1/2 a Degree Off

          When I went through Army basic training, I had to learn how to read a map and use a compass to navigate my way through the woods.  Needless to say, I was not good at this.  My sense of direction is always backwards.  And while I can read a road map, reading a topographical map is something entirely different.  I quickly learned that if I was even ½0 off, I would be miles from my targeted destination within no time.  I wasn’t a little lost … I was a lot lost. 

If it was just me, that would be fine, but I had a whole squad I was leading.  I led 7 other people off the right path.  A drill sergeant found us on the edge of the woods we were training and asked us if we knew what we were doing.  She asked who was in charge and I reluctantly admitted it had been my turn.  She took the compass and map from me and handed it over to another private.  She looked at the rest of my squad and clearly said, “Never let Blair lead you with the compass again.  If she is put in charge, help her fake it, otherwise you will all get lost again.  Blair, always make sure you are with someone who knows how to read a compass.”  Luckily this was just training, and luckily there were members of our squad who knew what to do to get us back on the right path and lead us to the next destination.  (Later I found out that I was one of the worst privates to try to use a compass.  I understood the concept on paper; I just couldn’t apply it.) 

It’s been a long time since I’ve written.  I’ve fallen off of the path – just a 1/20 and a few months later.  To me it doesn’t seem to be a big deal.  It isn’t like I stopped praying or going to church.  I’m not sinning in such a way that I would be led straight to hell.  No, I just have a bunch of excuses as to why I haven’t written.  I am too busy.  (Well, I am.  I’m a full time mom, work full time, full time wife, taking a grad class, very involved in my church.  You get the picture.)  There are more important things to do right now then write.  The only problem with this scenario is that God is calling me to write.  See, I have felt that maybe I shouldn’t be finishing my graduate class.  I am only three classes away from earning my masters degree in Special Education. 

When God called me to write, I talked to Him about finishing.  I want to finish my degree because this is the second masters I have started, and I want to finish it.  I feel like I need to finish it.  It is a need to complete a task I have started.  So when God called me to write, I spent time in prayer about my master’s degree.  The answer I received was very clear, “You can finish this degree so long as you write.”  I have not been writing faithfully.  And I believe this is why I have felt such angst about finishing my degree or quitting my degree to write.

  Now I am in a pickle.  I haven’t really written.  I mean, I have written in my prayer time.  I have jotted down ideas.  I have ideas percolating in my head, but the true writing that God is calling me to do, I haven’t done.  Why is it that I am so stubborn?  Why don’t I follow what God has called me to do?  I am always so blessed when I do what He wants me to do.  I am like the Israelites who made the golden calf when Moses was on Mount Sinai.  God told Moses in Exodus 33:3, “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”  I am the “stiff-necked” people.  While I do want to be in God’s presence, I don’t always want to do His will.  This makes no sense.  There is nothing He has done to cause me to be anxious or worried.

            Oh, wait a minute.  There is one tiny, little, itty-bitty thing that bothers me when I go to do whatever it is God wants me to do – I don’t know the outcome.  I don’t even get to know the path I am suppose to take.  It’s like those computer games that only allow you to see the room you are in and no more.  I don’t get to see beyond the next footstep.  Yet, God has never, ever taken me down a wrong path.  In fact, when I follow Him, I find myself being who I am really meant to be.  I am doing and being all I am created to do and be. 

            So here I am, back on the right path, for several reasons.  The first is that I really do want to finish my degree.  And God was very clear with me that I need to write while I work on my degree.  When I was considering going after a degree in writing, I found myself scared.  I wasn’t sure if I was good enough to pursue a degree in writing.  If I wasn’t accepted, that would mean I wasn’t worthy.  That is definitely a scary thought.  God was calling me to write, but what if I wasn’t good enough.  So instead of trusting God, I took the easy way out and am pursuing a master’s degree in Special Education.  At some point, I came to terms with the idea I might not be good enough and decided I needed to write.  Even if no one read a word I typed, I needed to write.  It was what God was calling me to do.

