The American Dream=Excess? (Money, Part I)

“They live like kings and queens.” – Jonny Lang

Money is a hot topic. An inescapable entity. We all think about, respond to, rely upon, and co-exist with money in a variety of ways. Consider money. Is it…

Source of pride

Source of power

Source of security

Status symbol in the fleeting game of earth

Something to fear

Something to cling to

Something to share

Something to hold loosely

Something to define you

or something you define

Something that you hold

Or something that holds you

(or something He holds)

A noose or a rope

A path or a pit

A necessity or a luxury

A detail or main focus

An object or an Obsession,

An addiction or take-it-or-leave-it

Fulfilling?

Freeing?

Individually, our personal value systems are evident in the ways we pursue the Almighty Dollar. Collectively, our American culture unabashedly promotes wealth as the end goal. You’ve arrived when you are inordinately wealthy.

American Dream by Switchfoot

When success is equated with excess/ The ambition for excess wrecks us/ As top of the mind becomes the bottom line/ When success is equated with excess/ If your time ain’t been nothing but money/ I start to feel really bad for you, honey/ Maybe honey, put your money where your mouth’s been running/ If your time ain’t been nothing but money/ I want out of this machine/ It doesn’t feel like freedom/ This ain’t my American dream/I want to live and die for bigger things/I’m tired of fighting for just me/This ain’t my American dream/When success is equated with excess/ When we’re fighting for the Beamer, the Lexus/ As the heart and soul breathe in the company goals/ Where success is equated with excess/ Cause baby’s always talkin’ ’bout a ring/ And talk has always been the cheapest thing/ Is it true would you do what I want you to/ If I show up with the right amount of bling?/ Like a puppet on a monetary string/ Maybe we’ve been caught singing/ Red, white, blue and green/ But that ain’t my America/ This ain’t my American dream

“Consider this,” says author and speaker, Tony Campolo, in an interview with Relevant magazine. “The typical size of an American house has increased 40 percent in the last 25 years. It’s not because we are having more children; we’re having fewer children! We need bigger and bigger houses simply to hold all the stuff we don’t need. What’s even worse is that we’re renting out space in storage bins because we can’t contain all the stuff we have in the huge houses we have at our disposal. It has become an insane society as far as surplus is concerned.” What a commentary on our modern-day culture of excess. It brings to mind the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12.

“Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist the abundance of his possessions.’ And he told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:15-21

The proverbs say, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle” (Proverbs 23:4-5).

Take this opportunity to consider your core beliefs about money. Is it the end-all, be-all? Is it worthy of the investment of your life?

Or might there be something more? Could you possibly pour your passion, energies and moments into something Better, something that will last?

My friends, just know that you can’t have it both ways. Jesus himself told us in his Sermon on the Mount: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)

Come along as we continue our look at money…its clasp, our grasp, and conquering our love-hate relationship with the color green.

 

You Will Be Safe.

Tonight, you may be crying as you drive the lonely roads home. You may be scared to death of what lies around the corner. Perhaps you walked into a bad situation and can’t find your way out. You may be hurting from the words of a man, the silence of a father, the screams of the world.

You feel exposed. Vulnerable. You have worry lines on your face and bruises on your heart.

Tonight, hear the Father calling out to you, “Come to me, my Child. You will be safe here with me.”

“Let all who take refuge in You be glad;

Let them ever sing for joy.

Spread your protection over them,

That those who love your name may rejoice in You.

For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous;

You surround them with your favor as with a shield.”

Psalm 5:11-12

He is reaching out to his daughters tonight. Take refuge in His arms. Let him spread his protection over you and surround you with his favor like a shield.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress,

my God, in whom I trust.

Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare

and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers,

and under his wings you will find refuge;

his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

You will not fear the terror of night,

nor the arrow that flies by day,

nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,

nor the plague that destroys at midday.

A thousand may fall at your side,

ten thousand at your right hand,

but it will not come near you.

You will only observe with your eyes

and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you make the Most High your dwelling”

even the Lord, who is my refuge”

then no harm will befall you,

no disaster will come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you

to guard you in all your ways;

they will lift you up in their hands,

so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;

you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

Because he loves me, says the Lord, I will rescue him;

I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

He will call upon me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble,

I will deliver him and honor him.

With long life will I satisfy him

and show him my salvation.”

Psalm 91 from your Father with love.

 

Courage Becomes Her

 

Supermom

Isaiah 35:3 Strengthen the weak hands, make firm the feeble knees.

Are you exhausted? Overwhelmed? If you are married, are the responsibilities of home and family sapping you? If you are single, are you disinterested in assuming those same responsibilities someday? How can a woman be super-mom and corporate queen and all the things in between?

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night¦She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy¦She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed with fine linen and purple¦She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Proverbs 31:10-27

Wow¦just hearing about the life of this ideal woman makes us tired! Is this really what God has in mind for women? What is meant to be a picture of how we should or could be instead becomes a picture of how far we fall short. We feel condemned by her uber-perfect life. Allow me to be honest for a moment . Many of us women can™t stand the proverbial Proverbs 31 Woman.

