Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Birth of a Ministry

We are at the cusp of something explosive and great, and I can't wait to see what God is going to do. But what some women may see as a long time coming have no idea what's been going on behind the scenes to get a women's ministry on the radar at Calvary.

In August of 2005, God laid it on my heart that I was to lead in women's ministry. I laughed like Elizabeth when she was told she going to have a child at her elderly age. I didn't laugh because I didn't think it wouldn't happen. I laughed because I thought God could not have chosen a woman who was more out of her element when she was around women than me, but I accepted it and continued on my way. Over the next year, God dealt with me on several issues. First was my identity. My identity was like most men, it was tied into my career. I investigate insurance fraud for an insurance company and have enjoyed it for 12 1/2 years. When I started I was one of very few women, and I was definitely the youngest, and that is how I liked it. I work with all levels of law enforcement from sheriffs to the FBI, state troopers to federal prosecutors. People I investigate have set their homes or cars on fire, staged accidents, and I've investigated medical provider fraud. I get great satisfaction in my job and enjoy the reaction I get when I tell people what I do. I had to travel to Arkansas for an early morning meeting, so I spent the night. I enjoy these times -- having a hotel room by myself is good mental health time. Most of the time, I do a facial, manicure, pedicure, read, listen to the quiet, etc. This trip would be different because this is when the Holy Spirit convicted me of where I got my value. He impressed upon me that my career could be gone the next day, but my value wouldn't. My value is in HIM, my Creator, the lover of my soul. The one who took His time to knit me in my mother's womb, who knows the number of hair on my head, and who has ordained my days -- He's the one in whom I have my value. It was so incredibly humbling. I kept feeling the Holy Spirit pressing on the back of my head as I repented. He led me to ask Mrs. Julie to be my mentor. I only knew Mrs. Julie by name, but I obeyed.

I told Mrs. Julie how the Holy Spirit had led me to ask her to be my mentor, but I didn't know why. I explained to her what I had learned during my overnight stay, and she understood why I was being led to her. She told me her testimony, and it amazed me. People don't surprise me much anymore, but God always can.

In 2006, I asked God to take my spiritual gift away from me. He gave me the gift that some call prophecy, some call discernment, but He would wake me at 3 AM in the morning and I would grab my Bible and notebook, pen and paper and go to the den and settle into the recliner for however long it took. He would impress messages on me to give to other people. Often times they didn't make a lot of sense to me, and sometimes it put me into some very uncomfortable positions. It was physically draining and exhausting. What I wanted was to be a cheerleader, an encourager...little did I know I would learn about that in 2007. By the end of 2006, I had to confess and repent again to God and asked Him to restore His touch, His gift to me.

In 2007, my world came to a drastic halt when my mom was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. My family retreated into itself just to survive. God was so gracious and merciful. We did more than we survive, we thrived. My mentor, Mrs. Julie told me she was my age when her mother was diagnosed with cancer...Isn't that just like God to give me a mentor ahead of time who would walk with me through this valley? That year we learned so much, and my family's border was extended.

In 2008, we were coming out of our fog of a world, and God again began working on me and my marriage. He also started leading me to start asking for a women's ministry in my church reminding me of what He had impressed upon me in 2005. So, when He led me, I pushed for it, and when He didn't, I stopped. This would go off and on throughout 2008.

It's July 2009, and I had our first women's ministry team meeting last Sunday. It's not going to be anything like these women have known. It dawned on me as I was listening to the women on the team talk that most of them had small town ties and how comfortable that can feel. That is what we are wanting to instill in this women's ministry. Women touching the hearts of other women, making the connection personal and long-standing.

I still have my job as a fraud investigator, and maybe some day I'll be able to do women's ministry full-time, but right now from where I'm sitting things are great. God is in control. He is bringing His women He chooses into this ministry and putting us together like a beautiful tapestry. I am eagerly anticipating the birth of this ministry as this is just the beginning of the heavy labor.

I praise you Most Wonderful, Excellent, Heavenly Father. Your creativity and wisdom are unmatched, and I am so thankful your mercies are new every day and that they never run out. Thank you for this opportunity to serve you and the women of my church. Thank you for continuing to mold and make me into the godly woman you desire for me to be. I am so blessed to be your daughter. Amen

Friday, April 3, 2009


Ladies, I just want to thank each and every one of you who were committed to this Bible study. You made it so exciting and worth while.

We have one more get-together. Monday night we will watching the movie "A Night with the King," Esther's story. Be sure to wear your jammies and house slippers or something very comfortable. Also, bring a bag of popcorn or what you want to snack on.

We are looking forward to spending one more evening with you all.

Love you all,


PS -- BTW, there will be childcare.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

And That's the Rest of the Story

Sandra--Can you believe we have worked our way all the way through the book of Esther?! I don't know about you, but sometimes I felt as if I were actually a participant in the story. I'm really glad that I already knew, basically, how the story would end, or this could have been a very stressful study. There were days when I would find at the end of my study that my shoulders had become tight and tense, wondering if Esther would be granted an audience with the king or would she be killed! Or would she finally tell the king what she really wanted? It was like reading a good mystery, wasn't it?