 Second, my writing time is very connected to my prayer time.  I have been cheating myself of my time with God.  It is during this time that I speak to Him and He speaks to me.  My relationship is beyond “hello” or a “to do list”  I give for Him to accomplish.  It is my time to be in His presence and listen.  I find when I am quiet and listen, He speaks.  And He speaks very clearly.

Of course, I must give credit to my Christian sisters.  They have held me accountable. They have softly and gently moved me back onto the path of writing.  In fact, it was I who started the whole accountability issue this past week.  My dear friend Mary has been struggling lately and I challenged her to do something about it. In this challenge, I realized that I too, must listen to the call of God.  And I knew it would be about writing.  I told Mary if she did something three times this week I would write in my blog …  as I hesitated about how many times I would write in my blog, I turned to my friend Erin.  I asked her, “How many times do you think I should post to my blog?”

Her answer was the same as the number in my head – 2.  (Golly, God, do You really have to put what I am thinking in someone else’s head?)

So now Mary and I are holding each other accountable, but it doesn’t end there.  Erin needs to let go of her control of the universe.  Sarah needs to get her butt out of bed and spend time with God.  Sarah and Erin need to sign up for the Lay Speaking class.  They also need to get off their butts and start a pre-school.  (By the way Pastor Rob, the two of them should be speaking to you about this within the next week.)

While it might seem harsh to call out my friends, I do so with their permission, but more importantly, there is a basis for accountability in the Bible.  Colossians 3:16-17 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing (bold, italics, underlining added) one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  And whatever you do in word or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

In my Christian sisters I am held accountable for the call God has on my heart.  And I am expected to hold my sisters to the same standards.  God has placed these women in my life so that I am able to stay on the right path.  They either confirm or turn me back to God for reconfirmation.  They see me in the roles God is placing on my heart.  And I see in them, the call God is placing in their lives.  I do not want to be 1/20 off.  I want to be on the right path because it doesn’t take long, and 2 months have gone by and I haven’t written a word.  If not for them, it would be another 2 months, and another 2 months and before you know it, a year will have gone by.

Remember Proverbs 12:15 “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”  So, how about you?  Are you on the right path?  What is God calling you to do?  Who do you turn to for accountability?

On the Cusp

I am on the cusp of a new life.  I can feel it deep within me, bubbling to the surface.  There are dreams/goals that are finding their way up to the front again.  As I am on this journey to lose weight I am finding who I want to be once again.  To lose weight I joined Fitness Express, saved up my money so I could then begin Total Solutions, a weight loss program offered at Fitness Express.  It is not just about losing weight.  It is about changing the thinking in my brain.  Every week I am sent “Life Success” issues to read, listen to and write about my goals.  At the same time, I am doing a study with WOW (a women’s group at my church) called Hearing the Voice of God.  And the two are converging.  “Life Success” is helping me to stop and slow down and reach deep within me to find what I really want to do with my life, while Hearing the Voice of God is refining my ability to listen and hear God’s voice within my life.

So you ask me, “Jozett, what are your goals … your dreams?  What is God calling you to do?”

Write.  Write.  Write.  It is in my writing that I connect with God.  My goal is to have a manuscript written within the next 5 years.  I want to be a speaker.  I want to do public speaking.  I’m not sure about what yet, but I know I am being called to do this.  I have love and hope and grace and strength to share with people.  I have a story to tell, and I want to tell it.  The more I pray and write and lose weight, the more I am aware that God is calling me to do and be more than I am right now.

Before when I would think about these dreams, I would be terrified and run the other way.  I am tired of being terrified.  I am tired of running away.  I want to experience the full blessings God has for my life.  This means I must take more time to be with Him, listen to Him and follow Him.  I know for some people my next statements sound silly, but here it goes.  I have used eating and my obesitiy as a way to rebel against my Father.  I was not giving HIm all of me.  I wanted control of something, and this was my control.  It’s now in His hands.