However, BJ Arnett, a gifted speaker at a recent women™s event at church, offered a different view on Proverbs 31. She challenged us by reminding us that God created women, and He knows what is in a woman. He knows how we are wired, how we are gifted, and our capacity to accomplish many things (at once!). He knows that women have extraordinary inherent abilities to care for, organize, network, manage, encourage, and provide for those in our lives. We were custom-designed for it. He knows, like Peggy Lee, the immense potential and downright giftedness locked inside of us¦

I’m A Woman
Song by Peggy Lee

I can wash out 44 pairs of socks and have ’em hangin out on the line
I can starch & iron 2 dozen shirts ‘fore you can count from 1 to 9
I can scoop up a great big dipper full of lard from the drippins can
Throw it in the skillet, go out & do my shopping, be back before it melts in the pan
‘Cause I’m a woman! W-O-M-A-N, I’ll say it again

I can rub & scrub this old house til it’s shinin™ like a dime
Feed the baby, grease the car, & powder my face at the same time
Get all dressed up, go out and swing til 4 a.m. and then
Lay down at 5, jump up at 6, and start all over again
‘Cause I’m a woman! W-O-M-A-N, I’ll say it again

If you come to me sickly you know I’m gonna make you well
If you come to me all hexed up you know I’m gonna break the spell
If you come to me hungry you know I’m gonna fill you full of grits
If it’s lovin you’re likin, I’ll kiss you and give you the shiverin’ fits
‘Cause I’m a woman! W-O-M-A-N, I’ll say it again

I can stretch a green black dollar bill from here to kingdom come!
I can play the numbers, pay the bills and still end up with some!
I got a twenty-dollar gold piece says there ain’t nothing I can’t do
I can make a dress out of a feed bag and I can make a man out of you
‘Cause I’m a woman! W-O-M-A-N, I’ll say it again
‘Cause I’m a woman! W-O-M-A-N, and that’s all.

We women need to rise up into our calling. We were created to nurture, to empower, to facilitate, to bring into order things in our lives¦whether this be in the workplace or kitchen, whether with girl friends, a boyfriend, husband, children or clients. How?, you may ask. You must have a large dose of COURAGE. Both the Proverbs 31 woman and the W-O-M-A-N in the song possessed this quality in abundant measure, and it enabled them to accomplish virtual miracles with limited space, time, and energy.

Let me be clear: this is not a call to bury your gifts in order to be a slave for a man. It is a call to RISE UP into your gifts–gifts that women have received from God, enabling us to benefit, strengthen, empower, and bless those around us. Take courage, and be a W-O-M-A-N:

  • Try that recipe you are intimidated by. Last week, I made my first three-layer cake–a red velvet cake with cream cheese icing. Yields: A great sense of accomplishment and plenty to share!
  • Invest in knowledge–read a book. (Which is not the same as surfing the internet, my darlings.)
  • Purge your closet and give to the needy. (Call it ˜spring cleaning™, if you like.)
  • Take up sewing or thrift store shopping.
  • Tackle an extra project at work.
  • Rise early and open His good book. Expect to be surprised.
  • Go on a short-term trip to a third-world country.
  • Write notes of thanks to people who bless your life.
  • Do whatever it is that you have been too overwhelmed, fearful, or lazy to do: ­­­___________________________________

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

As for the Proverbs woman:
Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ˜Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. Proverbs 31:28-31

Now, that’s a woman.

Song for the Week:
Just Showed Up For My Own Life by Sara Groves

msge

Out of the Frying Pan

CastIron1.jpgHappy belated New Year, Sky City Girls! I hope that 2007 is off to a beautiful start for each of you. But if perhaps it isn’t, this post is for you.

January brought a piece of sad news: One of my closest friends was just laid off. Called in, sat down, and told she was being replaced. (We’ll call her Sarah.) Sarah had a pretty good job at a well-respected company. She handled administrative duties for, and basically took care of, two vice presidents. This included expense reports and other number-crunching, however, which drove artistic Sarah a bit crazy. `

Now, when Sarah broke the news to me, my immediate response was along these lines:

“This just means your “dream job” is around the corner! God has something perfect waiting for you. You just have to trust and keep walking forward.” By “perfect”, I meant perfect for her God-given gifts, i.e. her people skills and creativity. By “dream job”, I meant a job that would utilize her strengths – not just one, but all of them. A job that would provide her with the opportunity for advancement, and one that would see her realize her professional dreams. In fact, while letting her go, even her boss chirped to Sarah the same speech.

Now as her last day has come and the dust of the news settles, my words echo in my ears. Is this truly what I believe?

We say, “When God closes one door, He opens another.”

Who says? If by ‘door’ we mean a pleasant circumstance, then we need to rethink the cliche.