The late Paul Harvey had a long-running radio program that I loved. He would tell an intriguing story and then just sort of leave the listeners hanging, wondering what in the world was going to happen. There would be, of course, a commercial announcement; then Paul Harvey would return with "The Rest of the Story," telling us how the story turned out. Very often, it was the exact opposite of what we expected.

Have you ever felt that way about your own life? That this was NOT the way you had thought (hoped, dreamed, prayed) it would turn out? As a child, how did you envision yourself as an adult--a teacher, a lawyer, a sales rep? I thought for a long time that I would love to be an architect--design houses for families where they would live "happily ever after." Then I found out that that job required a LOT of math, so I lost interest in that quickly. As a child, our younger daughter was very quiet, very low-key. You can imagine my surprise when one day she announced that she wanted to be a person who picked up garbage every week. As we talked our way through it, I discovered that the idea of riding on the back on the big truck really enticed her. Needless to say, as she grew older and realized that that job had some definite disadvantages (sweat, bad odor, all kinds of weather), she decided that something else might be better for her.

It is so comforting to me to know that God knew even before I was conceived what my life would involve. That really amazes me because I can't always plan the next hour with any certainty of how it will really turn out! But He knew when Esther was born that she would have very little time with her parents before she would become the little Jewish orphan who would be adopted by her cousin. She would travel much of her life because the Jews were often on the move, and she would end up in Susa!! And then as a teenager, she was herded in with hundreds of other beautiful, young virgins who would eventually have to sleep with the king of the Persian Empire. Do you think that's how she had pictured her life?! Now, if she had dreamed of growing up to be a princess, she didn't aim quite high enough, did she?

But God knew exactly where He was taking her, what she would have to go through, and how she would respond. In other words, from the very beginning, He knew the "rest of the story" for Esther. And He knows the "rest of the story" for you and for me. That is really comforting because it assures me that no matter where or in whatever situation I may find myself, He already knows the plan. One of my favorite quotations is, "Do not be afraid of tomorrow. God is already there." And life is so much easier when He's in charge!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's Tough Being a Woman -- Turn Around

"Dear, Dad

I now you like to fish. But please do not take to many fish. Why? Because seals eat fish. And if you take to many the seals won't have ining to eat. And they'll die.

Love, Erin

Please help the seals"

My eight year-old daughter found out her daddy was going to be going camping this weekend and fishing with the guys in our Sunday school class, so she gave him this letter Monday night.

This morning, Erin asked her daddy if he was a Christian. He said he was, and she wanted to know when he asked Jesus into his heart. August 1, 1990, was his reply. "Who have you told about Jesus? Who are you witnessing to?" I have to admit I left the room about this time, but I knew that Patrick had taken an opportunity to witness to one of his workers last week. She followed up with the question, "Daddy, are you a missionary?"

I don't recall being concerned about the world around me at eight or the condition of my parents' souls, but my daughter with the gift of mercy is. She is concerned about others which is a wonderful quality to have, and just like most of us, she will have to learn where to draw the line.

There was a recurring theme in our "red book." Women are tired of feeling responsible for everyone else sometimes to the point of being overwhelmed. As women, we are responsible for the primary role in raising our children, but ladies, at some point in time our children will be grown at which time our role will change. There are some that don't make the change well. There are some that don't make the change at all and end up in the middle of their grown children's affairs where they do not belong whether they were invited or not. I know of a grown man whose parents have bailed him out of every fiscally irresponsible thing he has ever done, and he is still making horrible financial decisions. I don't pretend to know where that invisible line is in every relationship. You know the one that separates the actions of a listening and praying parent from the one who is overly involved in a grown child's marriage, finances or child-rearing. I don't know how my mom knew, but I'm thankful she did.

Then there are those of us who are fixers or just want to help. I was in what I called a "friendship," but it grew into something altogether different. I was solving her problems and telling her how to live her life. Beth Moore said having that hero mentality can cause emotional bankruptcy, and she is right. After that relationship ended, it took a long time before I became close friends with another woman. I had crossed the line.

I'm going to talk to you as one girlfriend to another. "If it ain't yo' baby to rock, don't rock it!" Do you know what happens when you start rockin' a baby that isn't yours? It becomes yours, and you keep it till it's complete. Meaning, if you start handling someone else's problems, they become your problems till they are resolved or finished. I have enough issues to deal with. I really don't need to take on someone else's or get into the middle of their business. Ladies, the reason we get overwhelmed with being everything to all people is because we take on responsibilities that are not ours to take on. When we try to be all things to all people, we are taking out the need for Jesus Christ in that person's life. We are attempting to replace God in essence, and that is not Biblical. What if we backed out of meddling in the affairs of others including our grown children, friends, coworkers, family members, and prayed for them instead and did as the Lord led? What do you think would happen? For one, they would survive. Second, instead of relying on you, maybe just maybe they would turn to Christ and rely on Him. Isn't that what we want to do? Point others to Christ.

(Note from Sandra: I love how Beth described us when we're attempting to do things that only He can and should be doing. She said we were trying to be "God Jr."

We don't have to take on every cause that comes across our paths. It's okay to say, "no."

