Discipline and Transformation

One of the great things about January is setting New Year’s Resolutions or goals for the year. Many of us talk about our words for the year. As I have posted previously, my word is Hope. One of my favorite friend’s word is Discipline. As I have thought about that, discipline is involved in all of our goals whether it is our word or not. It takes discipline to make changes and to follow through.
 
Paul speaks to the Corinthian church about discipline: “I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).
 
Discipline is not easy, yet it is essential to growth. I am learning it quite well in my 40 Day Yoga challenge at Big. There are days, actually many days, when yoga kicks my tail, and I want to give up. However, the discipline is to choose to stay in it and see what God has for me there. The wonderful news is that I have experienced amazing break throughs in this 40 Days! You can experience transformation too. Choose discipline today. Choose to get out of your comfort zone and experience growth. I have never heard anyone say growth was easy, but I have also never heard anyone say growth wasn’t worth the work.
 
What discipline do you need to work on today? Push in, take the risk and have faith that God’s transformative work will lead you to His abundant life!

Obedience and the Abundant Life

Obedience has never been one of my favorite words.  In fact, I was the child who typically had to learn things the hard way.  My mother can speak to this quite well!  What I am learning through the years is that obedience to the Lord leads to the abundant life.  Those who know me know that abundant life is my passion and deepest desire.  If obedience leads to the abundant life, then I am ready to submit.

Priscilla Shirer teaches on obedience in her study entitled DISCERNING THE VOICE OF GOD.  She writes:  “Obedience is not a no; it is actually His best yes.  It swims in oceans of grace and leads us to freedom, wholeness, and health.  It opens us up to His unbridled blessing and abundance.”

Grace — Freedom — Wholeness — Health — Blessing — Abundance

Don’t we long for each of these things in our lives?  Yet, we also long to hold onto our personal agendas, rights, and ways of doing things.  We hear the frequent message that it is all about us.  What if it is really all about God?  And what if God is then for us?  Do we believe that His way is best, the way that leads to true life — grace — freedom — wholeness — health — abundance?

We set guidelines around our children to protect them not to rob them of joy. God does the same for us.  Walking His way is the way to all that our hearts desire.  I want God’s best yes and invite you to pursue this path of obedience with me.  It may not be easy but not much good in life truly is.

 

Suffering and the Road to Joy

Here are some challenging words from Ann Voscamp: “A life that wants to embrace Christ is a life that must embrace suffering.” Who wants to embrace suffering? Personally, I want to run from it with all the speed these legs can muster.

But, I want Christ. I want a life defined by Christ. I want to know Him not just with my head but with my heart. I want to be given over to Him in every way. That means I must embrace suffering.

Yesterday, I was blessed to have lunch with my college Shakespeare professor. As we discussed the study of literature and the changes in that study through the years, she made an interesting observation. Many professors and students miss the value of the literature now days — the suffering and the pain as well as the joy and redemption. People get so caught up in their personal agendas that they miss feeling the very things the author wanted them to feel. Do agendas harden our hearts?

What would it look like for us to honestly walk into the suffering that surrounds us? The suffering in a book, in our children’s school, in our church, at the neighborhood Starbucks. There is suffering everywhere. There is also joy. In fact, I don’t think we can truly embrace the gift of joy without also embracing the gift of pain.

The human experience is one of pain and disappointment. It is hard to live in those feelings. Yet, we learn resilience and hope. We learn that pain will not kill us nor can it define us. In fact, the overcoming of pain is the road to joy.

Take Delight

Words from Priscilla Shirer’s book AWAKEN: “We’re constantly gathering and producing and spending and eating and collecting and keeping and hoarding — beyond what we should, beyond what we need — instead of genuinely enjoying and appreciating what God has already done, instead of trusting that He is our ultimate provider and will sustain us when we honor His boundaries (p.108).
 
Shirer calls us to Sabbath rest. God calls us to Sabbath rest. What a glorious thing if you can receive it! God knows how He designed us. For 6 days we were made to work and on the 7th day, we were made to rest. Can we trust His design and His call?
 
We Americans have a hard time stopping. Shirer addresses this well — we constantly gather, produce, eat, keep, hoard — when is enough enough? Do we take time to actually enjoy God, to enjoy His blessings? Or, are we so busy asking Him for the next thing or chasing it ourselves that we miss Him altogether?
 
Friends, He is it. He is the answer. He is what you want in the deepest part of yourself. Stop. Listen. Rest. Take delight in who the Lord is, how He loves you and then thank Him for all the blessings of your life.

God’s Edits

In my devotional reading this morning, Priscilla Shirer asks a great question that I will share: “How do you typically respond to the Father’s edits on your life? And why?”

Personally, I like to have my plan then to move on that plan. Yesterday, I posted my blog on the path of life. If I truly want to walk that path, I have to be open to “edits”.