Let’s consider Moses for a moment. Actually, at the beginning of his life, he had it made. Rescued by Pharoah’s daughter as an infant, he was raised in Pharaoh’s Egyptian palace! Talk about the dream life. Then, a series of bad choices and circumstances landed him on the backside of the desert. For 40 years! His situation did not immediately reconcile itself. Rather, God saw immeasurable value in the humbling, molding, training ground of a ‘bad situation.’ 40 years worth.

My generation seems the most convinced of this theology. We believe that we will go to college, graduate, and then within, oh, 3-5 years at the most, we should–and are entitled to–be in our “dream job” making big bucks and beginning our accumulation of a house, cars, a family, and three plasma screens. And if we find ourselves the recipient of a raw deal at work, in a relationship, with our family, or our finances, we often assume that this is but a slight bump, and God now owes it to us to get us back on the fast-track to the good life.

Where did we get this? Let me say, we didn’t get it from God.

In God’s economy, instead of upward mobility, we often actually “jump from the frying pan into the fire.” Sometimes, bad turns into ‘worse’. Isaiah says, “When you walk through the fire…” because he knows that in life, we will. Jesus himself was “led like a sheep to the slaughter.” (Not exactly a Dream Job.)

I have heard it said that “God is more concerned with making us holy than happy.”* Please chew on that for a minute. Compare it with your life goals. We are not promised a huge 401-K, a beautiful husband and children, and a three-car garage. In fact, if we receive any of these things, it is only because of God’s grace poured out on our lives.

Today, if you find you that you have gone from the frying pan into the fire, take these words to heart:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned,
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…
Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”

Isaiah 43:1-5

Consider: What are my life goals/expectations?

Making it real: I challenge you to offer each of them up to God in prayer. Ask Him for the grace to trust him no matter how life unfolds.

Meditate through music: “If You Want Me To” by Ginny Owens

*Gary Thomas in his book, Sacred Marriage

A Lucid Life, Part II

A clear head. Is it a priority?

During the course of a given day, we prioritize our appearance, our e-mail, our cell phone conversations, our relationships, lunch dates, appointments, workouts, Birthday dinners, church, dry cleaning, you name it. And now that it is nearly December, it is even crazier. Add on top of it all gift-buying, gift-wrapping, budget-keeping, cookie-baking, charity-donating, party-hosting, party-hopping, flight-booking, and church-going. WHO CAN THINK ABOUT KEEPING A CLEAR HEAD?

This is when the voice of God is calling to us, “Be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray” (I Peter 4:7).

I wonder what our day would look like if we prioritized a clear head and a lucid life. It may include a silent car, empty of dj’s and music. It may call us to turn off the television that last 30 minutes before bed, or during dinner. It may mean taking a walk during our lunch break for the purpose of literally “clearing our head.” Would it mean, Heaven forbid, turning off our cell phone? Or perhaps a week without email. I don’t know what it means for you. But I know that whatever it is, for you and for me, it is necessary. It is worth everything to find and keep a lucid mind so that we can pray.

The word “lucid” has taken on new meaning for me over the last month of my life. My grandparents had been declining in strength of body and mind in recent months. My Nana was nearing the end of her days, and we knew that she had very little time left with us. The very same week, Granddaddy, her husband of almost 60 years, fell and broke his hip and had to go into the hospital. He underwent surgery on his hip and remained in the hospital for recovery. My family traveled back and forth between caring for her on her deathbed and caring for him in the hospital. Because of Granddaddy’s age and other medical conditions, he remained under the influence of the anesthesia longer than expected. First it was a day after the surgery, then it was three…Granddaddy hadn’t returned to his right mind. He spoke to people not in the room and told grandiose stories with wild imagination.

Day after day, we’d ask: “How is Granddaddy?”, and the response would come, “He’s still not lucid.” He had not yet rejoined reality.

Then, my Nana passed away. Before my Granddaddy was fully “with us” again after his surgery, his wife of 60 years died. And although the news was pressing, as long as my grandfather was not “lucid”, doctors encouraged us not to tell him. Therefore, the funeral came and went, and so did several weeks before my Grandfather was declared “wth it” and lucid enough to receive such difficult news.

While this was terribly sad, there was truly no way around it…You see, although he was with us in body, if he wasn’t with us in mind, he couldn’t really experience Life.

Sisters, we may be alive with all of our vital signs, but if we are not present to Reality, if we are blinded by fantasies and illusions, if we are not of a sound and lucid mind, then we are incapable of experiencing Life as it truly is.

Is Life going on without your knowing it? Are you are living in a fog, hidden beneath a loud and busy mind?

Awaken to Real Life…shake the cobwebs from your mind and allow God to speak to you. In this season and always.