Unlike us, Esther was responsible for saving her race, God's people, but she wasn't doing it alone. God was in control the whole time. Esther was not responsible for the "how" everyone would defend themselves or the "how" each should fight. She was responsible for being obedient to God, and she was. She stood up. She acted. She spoke, and she wrote a new edict, and that is where the line was drawn. Each province and town down to every family had to determine the best defense for themselves. Am I making any sense? Just as God empowered her, she empowered her people, God's people. Are you empowering your people or are you enabling?

Erin started off this week carrying a crusade to save the seals that might eat the fish her daddy might catch in the bayou which is a noble cause, but she got down to the heart of the matter this morning. Let's empower our children, families and friends and encourage them in their spiritual walk, and let's allow Jesus to be responsible for their "hows."

Monday, March 9, 2009

It's Tough Being a Woman who feels responsible for the "how"

Hi. My name is Sandra (left), and I'm an organizer. I've been an organizer for as long as I can remember. My mother is an organizer. My daughters are both organizers. I even have an 7 1/2 -year-old granddaughter who as early as the age of 4 showed signs of being an organizer. (It's a strong gene!)
Sounds like an introduction at a 12-step program, doesn't it?! There are those who think that people like me DO need "help." My husband, for instance, is not "gifted" in the area of planning and organizing. Bless his heart, that's why he has a good office manager. But there are times when he must actually do the work himself, and it's not a pretty sight. He struggles with it but finally gets it accomplished. However, he's usually not happy at that point because it's so stressful to him.
Planning, organizing, list-making--that's how God created me. I have the gift of administration--sometimes in big doses. At various churches, I have been included in the planning of some very large projects, especially Christmas productions and Easter pageants. I love that kind of stuff. My music minister knew that he could hand me 50 pages of notes with 1,000 details, and in no time flat, I would have things worked out with a time schedule, a list of committees, and suggestions for who would play each role in the production.
But as organized and as detailed as I was, I would still hold my breath through every production, just praying that the scene of the resurrected Jesus would come off just right, that the scenery would get moved quickly and quietly, and that the donkey would wait until he had left the building to leave us his little "presents." And when it was over, the planners would always meet to discuss what we would do differently "next time." Even with this Bible study, Kristy and I have talked a little about what we would change if we had a "do-over." As human beings, we are always having to edit, make corrections, or start all over again
One of the ways in which I really relate to Jesus is that He is also a planner, an organizer (I Cor. 14:40). The difference though is that His plans are always perfect; He never needs a "do-over." I don't know about you, but I am very greatful for that! It means that no matter what He has me doing, where He sends me to do it, or how long it will take, I can rest assured that it is THE perfect plan. He makes no mistakes. Sometimes I have questioned His plan, and, personally, I think He's okay with my questions. There have been times when I have said, "Lord, are you sure this is the best way to do this?" or "Lord, let's look for a Plan B."
But He is always positive because He has known from the beginning of time what He has planned for each of us (Psalm 139:13-16). Look at the above picture on the right; is that not the cutest little thing you've ever seen? So proud of her tiny purse! Yes, it's Kristy, and God knew even at that point (as unlikely as it would seem to you and me) that she would investigate insurance fraud and, at times, would deal with some of the kinds of folks that her mother always warned her about. And it's certainly not what she studied to be: she studied to be a speech pathologist!! But isn't it neat that way back "whenever," God already knew her temperament(He created it!), and He knew that she would be bored silly as a speech pathologist and would be much better at something else? Our lives are full of times when, as we studied last week, we have had reversals of destiny. I'm so glad that God is in charge of that set of plans instead of me! God is constantly at work in our lives, moving us to wherever He wants us and changing us to become what He knows we need to be. Those times are not always pleasant for us, especially for those of us who don't do well with change. (Maybe that's what He's working on!)
I loved last week's lesson as we watched God's plan start coming together. It was so neat watching Haman come to the realization that his plans were just not going to happen. I loved it! God took all those puzzle pieces with which He had been working so long--the little orphan girl Esther; Mordecai, her obedient uncle; the pagan king, Xerxes; Haman, the insecure prime minister--and He fulfilled His promise that He would protect His people. It's hard to believe that Esther was happy with everything that had happened in her life just as we are often not thrilled with where God has us at the moment or what He has going on in our lives. But please always rest assured that His plan is never flawed and can always be trusted. It was so comforting and so reassuring in last week's DVD when Beth explained that we don't have to make things happen; we don't have to know ahead of time how to make things work out. We just have to obey God and trust Him to bring His plan together.
Be sure to write your assignment this week and bring it to class. Remember also to bring your picture back to class. It was so much fun looking at all those cute little pictures last week, and I am really looking forward to hearing some of your experiences.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

It's Tough Being a Woman who can balance passion with patience

I don't know about you, but I rather enjoy seeing people get what they deserve...this goes both ways.

As a fraud investigator, there are times I have investigated people, known in my gut they have commited fraud, but I can't prove it. We pay the claim. At first, that used to eat me up, tick me off knowing they got off scott free. Ladies, make no mistake, they did not get off scott free. When I realized that God's justice is more powerful and more just, I learned to relinquish that desire to Him. Sometimes I'd have to say out loud, "Okay, God, he/she is all yours."