Yesterday, as I was talking with a new friend, she asked me some tough questions as to why God did not answer her prayers as she felt she wanted him to to. Obviously, I could not answer that question. However, I always go back to Isaiah 55:8-9:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

If I truly believe that God is good, that He knows all things and that His ways are perfect then I can surrender to His ways and know that I am in good hands.

It comes down to faith. Help us Lord to believe and to surrender to you in all things, including the edits.

The Path of Life

“You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Psalm 16:11

A dear friend of mine, Michelle Wright, gave me a bracelet as I was moving from Lake Mary to Houston. The bracelet is called “The Path of Life”. I intentionally wear it every day to remind me what I want more than anything else — I want to walk on God’s path of life. I know His ways are the very best ways, and I long for the fullness of joy that cannot be found anywhere else.

What I have found about this path is it can feel treacherous. God gave me a picture one day of being on a paddle board. There were waters that were calm and beautiful; then there were waters that felt crazy and out of control. In all the different waters I faced on that paddle board, God’s hand was always on me, on the board. When I felt out of control, He was not.

That is the path of life. It is not safe, but with God’s presence and guidance, it is good. Is it hard to get out of our comfort zones and get onto the water? Most definitely! But, look at the benefits of walking with God: “fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.”

The world offers the same blessings but so rarely provides. God is faithful! The way may be uncertain, the way may be hard; however, the joy of His presence and His plan will far outweigh any of our suffering!

Let’s take the risk and ask God daily to lead us on the path of life!

Courage or Comfort?

I love Brene Brown and appreciate her writings so much. This quote from Brene has continued to stick with me:

“You can choose courage, or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both.”

How true that is for me right now! My family chose courage and moved to Houston. I desperately miss the comfort of home in Florida but am daily choosing to trust God with His plans. I think of Moses’ words in Deuteronomy — “choose life”.

We have this choice on a daily basis, don’t we — courage or comfort? I am finding that God’s way, the way to Life, is often the way of courage. Thankfully, He walks the courage path with us!

Bitter or Blessing?

Here in Houston there is a wonderful lunch time teaching on Wednesdays at our church. It is run by Yes Ministries and taught by Laura Seifert. Laura has a beautiful gift of teaching the Scriptures. Today, Laura interviewed a woman who has been struggling with a rare type of cancer in her sinus cavities. This woman said many encouraging and profound words. These are the ones that stuck with me:

“You can be bitter or you can be a blessing.”

In my mind, I always want to choose blessing. However, if I am honest, I am often find that my flesh chooses bitter.

As we have heard in the teachings by Laura this semester, there are many storms in life. God meets us in those storms. We can turn towards Him and become a blessing or we can turn away from Him and become bitter.

Today, I choose blessing. I choose to turn into God. The choice is a daily choice. I pray that through the power of God’s Holy Spirit that you and I can choose to be a blessing through each and every storm. God is faithful!

Faith

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

As Meg Rice, my brilliant and wonderful Bible teacher, shared with us today — here is the perfect definition of faith.

Hebrews 11 goes on the list the Hall of Faith. Each of these men and women walked the journey of faith without seeing the full picture of God’s plan.

Like them, we are called on our own faith journeys. As we have all experienced, the journey is filled with challenges and unexpected trials and tribulations. There are also many blessings and joys along the way plus the assurance of God’s eternal promises.

I want to be remembered like these people listed in Hebrews 11. I want to leave a legacy of building the Kingdom of God. That means walking in unchartered territory. For the past few weeks, I have read over and over again how it is the Lord who holds us, who carries us and will bring about the fullness of His plans.

Are we walking in faith with hope in the plans of our eternal and faithful God? Will we be commended as those in the Hall of Faith? My prayer is that God will give us His vision, His presence and His power to walk our journey of faith unto His glory and our joy.

More Than A Conqueror!

It is vitally important for me to look back at how God has worked in my life and to share my story. This week, I have marveled at the wonderful people God has put in my life to help me grow in my spiritual journey. There are so many to thank; however, words from one special friend have been in my mind all week.

A few years ago, I have the blessing of time with Linda Strickland. We heard each others stories then she spent some time praying for me. I will never forget when she paused in her prayer over me and spoke these words: “Brooke, you have lived as an overcomer, but God wants you to live as more than a conqueror.”

Needless to say, I began meditating on Romans 8 and even tried to memorize the whole chapter (which didn’t go so well). God seems to be prodding me to move back to the exhortation of Linda’s words to me that day.

There is so much in life to overcome. I was one who had persevered through life despite many challenges and much adversity. However, I do want my life to be characterized as more than an overcomer. For me, to live as “more than a conqueror” has required much healing and a true understanding of God’s love with my heart instead of just my head.

How I give thanks for those who have spoken into me, prayed for me, encouraged me and loved me along the way. God is so good to provide what we need for each and every season.