With love and Christmas blessings,

Katherine

A Lucid Life

lucid2.jpgThe end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. (I Peter 4:7)

A few verses later: Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8)

Yikes. Not to scare you, but we are in danger. Spiritually speaking, we have an enemy of our souls that wants more than anything to derail our life. He would love it if we got addicted, imprisoned for embezzlement, or showed up pregnant. He may like it even more, however, if we fell in less obvious ways if we allowed bitterness to take over our lives, worshipped money and the corporate ladder, or just plain forget God. Therefore, we need to pray. It says we must be clear minded, self-controlled, alert. So that we can pray.

What we need: Protection from the Evil One
How we get it: Through Prayer
How we Pray: Be clear minded, lucid

lucid*
adjective

2.
characterized by clear perception or understanding; rational or sane: a lucid moment in his madness.

Synonyms: sound, reasonable.
Antonyms: irrational

We need to be razor sharp. Keen, alert. Aware. Our thinking needs to be at peak performance, if indeed, the end of the world is near and our enemy the devil is on the prowl. How will we advance, how will we survive spiritually if we are blinded, dulled, drunken and satiated by this world?

Another translation puts it this way: €œThe end of all things is at hand; therefore keep sane and sober for your prayers.€ (I Peter 4:7, Revised Standard Version)

Keep sane and sober. Stay lucid, clear in thought and understanding. I dont think Peter is primarily referring to adult beverages in this passage. He speaks to any mind- or heart-dulling influence, and we have many.

We get drunk on fashion, music. We stay buzzed on food, nicotine, e-mail, television. Satiated and sedated. Who wants sharpness?, we ask. Life may hurt. Dull me with celebrity gossip and caffeine.

Clarity of mind is required if we are to pray. Prayer is required if we are to walk this dangerous road with Christ. We are in a war. And war isnt fought from the couch under the drone of the tube.

Once I remember driving across several states to spend a weekend in the town where I went to college. It seemed the longer I drove, the louder I played my music, and the more I had this nagging sense of €œturn it off, choose the quiet€. It grew and grew and I tried to push it away until I was literally turning on to the street of my friends house. Finally, with frustration, I threw off the music and shouted to God, €œWhat?!?! What do you want to say?€ And immediately a tiny voice spoke within my thoughts (where God speaks) and told me a persons name. It came as clear as daylight. I felt immediately warned to expect a unexpected reunion with this person.

 

Moments later inside my friends home, she proceeded to tell me that this same person was also in town for the weekend! The Lord had been begging to speak with me on the whole 6-hour drive, and why had I resisted it? I was not interested in clarity; I wanted the comfort and pleasure of my own thoughts, my own music, my own world. But He wanted to lovingly warn, prepare, and sharpen me for adventures ahead.

€œHe who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches€ (Revelation 2:11) The Spirit is speaking to the church, and He speaks to you, too.

An Argentinean pastor, Juan Carlos Ortiz, tells of how every Monday, he takes the day off of ministry and office work and goes to a special spot down by a river. He spends the day quietly, listening, asking. He speaks of miracles that are birthed in that quiet space with Jesus. He sees visions of heavenly places, and he also gets very detailed plans for dealing with his earthly problems. He inquires of the Lord about situations that need resolution, and with pen in hand, the Lord and he sort them out. He receives vision and a clear agenda he will need for his next 6 days. The weeks are infinitely more productive after a day €œwasted€ on a riverbed with the still small voice of God.

You may think, I have never seen visions. I have never even heard God speak to me. I challenge you, have you ever read the Word of God and had phrases leap from the page and enter your heart? Have you ever been cut to the root by the written or spoken Word of God? This, my friends, is the voice of God through the Spirit of God to you. Start here. Spend time with the Bible open in your lap. Sometimes the words themselves will guide you on your journey. Other times, just pondering the spiritual truths on the page will bring revelations to unrelated issues in your life. Just open it and sit there. Listening.

Choose stillness. Seek clarity.

You are going to need it.

 


Consider This for a Lucid Life: What do I allow to dull my mind or heart? Am I living in a state of clarity? Do I hear God speaking? What is He saying?

Soundtrack for a Lucid Life: “Word of God, Speak” by Mercy Me

*www.dictionary.com

True Confessions, Part II

true confessions.jpg“It will be a lifelong struggle for her.”

The words of my friend hung in the air and hit me in the stomach. She was speaking of a sin issue, and too many of us talk in these terms.

“He will never overcome this sin.”
“Mom has always been that way. She’ll never change.”
“He’ll never become a Christian. He is too set in his ways.”

These are confessions, but are they true? We have considered our confessions over our circumstances and been challenged to speak in terms of faith and hope. Now we think about the words we speak words over one another. Are we speaking words of life and truth?

When we declare statements like the ones above, what have we done with the words of Jesus?:

“I came to set the prisoners free.”
(“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me…He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19))

“I will give you hope and a future.”
(” ‘For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” Jeremiah 29:11)

“I restore and recreate, exchanging your old life for a new one.”
(“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17))

We have all heard that it is a terrible crime to speak words of death over children, such as “You will never measure up”, “You don’t have what it takes”, or “You will never be as good as your sister.” However, things we would never tell a child, we speak to ourselves and others on a daily basis. Remember, life and death is in the power of the tongue. What “adult” disbeliefs are we confessing? What false confessions have been touching our lips?