How do I know that I have given this all over to Him?  For 2 days in a row, I was handing out cupcakes, cookies and popcorn to my students.  Not once did I lick my fingers, take a bite, or try a dessert.  In the past, I would have devoured 4 or 5 of these tasty treats with my students.  In my room I have hard candy to give as treats for my students, and I do not eat them.  And guess what, I haven’t craved any of it.

This past week, I have been on the fasting phase of this program.  It is a very limited diet meant to speed up my metabolism.  My first thought when I saw this was, “I am not going to make it.”  But the thought that replaced it was, “I can do this with my eyes on God.”  In all of my prayers, I keep hearing very clearly, “Be obedient and you will be blessed.”  I am being obedient.  This time I know the blessings He has for me are more than I can even imagine.  I can feel it deep, deep within my soul.  I am no longer afraid of the dreams God has placed in my soul.  They are His dreams too.  There can be no failure when He is in charge!!

 

 

 

Communion

Have you ever served communion?  Today I helped serve communion.  There is something incredibly powerful in placing communion in someone’s hand and saying, “The Bread of Life given for you.”  See, I was raised Catholic, and the only person allowed to serve the bread and wine was the priest.  It was the actual embodiment of the body and blood of Christ.  I believe to a certain extent this is true.  When we accept communion, we accept the fact that Christ endured agonizing pain for us.  When we accept Him, we are called to be like Him.  Communion is a way to remind ourselves that Christ is forever connected to us.  We are taking in His presence in our lives.  It is that reminder I cherish.

It is strange for me to give communion.  I find myself offering this symbol of Christ to those in our congregation.  Some of them are my good friends.  It is no longer a friendship when I offer The Bread of Life, but a deeper relationship that connects us.  It is a God connection.  People who I laugh with about the antics of our children are now serious.

Then there are the elderly people.  Who am I to serve these people who have forged a lifetime of faith?  I am humbled in their presence.  I am even more humbled when I place this life giving symbol into gnarled hands that have experienced a life time of work.  As different as we may be, we are more alike in our love for Christ.

I have to hold back my smile and laughter with our children that come to kneel at the railing.  They are so serious, and yet moments before they were whispering in the pews about all kinds of kid things.  My son and his friend have been in deep conversation throughout worship, yet here at the railing, that has gone.  My son simply says, “Hi mom”, gives me a smile and accepts this simple offering.

In the midst of giving communion, are people who I do not always like.  In fact they irritate me.  We agree to disagree and stay out of each other’s way.  And yet, at this railing, there are no disagreements.  This is God’s railing and not ours.  It is this act of communion, of coming together, that makes us His children.

Each person accepts communion differently.  There are those that make no eye contact.  Their hands are open to accept the offering and not once do they look up to see who is giving the offering.  They are in their own space and time with God.  But there are those that make direct eye contact with me as I am saying to them, “This is the Body of Christ given for you.”  And I feel something more than just eye contact.

There is a God connection.  I am the giver of something greater than I have a right to give.  Yet here I am giving this precious gift that God, that Christ, has generously offered.  I am humbled.  I am truly His servent in this time and place.  He has blessed me and given me grace.  He is my Lord and Saviour.

Giving communion is a giving, an offering, a connection to God that we need.  I am honored to have given this gift today.

 

 

 

God’s Blessings

God is so good.  I went and worked out this morning and came back to weigh in on my scale, and it was down.  It his me like a ton of bricks; I am being faithful to God and He is blessing me.  No, it’s not just about the weight.  Before the new year came, I had time to really talk with God.  He made it clear that changes were going to happen in my life this year.  Change is coming, be faithful.