Sometimes we have to do that with people in our lives who have done us or our family wrong, etc. My husband and I have been dealing with a situation involving some people who have made it their goal to blame their problems on us and have lashed out at Patrick. It is normal for us to want to seek revenge, but that is not biblical (Lev 19:18). So instead, we are praying for them, and they definitely need it. I liked when Beth Moore said that to nurse a grudge is to hold yourself in bondage to that person. Most of the time the one affected by the grudge is only the one who is holding it. How effective is that?

Then there is the other side of the coin. I'm so thrilled when children of God are rewarded for their work, their service, etc. Who couldn't be happy that Mordecai finally got his just rewards? He had been overlooked, his action forgotten. Do you ever feel like you're not seen? Do you ever feel like the work you do is not appreciated? Our focus is not to be on receiving the praise of others even though it does feel nice from time to time. I like Mordecai. He got it. He was humble. He knew his purpose and who he served. I don't know about you but I get tired of my work being taken for granted, especially at home. The past couple of days when I get home from work, my house has been picked up as best as possible, beds have been made, and the laundry has been done. One of the workers repairing my house has been bringing his wife, and when she has nothing to do she cleans. Ladies, I LOVE having my own wife. I fall over myself thanking her and loving on her. Am I alone here? I want gratitude and some contribution from others, but that isn't the example Mordecai gave us, is it? Mordecai continued being faithful at the gate, his area of work and service. God saw him. God knew what he had done. God doesn't forget. When Mordecai is finally recognized for saving the king's life, he meets the fanfare that Haman had desired. Then, Mordecai returns to his work, his area of service. His humility helps him to return to be the faithful, diligent person he was. His example is tough to follow sometimes.

One more thing--aren't you glad that God keeps the score book? And aren't you glad that He has chosen to redeem us because none of us deserves a life in heaven. If we got what we deserved due to our fleshly, sinful nature, we would be going to the pit of hell depths unknown, but while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) and redeemed us. Hallelujah! Thank you, Lord, for the blood and the power of the cross. Instead of us trying to keep score with who has done what and what is owed to us, how about we trust God to keep track and reward us as He sees fit as our Heavenly Father who wants to give us wonderful gifts (James 1:17)? We can save our energy and mindspace for something else more worthy as a daughter of the King.
REMINDER -- Bring a childhood photo of yourself to class this week. Also night class, it's jammie night! WOOHOO!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Get Rid of the Fear

I don't know how last week's DVD affected you, but that was some pretty heavy stuff, wasn't it? (I wish I had heard Beth Moore's thoughts on dying before I was diagnosed with cancer!) I had warned the day class ahead of time that this week's DVD topic was heavy and would be a lot to absorb. About three-fourths of the way through the DVD, I noticed that there was not a sound--literally--in the room; no one moved a muscle, every eye was riveted on the screen. I'm not sure they were even taking notes. The silence had an odd feel to it.

Usually, when the DVD finishes, everyone is gathering her belongings and chatting with others around her. That morning, instead, there was total silence; no one moved at all. As I walked to the front to dismiss the group, I was unprepared for what I said. Their eyes were huge, and I can't even describe the looks that I saw on their faces. I was so taken aback by those looks that I totally lost my train of thought. All I could think of to say was, "Well, how about that?" Even then, it was several seconds before anyone gathered her wits enough to say simply, "Wow."

Heavy, heavy, heavy! But it was so basic, basic, basic! How could we have missed something so basic for so long? I've been a Christian a long time, and I've never heard the topic of fear taught as it was taught in that session. As Beth Moore pointed out, we all have our own private fears. "What if----?" Usually when we say that, we are referring to something we fear, so Beth suggested that we remember that the "if" stands for "I Fear." We've all heard that most of the things that we fear never happen; they are just "False Evidence Appearing Real." So we're wasting a lot of time, mental energy, etc. on something that may never happen. I love, love, love how Beth led us through the worst possible scenarios and showed us how we as Christians can survive even our worst fears--the death of a child or spouse, the pregnant 15-year-old daughter, the terrible health diagnosis, a tornado demolishing a home, whatever. We can handle it! Philippians 4:13 promises us that! It doesn't promise that it's going to be easy or fun, but we can get through it!

In thinking about those things, we all are prone to think, "If ----, I couldn't stand it. I would just die." That is a point of weakness in our faith, and Satan will focus in on that issue to break down our trust in God. But if we face life truly trusting that: 1) God loves us, 2) God knows what is best for us, and 3) He is able to do anything He chooses, then we really can live our lives with a minimum of fear. Think about how much of your day is spent in fear. What could you do with that much time and mental energy every day if you didn't have to deal with fear?!

The last part of the DVD was something I had considered, but I had never heard it put the way that Beth put it. In essence, she said that if our not being healed from some serious disease or our not recovering from a bad car wreck was God's plan for us, that was part of our destiny. We should live that part of our destiny as courageously as we live the rest of our destiny. The Timmons' translation for that is, "If that kind of death is God's destiny for you, do a good job of it!" I've known of situations in which the manner that someone died actually witnessed to other people. How awesome is that!

If you'll think about it, we all should die the way that we're supposed to live--so that God will be glorified. In order to live and die in that manner, we have to get rid of the fear. Praise God, that is truly possible!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

It's Tough Being a Woman Thrown a Giant-Size Weight

"They had become so worldly and so thoroughly assimilated into Persian culture that they'd lost their protective shield. God had told His people from the time of Moses that He'd protect them and fight their battles for the them as long as they worshiped Him only. If they forgot Him, He would still love them but He would not shield them. Instead, He'd use their enemies to turn His people back to Him." Pg 85 Beth Moore's "Esther: It's Tough Being a Woman."

