postheadericon Easter Hope for Your Every Day

Every time my husband travels, my mind creeps to that deep, dark place.  What if he has an accident?  What if God takes him away?  What if I’m left alone with my three young children? 

Sometimes I stuff it, sometimes I face it.  Today, God wants me to face it.   

It goes something like this:  Surely nothing will happen.  I can’t know that though.  God does deal us difficult hands for our good.  But why does everything have to be hard before it produces good?  


postheadericon The Fool Factor

A sucker for inspirational YouTube videos, my mom e-mailed me one of a flash mob singing the Hallelujah chorus over the holiday season.  I clicked on it halfheartedly, but was soon struck by the courage of the first singer.  A 20-something, attractive and trendy, she blended into the perimeter of the bustling food court, chatting on her cell phone.  

On cue, she startled the place with her booming soprano voice, collecting all kinds of rude looks and confused stares.  The camera cut over to one table in particular where a lady rolled her eyes in disdain.  “Who is this idiot who would discomfort us all by doing something socially awkward?” But when another singer joined her, the crowd immediately recalculated.  Could this be planned?  Could this be bigger than just one person?  

As the third and fourth singers surfaced, all judgment suspended. Reevaluating, the crowd seemed intrigued and curious about this display of social-norm breaking.  Expressions of pleasure and privilege emerged on their faces. They realized they were witnessing something bigger than themselves that had been beautifully orchestrated for their enjoyment.  They started to sing along, sharing in the camaraderie.  By the end, they celebrated the group, applauding the gift they received that afternoon in the food court.

Is not evangelism just like this?  Do we not feel like an idiot when we’re the first to speak the gospel to a lost friend, or to a group of non-Christians?  Is it not an extremely lonely place to be?  What would motivate us to go first?  What motivated that singer to sing the first line?  I would guess three factors:

  1. She belonged to a team.  She would not stand alone very long.  As soon as the second singer joined the chorus, the audience started to change their mind.  Team is a powerful force that brings much confidence.  As Christians, it is important to expose our lost friends to other believers.  It brings credibility to our message when they see we are not the only “crazy” ones.  As often as you can, have other Christians join your conversation to share how Christ is changing their life.   
  2. She knew they’d love it in the end.  She probably had the assurance that the crowd would applaud at the end.  I’ve yet to see a group be booed out of the subway or food court.  The Bible is packed full of verses that give believers the same assurance.  Phil. 2:10-11 says every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.  Rev. 7:9-10 describes a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language worshiping Christ at the end of time.  Knowing what the end holds, we can bear a few moments of painful rejection here on earth. 
  3. She had her sister on the phone.  The article explained she had her sister on the phone the entire time.  I’m sure this was for moral support.  How can this not remind us of our always open line to our Heavenly Father?  As a believer in Jesus, you actually will never have to stand alone.  You are always in the company of God Almighty.  Psalm 91:1 says “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Sharing your faith is obeying God’s will for your life which certainly falls under the category of dwelling in the shelter of the Most High.
For me, the hardest part of evangelism is the initial break in.  I don’t like making people feel uncomfortable.  Putting others on the spot is not fun for me.  I would love for my lost friends to ask, “Codie, I’m confused about the Bible.  Will you explain it to me?” or “What is God like?  I’ve always wondered.” or “Why are you so joyful and secure?”  

But few ever ask these things. 
I’ve never had anyone ask me any of those questions. 
So you have to bring it up.   You have to break the social norm.

If you want to be an evangelist, you’ve got to accept the fool factor.  It’s part of following Christ.  But just know - you aren’t a fool; God knows it and everyone else will see it eventually.  And in being a fool for Christ, you put yourself in play and may actually win someone to Christ.  If you never have, it’s the epitome of feeling useful and definitely worth hours of rejection.  And think about the alternative for them if you never speak up…

postheadericon Let the Unthirsty Thirst

Have you ever noticed how Jesus gave grace to the humble but the law to the proud?  In John 4, He offered the woman at the well living water and declined to condemn her for her loose lifestyle.  Two chapters later, however, he boldly tells the Pharisees they don’t know God, aren’t righteous enough for heaven, and are actually sons of the devil.  So…as students of the Master, which style of evangelism should we reproduce?