This does not mean I sit back and do nothing and wait.  No, this means I have to follow God’s plan for me.  Funny thing is, it’s not always my plan.  Here is what I know God wants me to do:  Pray fervently, lose weight – hand over the eating to HIM, write abundantly.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a praying girl, but He’s asking me for more of the quiet, meditative prayer rather than the rush requesting prayers.  I exercise, but I have rebelled when it comes to food.  I allowed food to rule over me and I was losing the battle.  And of course I write, but this is writing beyond me.  This is writing to share.

God is good.  He wants to bless us, if we let Him.  I am ready to let Him bless me even more.  How about you?  Will you join me at His banquet table.

Quieting Myself

In the noise, in the middle of the caucophnous words floating from the mixing and mingeling of people are moments, ever so minisucule moment of quiet.  It is in those small spaces of time I place myself.  And the quiet spaces expands and the noise rolls over me as though there is a focefield that surrounds me.  And I find myself in the middle of a dead zone of space, time and quiet.

I wait longer and know You are with me, whispering to me to be still, to let go.  If I relax my way into Your presence, You are right there.  I can see You, in all Your glory and You smile at me.  And it is in this moment I know You will speak to me.

I look at You and I tell You, “You are my God, my Creater, the Lover I have always sought.  You complete me and fill the empty spaces of my soul.  My search for something more is complete because You are right here, in front of me.  And before I can even speak the question I have, You answer me.

Stop watching t.v. and playing card games on your computer – Write.  I have words for you to share.  Write, or you will find other areas of your life falling apart – because you are avoiding what I want you to do.  When you are disobedient in one area of your life, you become disobidient in other areas of your life.  Write.

I know this is God.  So I write.  I turn off the tv, I move away from all of the distracting computer games.  I write.  And He is right.  If I am disobidient to Him in this, I will not be obedient in other areas.  I will not be able to partake in the banquet feast He has prepared me.

 

God loves you for who you are right now

This was the message I gave this morning in church.  It amazed me how slowly time went this morning before walking into church.  I am so glad I decided to fast, my stomach had no room for the nerves.  But the amazing thing is, God was with me.  The inner core of me was calm while the outter part was shaking.  There is something calming about the Holy Spirit.  Here is my sermon with the Bible verses listed first.  May my words help you find God’s presence.

Matthew 19:26  With God all things are possible.

John 15:15-16  No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

Take out a pencil and the sermon notes and write down, God loves you for who you are right now.

One if by Land Two if by Sea

          I’ve known about standing up here for at least 6 months.  I left the idea ferment in my mind.  Something would come, and it did.

And I lost what I wrote.  A couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t sleep.  So, I got up and decided I would start my New Year’s Revolution; I would get up and pray.  I would write.  And I wrote, I thought I was done writing everything the Lord had to say to me, laid back in my chair to go to sleep, and I had this image of a lamp light being shown across the bay and Paul Revere riding through the towns crying, The British are coming.  There was no sleep for me!!!  God had more to impart.

Now when I was growing up, I thought the whole story of Paul Revere’s ride was just  Paul Revere alerting all the colonists.  Somehow, magically, a light appeared in the church steeple and Paul Revere went riding all through the night warning everyone that the British were coming by sea.

In actuality Joseph Warren told Paul Revere that the British would be crossing the Charles River and would be landing in Cambridge and heading to Lexington and then Concord where the ammunition was being stored.  Revere had Robert Newman, a fellow colonist; put the lamp signal to warn Charlestown the British would be coming by sea.  In order to alert the surrounding towns a plan had been created for riders to ride through the country side declaring the British were coming in order for the militia to be prepared.  Another patriot and rider, William Dawes took a southern route and Paul Revere took the northern route.  Away they rode to warn the colonists.

Here are some cool things I learned.  1) By the end of the night there were over 40 riders warning the colonists that the British were headed towards Lexington and Concord.  2) A warning system was in place to alert the militia in the surrounding towns.  This system included alarm guns, bells, bonfires, drums, and trumpets.  It was so effective that towns 25 miles away were alerted.  The system was so effective that the militia was ready and prepared before the British were off the ships.