We are called to live a life that is to be set apart. We are to be a beacon of light and salt of the Earth (Matthew 5:13-16), and yet Christians living in America have become very assimilated to worldly values thereby loosing our flavor and our protective shield. We have allowed the world to penetrate our homes via the Internet, television and music. Intrinsically, these things are not bad, but they are tools that have been used to desensitize us and our children and have coerced us into believing the standards of the world are what we need to strive to attain or become and that behaviors once considered unacceptable, inappropriate or went against the moral fiber taught in the Bible are now antiquated. We are no longer under God's protective shield.

It's easy to blame people on Wall Street, the CEOs of the automobile industry, bank heads, and congressional leaders for the dismal economy, failing housing market, rising unemployment, and the list could go on and on, but when we point one finger at someone else, there are three more pointing back at yourself. How many of us have bought into the world's view of living on credit? How about living in excess? How about living beyond our means? Buying houses that leave the household budget lacking forcing the owner to live on credit. Insisting on name brand and top of the line items, when it is more economical and reasonable to buy generic.

Ladies, the giant weight we are under is of our own making. Failing to be good stewards, participating in gossip and slander, allowing gluttony to be a daily event on every level literally and figuratively, failing to keep the Sabbath day holy, refusing to obey our parents or submitting to the authority in our lives, giving one's self to someone other than our spouse whether it is physical or emotional, failing to forgive and love our neighbors as ourselves, holding tighter to anger than to love, allowing our children to never be in want, refusing to respond to God's prompting to act, to minister, to repent, passing judgment and feeling more prideful than we aught, sitting idly by while unborn babies are being sacrificed, giving in to addictions of pornography, excessive shopping, computer time, designer drugs and alcohol, you name your poison -- but let's call it what it is. It's SIN.

And for too long, we've been trying to dress up our sin to make it more palatable, more pleasant and sometimes we even parade it at church. But if you put a dress on a pig, it's still a pig. No matter how we might try to dress up our sin, God sees to the heart of the matter. He doesn't see shades of gray either. There is a quote that says, "Those who are given to white lies soon become color blind." Meaning what we might consider a white lie now will consequently grow until they are all white lies and there are no shades of gray, and definitely no black.

I would like to make a recommendation because you may be sitting there like I am wondering what sin have I gussied up or dressed up that God sees, what is it that I need to be sensitized to, what has a hold on my life, my vision that needs to be addressed. I want you to consider fasting. Fast the 12 to 24 hours before your class on Monday night or Tuesday morning. Please be sure to drink water. We don't want anyone to become dehydrated, but abstain from food, candy, and gum. You may want to consider fasting from the computer, television, the newspapers and magazine, and choose to focus on the Word of God during this time. Make it a priority to meditate, pray and spend quiet time with God. When He speaks to you, be open and receptive, repent, and then make an action plan with God's guidance as to how to move forward.

I know this is a heavy blog this week, but this is what I was given.

We look forward to seeing you next week and getting back into the swing of the Bible study.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

It's Tough Being a Woman in a Mean World -- Follow Up

"Refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison and

expecting the other person to die."

Sandra--Last week we studied about the meanness in the world, and, according to Beth Moore, the "toughest part can be not getting mean with it." So how do you keep from getting mean? That's a good question because, as humans, we have an inane desire to "handle things" ourselves sometimes, and, not only does it usually not work, it's not the way God instructs us to handle the pain and the meanness of the world.

Another excerpt from last week's lesson is that, "No matter how we sparkle at church or Bible study, on earth we still have pain. Instead of going ahead and feeling the pain, processing it before God, and letting Him heal us, sometimes we opt for a trade-in. We swap pain for anger because it's easier for a while, and, boy, can it be energizing! Soon mad turns to mean. Friends turn enemies. And Agags turn to Hamans."

There is some really good news because in John 16:33 we are reminded that, "In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer for I (God) have overcome the world." Sounds good; makes sense to me. But we live on earth with all these other humans, and we need to figure out how to deal with the folks who intentionally hurt us. It all boils down to one thing--forgiveness. I didn't say it would be easy, but we have to learn to forgive. Forgiving is not difficult when someone apologizes and begs our forgiveness. However, it's quite a different story when someone hurts us and has no remorse whatsoever; forgiving that person is a little more challenging.

How logical is the following situation? "Refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." Think about that for a minute. There is no logic in that approach to a problem; it's just not the best way to handle a situation, is it? In fact, it's just downright self-defeating, and, dare I use the word--"stupid." Obviously then, we as humans don't always handle forgiveness the right way, do we?

Let's look at how God tells us to handle it. According to Romans 12:19(NLT), "Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. LEAVE THAT TO GOD. For it is written, 'I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it,' says the Lord." Hmmm--sounds good but not so easy to do, is it?

The first step to forgiving someone is to relinquish your right to get even. That's what Romans 12:19 is all about, and don't you think God can handle a situation better than you? Of course, that's what we believe. It's just that, well---as humans, we want to see the person who hurt us get zapped---hard---immediately! That's why we have to give the situation to God; trust Him to do a better job of dealing with the person than we can.

