the happiest patient on earth

A couple of weeks ago my appendix decided to stab me in the back and I made the call to have it removed forever. Ok, the surgeon made that call, but either way the sucker is gone and I don’t miss it at all.

During recovery, a lot of friends sent sweet messages, dropped off food, cards, and delivered flowers. My landlord has the gift of “pie baking”, something I know nothing about, and gave me a fresh, warm apple pie. People, I had a hot pie on my counter all for ME! Now if you cut a pie like a normally person, there are 8 slices. And as you can imagine, one pie for one person is a lot of pie… if I gave one slice away it would hardly be missed because I would still have 7 SLICES OF PIE ALL TO MYSELF.

I wish I could think so generously about other fractions in my life. Let’s be honest, 1/8 of a pie sounds easy to let go of, but thinking about giving away 1/10 of my hard earned dollars…not so easy. Honestly, if I was reading this, I would have hit that little red “x” in the top right corner of the screen by now.

This past year has been rough. And I am sure this is uncomfortable to read, believe me, it is more uncomfortable to write, but among the many different changes in my life, one has been an increase of expenses. My amazing roommate decided to get married, and they preferred to move in together, the nerve of wedded bliss. My car moved from the street in front of my house to the car graveyard, and so my expenses literally doubled within weeks. DOUBLED.

In December I felt God challenge me to tithe regularly, something I hadn’t done in years. I didn’t feel burdened, but I felt like He might be asking me to do this to show me more about faith. It was a commitment to believe that He can provide, a commitment to acknowledge that everything I have was given to me by Him, and a commitment to believe that when I have need, I will see God take action and provide. And seriously, who doesn’t want to see God act for good?

So tonight I made my payment towards faith. My investment towards seeing God show that he is on my side. And I’d like to acknowledge that since January 1st, I have paid all my bills and I have not been hungry. I have also on occasion purchased wine, so as you can see, it isn’t like I’m living in a tent on a street corner. And to acknowledging that in front of other people is a way to help me continue with that commitment and is another way God gets the credit for what happens in my life. I have a lot of hospital bills coming up and you know what? I’m not even stressing, I’m …just living this thing.

A Lenten Journey… by Sonna Evans

“The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,

‘Hosanna!’

‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’

‘Blessed is the king of Israel!’

Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:

 ‘Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
    see, your king is coming,
    seated on a donkey’s colt.’” John 12:12-19

There is a book I love to read every year during Lent called ‘Small Surrenders’ by Emilie Griffin. I have read it almost every year for the past several years, appreciating how it prepares my heart and mind for Easter Sunday, celebrating and remembering the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus.

Today is Palm Sunday. It is significant because it is a reminder of the day Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem one week before His crucifixion; when He was welcomed and worshipped to fulfill the prophecy written of him in Zechariah 9:9,

“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious
lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

It was the practice of that time period to throw clothes or small branches down before someone worthy of great respect when they entered the city; to pay homage. The palm branches symbolized peace and victory, while riding on a donkey represented humility and peace. What a perfect entry for our Lord; humility, peace and victory.

A fantastic scene! I love the idea of Jesus entering the city of Jerusalem just days before his crucifixion, receiving some of the honor He is due. That is my Lenten surrender. To give to Jesus the honor He is due.

I did not grow up celebrating Lent, but I have fully embraced the season as an adult. Practicing small surrenders during this time of year to refocus and refresh my walk with God has been so meaningful. Emilie Griffin uses quotes from others who have walked this journey; who give their insights and encouragement to set this time aside for reflection and remembrance. I know I need this in my life.

These days our lives can so quickly get bogged down with to-do lists and busyness. Add to that the pressure I have experienced in our Christian culture to do “big” things for God. Griffin relates,

“We fantasize about mountaintop experiences. But most of the Christian stories give scant support for this. In the Gospels at least, Jesus appears in ordinary circumstances. He is visiting…He is walking along the road…he is…with friends, or crossing the water on a fishing boat. The parables Jesus teaches are filled with metaphors from ordinary experience.”

So this is where the practice of “small surrenders” has spoken the loudest to me. It is in the small things, the ordinary, and the mundane that I can see and follow the example of Jesus as I am …just living the thing.

Stir It Up…

Author, Ann Marie Collins

Ask a child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, and the answers range from hilariously entertaining to terrifying.  A different times in their lives my oldest was determined to join the CIA (she would have been good), my son talked about joining the Israeli army (he is only about one-eighth Jewish), and my youngest was either going to be a nurse or do hair, (she chose nursing).

I cannot recall ever telling my children they could be anything they wanted to be, because the truth is most things require you to have some kind of minimum qualifications; a natural ‘bend’, inherent talent, or giftedness that can harnessed and honed.  I will never sing like Alicia Keys, run like Usain Bolt, or do a Biles like Olympic gymnast Simone – not without serious damage to my body parts.

However, I believe in the omniscient God who has placed within each of us “gracious gifts” which cannot be earned, bought, or sold.  They light up the passion and fire in you, and you would do it for free if you could.  In the middle of activating and exercising your giftedness you know you’re ‘in your lane’; feeling energized, exhilarated, and anxious all at the same time.  That is how I feel when I am writing alone, or speaking in front of a group of people; excited, fueled by passion and nervous energy.

But sometimes it also feels like life, or people in life, are orchestrating to douse every inner fire with buckets of fear; fear of the toll failure would take, or the cost of successfully ‘doing you’, or the pain of judgement.

“That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the GRACIOUS GIFT OF GOD, THE INNER FIRE THAT IS IN YOU…  For God did not give us a spirit of timidity; of cowardice, of craven (weak spineless, gutless), – and cringing and fawning fear, but He has given us a spirit of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.” II Timothy 1:7 Amplified Bible

Five years ago Os Guiness spoke at our church and with a single phrase from the Bible lit an all-consuming fire in me and changed the direction of my life forever.

“For David, after he had served God’s will and purpose and counsel in his own generation, fell asleep…” Acts 13:36a Amplified Bible.

The decision was immediate and final; THAT is what I want said about my life.

At 55 years old it is both sobering and motivating to acknowledge that more than half of my life is over.  I refuse to let fear of anyone or anything stop me from ‘stirring it up’.  Along with His gracious gifts, He has given unconditional love and access to His infinite power working in and through me.  So with everything to gain, and nothing of eternal value to lose, I’m …just living the thing.