Oftentimes we are hardest on ourselves.

“I am irreversibly damaged.”

“I am sinful and dirty.”

“I am unloved.”

For those of us who battle thoughts like these, may we be directed to hear God’s heart:

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 1:4-5)

“Do not call anything impure that God has called clean.” (Acts 10:15)

“How great is the love
the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (I John 3:1)

“You are my son [daughter] whom I love; With you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)

I see in Scripture a call to speak life + hope + encouragement over each other, not despair. And this most certainly applies to ourselves. Make an effort to identify the false confessions you are making over yourself, and guard yourself from this as you would a little child. Challenge yourself to walk in the light of the truth about yourself. Wash yourself in the water of God’s Word and listen to who He says you are. Declare it over yourself, first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and as needed throughout the day. Believe it for those in your life, and take the opportunity to speak faith and truth over them.

Sisters, it is time for True Confessions.


Meditate: “Finally, [sisters], 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” (Philippians 4:8).

“Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Heb. 3:13).

Consider: What false confessions are we speaking over one another? Over ourselves?

Listen: “You and I” by Shane & Shane (lyrics below)

Artist: Shane & Shane
Album: An Evening With Shane & Shane
Year: 2005
Title: You And I
Print
Correct

Clean I call you clean
I came to clean you and it’s done
Here’s a call to all who’ve
Felt disqualified to run
Pleasures flowing here and there
From my right hand
What’s mine is yours
Come behold all of who I am

You and I will run
You and I will run forever
All is done
You and I will run

Come with what you do not have
And buy what’s undeserved
Feast and drink, the bounty’s great
I know you hear
But have you heard
Have you heard

Clean!
I’ve called you clean!
I am dirty
Clean!
So unworthy
Clean!
Dirty
That’s what I’m wanting

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
(2 Corinthians 5:21)

True Confessions, Part I

Heidi.jpgWhen you hear the words true confessions€, you may think of something like my friend Heidi. She has a very precious 9-month old Pete on her hip and a very positive pregnancy stick in her hand. Her true confession? Someone forgot the birth control.

This time, however, I want to consider true confessions in a different light. What is a confession but simply telling the truth? And therefore I guess a true confession€ is a bit redundant, but stick with me.

All day everyday, you and I make confessions. We speak out loud, we make acknowledgments, we agree or disagree with circumstances in our lives. We make declarations of our perceived reality.

My concern is that these confessions or declarations be€¦true.
Allow me to illustrate. During the course of the day, do you say things such as,
I€™m never going to get out of debt.
This organization will never grow.€
There is no way to put a quick end to this war.€

There are several problems with statements like these. They are discouraging, hopeless, and, perhaps most worrisome, they are definitive.

First, statements like these leave no room for God.
They speak only of what can be seen, what is visible with the eye. But with God all things are possible.€ We must never approach our life with a merely human perspective. God wants to transform every area of our life. He wants to bring a miracle to everything we touch. We must make room for GOD in our everyday thinking and speaking.

Statements like this are direct contradictions to His Word.
The Bible tells us:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.€ (Phil. 4:13 )
His mercies are new every morning€¦in Christ are new beginnings. (Lam. 3:23)
He performs miracles€¦He divided the sea and led them through.€ (Psalm 78:12-13)
We need to know His Word and have it so sharp in our minds and hearts that we are able to speak words of hope and belief over ourselves.

This is so urgent because€¦Do you realize that to speak doubt into a situation can negatively reinforce that situation and even encourage it to happen? There is a reason God instructs us to use our tongue to speak life and not death. There is creative power in the words that we speak, just as with a word, He created the very universe. Christ has given us power to say to this mountain ˜Move from here to there” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you (Mt. 17:20). His Word is filled with calls to have faith, even faith the size of a mustard seed, because our circumstances will be altered accordingly. According to your faith will it be done to you€ (Mt. 9:29). We can change the seemingly unchangeable by speaking words of faith and confidence in our God. This can happen through prayer or by the very words that we confess out loud.

We must learn to direct our words effectively and with power. They will literally carve a path for our life if we will use them well.

Then this is what we confess. Jesus is Who He says He is. He is our Hope, He is our Rescuer, He is our Defender, He is our All-Things-New. Fill in the blank. Whatever we need Him to be in our situation, we confess it.

Today, practice declaring truth instead of doubt or despair over your circumstance. Declare GOD over your circumstance. Try a few true confessions of your own. And let the Sky City Girls know how it goes.

[In this post we consider how to make True Confessions over our circumstances. Next time we will be challenged to make True Confessions over our very selves. Stay tuned.]