The second step is that you have to realize that forgiveness does NOT depend on a feeling. Forgiveness has nothing to do with how you feel; it is a matter of will! It's a CHOICE you make.

And if you think all the above is way too much for you, then just remember this: You forgive because your Father told you so; it's a matter of obedience. I don't know about you, but as I was growing up, when my dad told me to do something, it NEVER crossed my mind to question him. He said it; I did it--simple as that.

"Forgiveness is a journey, sometimes a long one. We may need some time before we get to the station of complete healing, but the nice thing is that we are being healed enroute. When we genuinely forgive, we set a prisoner free and then discover the prisoner we set free was us."

Remember--No Bible study next week! See you Feb. 23 and 24!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

It's Tough Being a Woman in a Mean World

A few weeks ago I had to take Erin to Shriner's hospital, and the lady who was checking us in had this piece of paper on the wall. I asked her to provide me a with a copy, and she kindly did.

Watch your 'Thoughts,'

they become your words;

Watch your 'Words,'

they become actions;

Watch your 'Actions,'

they become habits;

Watch your 'habits,'

they become character;

Watch 'Character,'

for it becomes your 'Destiny.'

Haman's thoughts became his words that led to his actions which eventually led to his destiny of being impaled on a gallow he had made for someone else. Meanness has at least three outlets. Do you struggle with any of these areas, or maybe you recognize these in someone else?
  1. Thoughts -- Has anything ever just rubbed you the wrong way? And no matter what you do, it's stuck in your craw, and then it begins to fester. The enemy would like nothing more than to get into our heads and do the maximum amount of damage without doing too much of the work. Whether it is fear, a real or perceived threat, or mental anguish that has a hold of our mind, it is a foothold for Satan. The way we combat this is with truth and the word of God. Colossians 3:2 tells us to "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." Philippians 4:8 says "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things." When the wrong thoughts enter our minds, we must replace it with truth.

  2. Speech -- It's not just bigots that show their true colors by the words of their mouths, but gossipers and slanderers are also known for their unbridled tongues. Haman selectively chose his words, so they would be more palatable. "There is a certain people" sounds very vague and ambiguous, but if he were to have said Mordecai and the Jews, don't you think that would have set off some type of an alarm because it gives a face and a name and a life to those "certain people." By using "certain people," he also removed the fact that this was a personal vendetta, and he appealed to the king's sense of honor and supposed best interest. Matthew 12:34 b states, "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." James 3:8 - 9 "but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness." The Bible advises us in Proverbs 21: 23 "He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity," and in Psalms 141:3 "Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips."

  3. Actions -- Haman wasn't satisfied with just killing Mordecai. He wanted to destroy Mordecai and all his people. Some people get angry and never get over it. The anger turns inward and seethes into bitterness. Some just aren't satisfied with taking their anger out on one subject but submit a whole family to their wrath.

As Christians, we need to diligently monitor our thoughts, speech, and actions because if we too closely resemble the Hamans of this world, people won't know we are Christians. We will have become assimilated to this culture and not to our heavenly calling. Ladies, let's control our thoughts and focus on the things that are true, so Satan cannot have a foothold into our lives. Let's use our mouths to edify one another and not tear others down. Even if you hear something that is true yet negative about someone else, that doesn't mean you have to share it. Our actions should reflect those of our heavenly Father, and we need to practice self-restraint and commit our actions unto the Lord.

It's important to control our thoughts because they do lead to words that become actions and eventually determines our destiny, our destiny in Christ.

We look forward to seeing you next week. Be praying for one another.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's Tough Being a Woman When Beauty is a Treatment

Sandra -- Poor Xerses! He awoke one morning (albeit with a hangover!) as the most powerful man on earth. He ruled the vast Persian empire -- 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia. Before nighttime, he was a sniveling mess who had been humiliated in front of all his buddies by none other than his wife; of all the embarrassments -- a woman! Then to make matters worse, he took the advice concerning what to do about her from his "wise" advisers who, if you remember, were also quite inebriated themselves. After all, they had been partying for six months and six days. The situation with his wife took place on the seventh day of the seven day banquet. What a way to end a party! Talk about drama!

Wow! There are so many lessons we could teach on the occurrences of just that one day. 1) Don't get drunk! 2) Don't make snap decisions when you're angry and drunk. 3) Don't take the advice of people who are drunk and/or who have their own personal agenda. 4) You are never too important/powerful/ etc. to make stupid mistakes. Our list could go on and on.

But the one I want to camp on for just a couple of minutes is that God is always at work in our lives even when we can't see or feel Him; He is never idle. He uses all kinds of situations to "grow us up" spiritually and to work His plan in our lives. While all of the uproar over Vashti's "disobedience" is taking place at the palace, Hadassa (Esther) is living her everyday life, doing what she normally does as a matter of routine with no clue that what is going on at the palace will change her life forever. God is busy weaving all those situations together so that eventually He can bring His plan to fruition, and Esther will become the queen who saves her people -- God's people.

Remember -- by this time Esther's people have been herded like cattle, treated like slaves, and taken into bondage. She had been orphaned earlier so she was exposed to all this mistreatment as a young child. Yet, God was working in her life to get her to the point/place/time that she, a Jew, would become Queen of Persia.