What does this have to do with you?  First, God is doing everything He can to signal you.  He wants a relationship with you.  See He sent His son Jesus Christ to signal you.  He allowed His son to die on the cross for you.  This is a huge signal.  More than 2 lights in a church steeple signal.

In John 15 verses15-16 He is clearly telling us He wants us.  Listen to what He says again.  No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.  He is speaking to us, right now!!!

God is calling you to have an intimate relationship with Him.  It is not a pew relationship, or a “I’m going to read the Upper Room relationship”, or a I’m going to be active in doing “things” relationship.  While these activities can build upon a foundational relationship with God, they do not create an intimate relationship with Him.  God wants to know you intimately, and He is using the lantern, bonfires, bells, trumpets, people and His word to get to know you.  This Bible is full of examples of people in relationship with God.  What’s fantastic is that these are stories of people who fall out of relationship with God, just like we do, just like we do and sin, horribly, just like we do, just like I do.  Yet when they come back to God, He is waiting, and they do great, powerful things with God.

George and I are studying 2 Samuel.  David, a man after God’s own heart, goes out of relationship with God to pursue his own desires, Bathsheba.  This is a very interesting story to explain to a nine year old.  Lots of prayers went into this one.  But I explained to George that David sinned when he met with Bathsheba, he sinned when he tried to trick Uriah to meet with his wife Bathsheba to cover her pregnancy, he sinned when he told Joab to pull away from Uriah while he was in battle so Uriah would be killed.  David sinned all the way through this.  David did what we all do.  When we do something wrong, we try to fix it ourselves, try to cover it up.  Nowhere in this chapter does David talk to God about what he has done.  At no time does David say, “Hey, God, I really messed up.  I am so sorry.  I need your help.”

Yet God still loved David.  David comes and talks to God, intimately.  Worships Him.  Yes, David sinned.  Yes David made mistakes, yes, there was a consequence, but God wanted a relationship with David, and forgave him.  And God blesses David.  Through the line of David comes Jesus.

God wants a relationship with you.  Do you want a relationship with Him?

The great thing this book, this Bible, it shows us that we are not alone in our faults and our weaknesses.  Story after story people fail, they sin – when they work by themselves.  When they come into relationship with God, when they come and ask for forgiveness, God blesses them.  And here’s the best part about being in sin; Are you ready for this?  God still loved them!!!  God still loves you!!!  There was nothing any of these people could do to keep God from loving them.  And the same is true for you.

It does not matter what we do or say or how we behave because God still loves us because with God all things are possible.  Oh, isn’t that a verse in the Bible.  I think it is.  Matthew 19:26  This is the story of the rich man trying to enter the kingdom of God.  Listen to the whole story.  (read 19:23-26)  God is telling us it is possible with Him.

When we are in relationship with God, we are able to see and hear and smell and touch and be in contact with Him – beyond our worldly senses.  We are awakened to the supernatural.  We are called to Him.  This is when we are able to do incredible works for God as the people of God.

It does not matter if you are a mature Christian or a brand new Christian or you have not asked Jesus to be your savior.  God wants to talk with you.  He wants to share His love with you.  Yes, you sitting right here in the church pew this morning.  I must tell you, though, there is one catch in this relationship with God.  He does not want you to keep His love to yourself.  He wants us, every one of us, to share this love.  And that can be scary.  It can be difficult to share who God is, how he has transformed your life, how much he loves you with strangers, with friends, with family members.  It is very scary.  Sometimes the person He calls you to share His love is with another mature Christian.