 

Beautified, Part II: Inner Beauty

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes? Matthew 6:25

More than your body, more than your clothes? If you watched the India.Arie video in our last post, you heard that you are not your hair. You are not your skin. You are the soul that lives within.

But this goes against everything we see on a daily basis in the media and in the magazines at the grocery store checkout and on the beach. To be honest, it goes against much of what we ourselves believe about beauty. How can BEAUTY, the captivating allure of a woman, come – not from the body – but from an invisible place, from her soul?

I Peter 3:3-5 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.

Beauty that comes from our inner self is first of all, unfading. This is a relief, because all efforts to beautify oneself externally have the same downfall “ they don’t last. Exercise, tanning, highlights, makeup, cellulite treatment, you name it¦.it must all be repeated, reapplied, maintained, and redone, because the body is fading away. Over time, despite the grandiose efforts we make to preserve and glorify it, our body is on a downward slope that will ultimately end in the ground.. All come from dust, and to dust all return (Ecclesiastes 3:20). It is the hard truth.

Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting¦ Proverbs 31:30

But there is a beauty that will last, that is unfading. ..Inner beauty. The unfading beauty is that of a gentle and quiet spirit. This verse used to trouble me, I will confess. As an outspoken and ˜strong personality’, I felt as though I was counted out for this gentleness and a quiet spirit. But this passage is speaking of something higher than our personality types or whether we are extroverted or introverted.

Rather, a gentle and quiet spirit is the spirit that resides in a place of rest. Of peacefulness. Of deep and quiet hope. Of 100% assurance that no matter what comes our way, we will be secure and safe and okay. A spirit that is anchored against the wind. A spirit that is at home in its own skin. A spirit that does not need to prove anything or conquer situations or dominate the people around us. A spirit that puts its entire trust in GOD and not in herself. A spirit that can breathe easy and sleep like a baby, for it is at complete rest. A spirit that says, He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken. (Psalm 62:2)

For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. (verse 5)

Such a spirit is of great worth in God’s sight.

Such a spirit recognizes God as the Source of Life and not ourselves.

Such a spirit ˜gets it’¦and in turn, is made Beautiful.

Have you ever seen a woman, who despite her physical makeup, is confident and peaceful and full of life-giving joy? This is the gentle and quiet spirit that God prizes. As we cultivate this spirit, this inner beauty, we will find that not only does God value it, but others do, too. For this is TRUE beauty.

Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30

Lord, may it be so with us, your daughters. Give us beauty that comes from within.

Feedback: Have you observed this beauty in a woman? What does it look like? How do others respond to her inner beauty?
What is holding you back from cultivating your inner beauty?

Listen: This week, download and enjoy Beautiful by Bethany Dillon. The lyrics can be found here:
http://www.lyricsdomain.com/2/bethany_dillon/beautiful.html

Beautified, Part I

Beauty. There may be nothing that we as women desire more. We want to feel beautiful. To be absolutely convinced that we are desirable. To be showered with affirmation, to be told that we are irresistable. In fact, we need to feel beautiful.

God made us this way, with a beauty all our own. And He alone knows how to light us up and make us shine with irresistible captivating beauty.

There’s a wonderful passage for women in I Peter. In it, Peter talks about the ways that women pursue beauty, and then contrasts it with beauty in its purest and most enduring form. Let’s focus in on this passage, because within is a key to this seemingly-elusive beauty. This week we will consider beauty as an accumulation of external factors. Next week we will uncover beauty as a gift to the spirit.

I Peter 3:3-6 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Your beauty should not come from¦ I like that our beauty is not implied but assumed. We are destined to be beautiful, and we will seek for it somewhere. It is just a matter of where we seek our beauty. Where will it come from, what will be the Source of our Beauty? This is what we as women will have to decide.

It should not come from, be found in, be the sum total of outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Let me translate. Our beauty should not come from, originate with, our physical appearance, such as our hairstyle, expensive jewelry, or the latest fashion trends.

This means that the following cannot be means to securing our beauty:

  • the size of our waist
  • highlights or lowlights
  • designer jeans
  • the size of our jeans
  • the size of our rock (for you married or engaged chicas)
  • whether we shop boutique or Target

Fill in the blank. What is it for you? What things do you depend on, fight for, obsess over, push hard to get, daydream about? Whatever it is for us, it is owning us as long as we are seeking to obtain our beauty through the accomplishment of these things. Some of us have driven ourselves deep into debt, have undergone surgeries, or have neglected more important areas of our life, all to achieve this elusive physical perfection. If you haven’t already discovered it, you will soon realize that this hamster wheel is not only tiring but fruitless. Someone will always be thinner, more fashionable, or ahead of you. Always. We may be young now, but one day we will grow old. What then, if our beauty is based on the accumulation of external factors? How then will we hold our own in this competitive world?

It is time now to establish for ourselves the Source from which we will live a lifetime of beauty.

If our beauty does not come from our outward adornment or physical appearance, where does it come from, and how do we get it? Stay tuned for the beautiful second half of the passage.