So -- have you ever found yourself in a really miserable, scary spot, wondering what's going to happen to you, how this situation will play out, and if God is doing anything to help? Maybe you're in that kind of situation right now. Please know that, while we can see only what's going on around us, God see the BIG picture. He knows where He wants you for the next part of His plan for you, and He is consistently working to move you there. Remember 29:11! And for some real comfort, read verses 12 and 13 also!

Don't forget to bring your wash cloth to class.

Kristy -- There aren't many girls who haven't played princess or dressed up like a princess, but have you ever been treated like one? I have a similar experience to Esther.

When I was a newlywed my wonderful husband bought a 1/2 day of spa treatments for me for my Christmas present and not to just any spa -- The Four Seasons in Irving. I had made an appointment to have a facial, massage and manicure. I saw they had a wet and hot sauna and a whirlpool, so I packed my backpack left over from college with my swimsuit, towel, flipflops, makeup and other little necessities because I had never gone to the SPA before. When I pulled into the parking lot of the Four Seasons in my late model Camaro, I realized I was in a different league. I parked my little sports car between two Mercedes. I saw BMWs, Cadillacs, limos, and a lot of higher end cars that I couldn't identify. Come to find out the Ben Hogan tour was at the Four Seasons to play a tournament. I was going to be hobknobbing with all these gorgeous, wealthy wives of golfers, pro athletes and socialites. When I realized this, the Keithville-raised girl in me started grinning -- the country girl had come to town. For some reason the theme from Hee Haw played in my head.

Marble tile, waterfall, tranquil music, soothing lighting and the most pleasant of personnel greeted me as I opened the door still grinning. I gave my name and was shown to my locker, given a plush, white bath robe and thick, white bobby socks. I was given the instructions to take my clothes off, put them in the locker and take the key. My grin dropped when she said take my clothes off in order to put on the bathrobe. Ain't no way on God's green earth I was going anywhere without my undies! So, I wore them under my robe, and as I sat in the waiting area there were some beautiful women sipping champagne or something pretty in a fluted glass, and I sat...grinning and looking like I didn't belong. I began to look around for the saunas and whirlpool. I caught sight of the whirlpool because an elderly lady who had obeyed the hostess dropped her robe and entered the water. I know in my naivety my mouth hit the floor, and I probably started chuckling (hopefully where no one could hear). Once I regained my composure and grin, I quickly checked the whirlpool and the saunas off my list of things to do.

I was called back for my massage where I was once again instructed to remove all clothing. I wasn't sure what it was with all these women wanting me naked! I explained I had never done this before, and I couldn't oblige. She explained what she would be doing, and I understood, but still decided to leave on one article of clothing. I was so nervous I was chatty and giddy and grinning, but by the time she was done with me, I had fallen asleep, and I was about to drool. Then it was time for the facial. I got dressed and moved to the next dimly lit room listening to nature sounds and music and was introduced to my anaesthetist. Do you know they really use cucumbers on your eyes? It's not just in the movies! After being scrubbed -- I mean exfoliated -- I was fumigated, I mean steamed. I was cleansed and had a mask. While the mask set, she put these things on my socked feet that warmed them up, and then she left the room. This time I did drool, literally. When she returned, she concluded the treatment and I was told to get dressed and go to the nail area. I was mush. I oozed to the locker area, and I shlumped into my clothes trying to be as modest as possible as there was no private place to change. Then I realized I hadn't tipped either of those ladies. I knew I was suppose to, but do I go back through the hallway and open doors to find them? What do I do? The nail lady told me I could give it to the hostess, and she would make sure the others received their tip.

Ladies, I went through a gamut of emotions -- excitement, anxiety, shock, relaxation, embarrassment. And then I had to drive home through Dallas rush hour. I was around 26 when I first experienced spa life and got hooked. Esther was probably around 10 years my junior when she was plucked from the home she knew since becoming an orphan and taken into a palace to receive all manners of beauty treatments. She must have been scared, anxious, shocked, maybe a little if not a lot excited. Who knows, she may have done a lot of grinning too because her eyes had never laid eyes on such opulence.

You know what I like about Esther? It didn't matter her age or level of power, she was obedient, submissive and observant. There is such profound wisdom to be found in a young lady, or any lady for that matter, who obtains those three. She was mature beyond her age. I wish more teens and young people would take note from her and follow her in her footsteps. I wish I was more like that as well. Where does your wisdom come from? Where does your confidence lie? Where do you get your value from? I pray that it's from the Lord.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It's Tough Being A Woman in Another Woman's Shadow

Kristy -- WOW! What a great group we had on Monday night! Just from the taste you had on Monday night through your daily Bible study this week, don't you think this study is going to be worth its weight in gold? I'm already excited and anticipating next Monday night. Have you ever bought someone the most perfect gift, and it's a gift they haven't even asked for, and you're going to give it to them? My husband has been known to buy a gift, knowing how perfect it would be, but then he can't wait to give it, so he gives it and goes to buy another one for the occasion. I am not complaining, mind you, but that is how I feel about this study. I don't want to reveal too much in these blogs because I want you to be surprised Monday night, so I'll try my best not to give too much away.