Now you might ask me, “Jozett, what do you know about this relationship with God that you are talking about?”  Well, the truth is, I fall in and out of relationship with Him on a regular basis.  Why?  Because when He calls me to do His will, I get scared.  It is outside of my comfort zone.  I think to myself, “I can’t do this.  This is a crazy idea.  What if I get hurt?  Worse yet, what if I fail?”  So in my mind, it is easier to put God off rather than follow Him.  I’ll let you in on a little secret, God has been calling me to write for the past two years.  He has called me to be healthier, specifically in what I eat and how I eat.  I have ignored that call.  Did God leave me or abandon me while I was shoving potato chips into my mouth, or when He would wake me in the night to write something and I ignored Him because my sleep was more important than His message?  No, He stayed with me, He loved me through my stubbornness and sin.

I decided in December I was going to hand it all over to God.  I asked for forgiveness and repented.  Because I have righted my relationship with God, I am being blessed in ways I do not have time to describe here today.  But what is clear to me, is that I am being called to share this same unconditional love with others.

This is where the 40 riders come into play.  If I intend to have this intimate relationship with my Father, I must reach out to others.  We must reach out to others

He chose us.  He appointed us to go and bear fruit.  He wants us to spread the love. In Paul Revere’s ride, it starts with one man giving information to Revere to spread the word.  Let’s see how this works.  We are going to practice reaching out to others right here and now.  This will not be easy for some people, but I believe we have to practice what we preach, in a safe environment. Before we do this, let’s pray.

Heavenly Father help to open our hearts to Your will.  Allow us to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Holy Spirit, guide us to the people who need to hear of God’s love for them.  We pray this all through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, Amen.

I am going to model what I want you to do, and then I am going to ask for you to find someone here in this church and tell them sincerely, God loves you for who you are right now.  This means you may end up getting out of your seat.

So take out what I had you write down at the beginning, once I have given the message, I want you to go and find the person that God wants to hear this message.

Now if that weren’t enough, those of you who have cell phones, take them out, turn them on.  I want you to text, email, tweet, facebook people who are in your social network God loves you for who you are right now.

If 2 riders can go out and spread the news, The British are coming, The British are coming, and get 40 riders by dawn to spread the same messge, and towns can signal each other 25 miles away, certainly we can do the same.

God loves you.  God loves you.  God loves you.

It Begins

I am now beginning to feel the time crunch.  I look at my calendar for just what I have to get done, and it is filling fast.  Yet at the same time, I know God is calling me and preparing me for something more.  But what if I don’t finish?  It happens often.  I start something and I don’t finish.  I think – no, I know – it’s because I try to do it all on my own, without God.  He starts me on a path, and I then decide I know what to do.  Or I come to a tree trunk thrown in my path, and I decide to try to move it my way.  God wants me to do it His way all the time.  This is my revolution for the year.  God is in every moment.  My focus must be on God.  He needs to be the air I breathe and the water I drink.

This is rushed tonight because I have had so much to do in a short time.  But I am choosing to be faithful to God.  He wants me to write, so here I am writing.

Spinning into God

I love my spinning class.  Yesterday I was looking down at the rotating front silver wheel of the LiveStrong stationary bike I was riding, and I realized why I felt so close to God.  While I am riding, I don’t have to think.  My mind thoughts begin to dissolve, and all the outworldly parts of me are stripped away.  What is left is my soul ready to talk to and listen to God.  I am left with no thoughts.  My mind is clear.  There are no worries.  There is no “to do” list.  It’s just me and the silver tire rolling.

It’s in the quiet that I meet and find God.  He is powerful and joyful and gentle.  I am surrounded by love and grace.  There is nothing better than sitting at the feet of my Lord.  It is in this moment I understand that I am a child of God.  He loves me unconditionally.  He wants to bless me.  He wants me to attain what He has planned for me.  And in that small quiet moment, I am ready to do all He has for me to do.

Then I am pulled back into my class, moving onto the next phase, holding onto the remenants of the still, quiet space of God.  I hold onto it as I move through my day.  I remind myself that God is in all that I do and don’t do.  It is time that I step out and complete the tasks God has for me to accomplish.  Thank you Lord Jesus for saving me and providing me grace.  May I share that grace with others.