It just might make you Beautiful. From the inside out.

*This week, check out the new India.Arie video, “I Am Not My Hair” here. Trust me, you’ll love it!

http://www.muvids.com/india_arie_videos/i_am_not_my_hair.html

First Sky City Event a ‘Glowing’ Success

Sky City Girls at Octane, 5-31-06

A special thanks to all the ladies who were at Octane last night for the debut gathering of Sky City! We had 10 ladies from around the city! We shared coffee, held engaging conversation, and made fun new friendships. We can’t wait for you to join us next month, as our topic will be “Beautified: Beauty does as Beauty is.” Stay tuned for your next chance to join in the Sky City excitement.

First Sky City Event! Wednesday, May 31 @ Octane

Calling all Sky City Girls…

As you know, Sky City has officially launched as a new gathering place for women in Christ. You have been spreading the word, and the stats reflect hundreds of unique visitors have come to Sky City. It is now time to meet up!

The first Sky City evening will take place Wednesday, May 31, 2006 at 8 PM at Octane Coffee Bar & Lounge in Midtown. [1009-B Marietta Street NW, Atlanta, www.octanecoffee.com] We will gather over coffee and debrief our thoughts on May’s discussion of The Eve Diet: The Value of an Apple & a Woman. We will also discuss future direction for our community, and your feedback is invited. Please join us next Wednesday night in the City.

The Eve Diet Part II: The Weight of a Woman’s Words

Look around your world. Do you see heavy faces, dark places? People in your life are struggling. Everywhere it seems there is a family difficulty, relationship drama, career crossroad or financial burden. There are people you love who don’t believe they are loved. There are people in your life who have no faith in their life right now. There are people in your path that have lost their way.

What if you had the supernatural power to infuse life into the weary eyes, listless hearts, empty lives? What if there was a way you could impart life to them right where they are?

This week for the next stop on our “Eve Diet”, we consider another apple reference in Scripture. “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11) A word well-given is as valuable and beautiful as golden apples on a silver platter. This word is a breath of fresh air, a moment of rest to someone.

God’s Word has much to say about the words that drip from our mouths. He wants us to catch a vision for the powerful force that is our tongue.

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24) Do you know someone who needs healing? Pleasant words touch and heal.

Do you know someone who needs help, who has needs? (This is every one of us. The point precisely.) Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” This verse shows us the power of words that are:

Focused: (“according to their needs”) Powerful words are words that are directed carefully, to the source of another’s individual need. We get to know and care about someone, pay attention to their lives, and then we are ready to focus our words on their exact need. This alone is powerful, because we all want to feel that someone else cares about the specifics of our lives.

Uplifting: (“helpful for building others up”) They are to be words that lift up, encourage, motivate and cheer on. Words that are literally helpful. Words that contribute value to the circumstance and speak faith into it, rather than ambivalence or doubt. Words that remind us that God is in control, He cares for us, He has a plan and wants us to trust Him. Etc.

Life-giving: (“that it may benefit those who listen”) Thirdly, focused and uplifting words will benefit that person. Heal, inspire, and renew them! Change and spiritual momentum will come to the person because of your words. Do you believe this? This is the power of a woman’s words! This is a golden opportunity for us to influence and affect lives. And not just that one person to whom we speak, but life-giving words affect all “those who listen”. Others in the vicinity of our conversations and lives will be affected by listening to our words.

The words of a woman can carry such weight! They literally bring life to dark places. May we make powerful use of our words today.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21)

Ponder This:

  • How do we misuse our tongues for death rather than life?
  • Who in your path is hurting?
  • Ask Him to put words of life on your tongue today.

Savor this:

“The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.” Isaiah 50:4

Enjoy this:
Here’s a fun song for the week. Download and enjoiy.
These Words (I Love You, I Love You) by Natasha Bedingfield

The Eve Diet: [the Value of an Apple & a Woman]

Eve had no idea when she chomped into that juicy piece of fruit (we’ll call it an apple) that the fate of the world would be altered forever. She had been warned, but she didn’t fully grasp the potential that was embedded in her bite. She unlocked, through an apple of all things, Pandora’s box, spilling its ills and tragedies into our world. An apple?? A little “one-a-day-keeps-the-doctor-away”? Who could have imagined.

For the month of May, we will use several ‘apple’ references in Scripture as touch points for our journey. We’ll examine our value as women, and we will ask the question, “What is my value? What am I worth?” This question must be answered, and it must be driven deep into our minds and hearts if we are to shine at full capacity as women of light.

Because it is so beautiful, let us begin with the love-line in Zechariah 2:8: “Whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye.” This passage is referring directly to Israel, and yet it is for us to consider as well. Ponder the thought that God calls his people, God calls you the apple of his eye. You are His special and prized and protected and favored one. We are collectively and individually the apple of his eye. Beautiful.