Now on to the meat of the matter, something I've been thinking about this week is the question, "Have I ever felt like I was in the shadow of another woman?" The answer is "yes," and to be transparent, I still find myself in her shadow but sometimes it's because I put myself there. Do you realize that you are different? That would be an understatement for me. Some say I look and act like my mom, and others say I look and act like my daddy. Truth is, I'm a bit of each plus a warped mixture of the two and somewhere in there is me. I thought the only place I walked in her shadow was at church, but I realized I put myself in her shadow at home. God did not make us to be copies of another person, but the Bible says we were made in His image. We are to model Him. So, I struggle with wanting to be as good a mom to my ADD (attention deficit disorder) child as my mom was to me her ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) child, and many times I fear I don't add up. I fall painfully short, and yet I know God wants my best and He'll do the rest. We are often more critical on ourselves than anyone else would be.

At church some people may put me in my mom's shadow, and while I fought years to be strikingly different in order to be an individual, I've resigned myself to the fact that "Yes, I favor my mom. Yes, I have mannerisms like her, and those aren't bad things." But if you ever see me or hear of me doing something totally off the wall, know that it's a part of me just busting to get loose and dying to let it all hang out. I'm not as nearly composed as my mother is. Being ADHD I have to rein in my impulses. Just think of Terry Young mixed with Steve Angel on the picture?

I can't wait to go over the things on the focal table. Put your thinking caps on, ladies. Can't wait to see what you come up with.

I invite you to share with us your thoughts about being in another woman's shadow. If you need some help getting logged in, please call me at 464-3679.

Sandra--And Tuesday's morning group was great also! The thing I really loved about it was the variety in the women. We had women from college age to, well, let's just say "70-ish."

Since Kristy was just talking about blogging, I'll tell you that she will be visiting in Tuesday's day group to explain and demonstrate blogging. You all probably know all about blogging, but those of us who are just a little "technologically challenged" may need a little help. I still have to ask Kristy "how" when it's time for me to write for the blog. We really want you to know how to do this so that you can "comment" on the blog and/or the class. There will be people reading the blog who aren't attending the classes, and it will be so much more interesting if you will all get involved. So--how about it! Who is going to be the first brave soul to comment?

Psalm 139:13-14 points out that God created us in the womb. At the moment of conception, He already had a plan for your life and for my life. He knew then what talents, abilities, gifts that you would need to be able to fulfill His plan, so He gave you those TAGs (talents, abilities, gifts) at conception. Now that amazes me! I am a planner, an organizer, but His planning puts me in the shade! He gave me the TAGs at conception that I would need to teach a Bible study 60-something years later. Talk about planning ahead!

If God put that much thought into our creation, we should never allow ourselves to be put in someone else's shadow unfavorably. Who has there been in your life who perhaps intimidated you just a little? Hopefully, you've gotten out of that position, but, if not, why not work on doing that? God took time and effort to creat a unique you; use your energy to be the best "unique you" that you can be, not on being someone else! Remember Jeremiah 29:11 from last week!

Next week is going to be great; you don't want to miss it! And the week after that is going to be so much fun--you really don't want to miss that either!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"What is the hardest thing about being a woman?"

Sandra -- I am not, never have been, a history buff. I didn't like the subject in school and learned it only to pass a test. For that reason, the people in history were never "real" to me; they were just names to memorize. I knew they were not fictitious people, but I just could never relate to them as "real." That not relating carried over to studying the Bible, so I often have to make a conscious effort to get to "know" Biblical characters. I have found that getting to know Esther has been very intriguing. She was an orphan, reared by a relative, became the queen, and was willing to die to save her people. After she became queen, her responsibilities multiplied exponentially. I've never been a queen, but I can certainly relate to the load of responsibilities! Sometimes, I think that we, as women, feel that we're the only one being stressed from the load that we carry. Everyone else just seems to have it so "all together." One of the things we want you to realize through this study is that you're not alone; we're all in this together!

Kristy -- When I first heard the title of this Bible study, my mind jumped to this image long ago stored in the recesses of my mind (that's a scary place). If you would please press the image to the right that shows "The 8 Hour Perfume." This will probably date me, but I remembered this commercial..."cause I'm a woman. Enjoli!" Of course, this blond beauty of the 70s is singing about all the things she does and can do everything from "bringing home the bacon" to "never let him forget he's a man." It was aiming at the woman who was trying to do everything and be everything and take care of everything and everyone all while looking beautiful. While I've watched it a couple of times and laughed just since I attached it to our blog, it sort of makes me sad that we haven't progressed any further than that today. Speaking for myself, I find it quite difficult to wear all the hats a woman is thought to have to wear -- wife, mother, maid, nurse, educator, taxi driver, personal shopper, lover, friend, daughter, employee, leader, and the list goes on and on and on, and there are days I don't feel like I wear any of those hats or roles well. If I give my best to work, then I feel like I'm gypping my family or vice versa. Ladies, am I alone in this? Ladies, you were given a sheet of paper when you enrolled asking you, "What is the hardest thing about being a woman?" I hope you will take the time to fill it out and return it. I find it comforting to know that there are other women out there with the same struggles as myself who are trying their best to balance life while staying in the center of God's will. I look forward to taking this journey with you through the book of Esther.