I point to this as we start out because it is crucial. I’d love it if you began to think of yourself in this way, if you began to go through your day mindful, not that a guy was noticing or not noticing your value, but that God Himself has His eye and heart on you. Your value is determined by Him.

Since diamonds are a girl’s best friend, let me speak our language for a second. Imagine you have a diamond. You inherited it from a greatgrandmother, and now you want to know how much it is worth. Where do you go? Who do you ask? The logical answer is a jeweler or an appraiser. He would be the one to tell you the accurate value of your treasure. Well, what if you are ready to know your value as a woman? To whom should you go? Naturally, the One who created you, your Creator, is the one to tell you your true value. He is your Appraiser.

How many of us go all around the world asking anyone but the Creator to tell us our value? We go to friends, to men, to our parents, to bosses, magazines, you name it, to tell us if we stack up and how much we are worth. My friends, there is only one person who can rightly estimate your value! He is the only One who can speak on the matter, and His appraisal is firm.

Ultimately, a diamond is worth what someone will pay for it. The same is true for you.

When we ask God to appraise us, to show us our value, He says, “You are very valuable. Your life is costly and expensive. In fact, it cost me dearly. It cost me the life of my Son, Jesus Christ.” You cost the life of Jesus. Your ‘pricetag’ for buying your life from sin and death was unspeakably high: You cost the life of Jesus. You are indeed worth that which the Appraiser has paid for you. You are equal in value to the life of Jesus. You are worth as much as the precious blood of Jesus, poured out for you.

“For you know it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (I Peter 1:18-19)

How valuable are you?? Take a second look this week at the cross. You are worth more than you can imagine.

Points to Ponder/Discuss: [Post your thoughts.]

  • Where am I looking to discover my value? Who, other than God, do I ask to define me?
  • Do I believe that I am equal in value to Christ? Is this true based on Scripture?
  • Why do we as women need to know and recognize our value?

Soundtrack: [Try to download this song this week to meditate on your value. See BurnLounge link under “City Block” for downloading.]

Incorruptible by Watermark

Eye-Catchers

Your eyes light up at the sight of us.
Your ears perk up at the mention of our name.
We stop heavenly traffic when we pass you by, God.

We are Eye-Catchers.

By no means is the universe framed around us, for “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36). The glory of God cannot be emphasized enough. But somehow, women, we have missed the heartbeat of it all. Somewhere along the way we have missed the absolute devotion and adoration God has for his creation, and specifically, for his daughters. For us.

It is apparent in our slumped shoulders, our self-deprecating words, our downcast eyes.
Also in the woman with a lofty gaze, an aire of pride and self-satisfaction. She, too, has missed it.

When the Maker of the Universe, Keeper of the Stars [Isaiah 40:26] calls you by name, it humbles you and sinks you to the depths of the earth in wonder, joy, and amazement.

Sit there for awhile.

It is true.

You are an Eye-Catcher.

You are “the apple of His eye” [Zechariah 2:8].

This month, we launch Sky City as a community resource for life-exchange, truth, healing, and enjoyment. And if we are to advance together as fully alive women of Christ, we have to start here. If we don’t believe — no, if we aren’t convinced down to our very marrow — that we are loved, that we are valued, precious, and uniquely treasured by God, we will never be women bursting with life. Apart from this, all human efforts will be lost on us, lost on the One who doesn’t know that she puts a Twinkle in the Eye of God.

Point to Ponder: Have we lost the sparkle in our eyes that comes from seeing His?

Isaiah 40:26-31, Psalm 8, Psalm 139

Arise, Shine

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.

See, darkness covers the earth

and thick darkness is over the peoples

but the Lord rises upon you.

Nations will come to your light, and

kings to the brightness of your dawn.”

Isaiah 60:1-3

With Easter just behind us and the brightness of spring all around us, let us consider our own hearts and the light within. The risen Christ is our Light, our Glory, our Brightness.

Do you feel dim today? Do you feel under the ‘thick darkness that covers the earth, that is over the people?’

Today He says,

“Wake up, O sleeper,

rise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.”

Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:14-16)

The days are “evil” – they are short, they are slipping away. But today, Arise, Shine, for your Light has come. Wake up, Sleeper, and Christ will shine on you.

For Reflection: [Please contribute your thoughts.]
What are personal reflections from this Easter weekend?
How do we “wake up” to His Light?

 

Welcome to Sky City…

Come along for a journey into your heart and into the skies! Together we will explore our Heavenly Father, grow as women of light, and experience bright community. Visit Sky City to connect with God’s truth, women’s issues, and a new friend or two.

Each month will center around a theme, with a new post each week. You are invited to visit often and join the discussion.

The last week of each month, we will cap off the Sky City conversation with a special event. Whether a dinner party, a spa night, or an undisclosed adventure, you will have the opportunity to meet up with Sky City Girls.

Women of the world, Welcome to Sky City!

See you in the skies,
Katherine Oliver
Your Sky City Tour Guide