Obviously, both are valid, being that they were modeled by Christ Himself.  There is a trend though:  grace first, then law.  I first see it in Exodus 33 when God passed by Moses and declared who He is in a list of character qualities.  Of all the characteristics He could name, which do you think He chose first?  The answer - compassion.  Very interesting isn’t it!  (You should stop and think about that for a second.)  Then He continues His list with gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, forgiving wickedness, sin, and rebellion.  The last trait listed, however, has a different feel.  It is a little harder to read:  “He does not leave the guilty unpunished.”  Notice that He uses 7 adjectives to convey his love and grace and only 1 phrase to warn us about His justice.  Now He’s no less just than He is loving but what this passage tells me is that He is patient!  He patiently and carefully is teaching us to respond to His love and grace before He brings His judgment.  

The same message of patience comes through when you look at Scripture as a whole.  God bears with His chosen nation Israel for hundreds of years in the Old Testament as they move in and out of loyalty, mostly out.  He sends prophets, kings, judges, and miracles, to shepherd, instruct, and rescue His people.  He foreshadows and straight up predicts the coming of the Savior in hundreds of different ways, encouraging them to put their hope in Christ.  All the while Israel is mostly defiant and suffering the consequences of “He does not leave the guilty unpunished.”  God always preserves a remnant, though, a small remaining group of faithful Israelites, which eventually lead to the birth of Christ.

Then, as Jesus is interacting with individuals in the New Testament, He appeals to their hunger and thirst for eternal life.  He calls Himself the living water and the bread of life.  He could have just as accurately called Himself the Judge of the living and the dead like in Acts 10.  But He’s graciously offering His life as the first approach of evangelism.  With the Pharisees, who were professional students and teachers of the scripture, He exposes their sinfulness as His method of evangelism.  This is because they were fully aware of God’s gracious call to salvation but pridefully remained standing on their own works. 

I use this as a template for my evangelism.  I begin by highlighting our inner thirst for purpose, security, and fulfillment.  The New Testament and my life are full of examples of how Jesus quenches this thirst, supplying me with plenty of material to share with my non Christian friends.  Despite this convincing evidence, I often get blank faces and unenthused responses.  If you don’t feel thirsty, why drink the water?  And some people just don’t feel the thirst.  They are fine with themselves.  So then I move to the law.  I share such verses as Romans 3:10-12, 23, Genesis 6:5, 8:21, Isaiah 64:6.  These verses expose our sinful nature as seen by God.  They communicate to the unbeliever that even if you don’t feel a need to be saved, you are at odds with the Creator of the Universe and His wrath already remains on you (John 3:36).   Its takes guts to go there but this is where evangelism gets good in the sense that their apathy is shaken and you are now dealing with an awake person.  My fervent prayer is that salvation lies around the corner from these tough conversations, which always makes it worth it!

So how has it been in your life?  Has God been patient with you as you put together the pieces of His gracious gospel?  Has He spared you what you deserve so that you might come to Him?  I hope you have responded in faith because if pride is all that’s in your heart then the 8th adjective is left for you: justice.  God does not leave the guilty unpunished.

postheadericon YOUR TURN

I've shared with you some of my thoughts and experiences about mentoring.  NOW I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU:

  • Have you ever been mentored?
  • If so, were you initiated to or did you have to initiate the relationship? 
  • Is there organic or programmed mentoring going on at your church?
  • Do you have an older lady in mind that you'd like to meet with?
  • What is holding you back from asking her for an appointment?
  • What areas of life do you need help with?
  • If you have been mentored, what was the format?
  • What was most helpful that your mentor did for you?
  • Any other thoughts?

Answer just one or all the questions if you'd like, but you have to be a FOLLOWER of 30Thrive to comment.  So please follow and then let us know your experiences.  We can really help each other if we all share our thoughts.  Also, I need current feedback/statistics to be an informed and effective consultant on this topic.  I want to know the pulse.  May the Lord bless our interactions and raise up mentors for us all!

postheadericon Mentor Me! - Part 3

What to expect
I think a reasonable amount of time to ask from your mentor is one appointment once a month for a six month commitment.  Your mentor may be willing and able to give more which would be a bonus.   It seems that every woman I have desired to spend hours with actually has very few to spare because she already gives so much to her family, church, and community.

Don’t expect her to spoon feed you.  A good mentor helps you interpret your situation from a bird’s eye view and encourages you to take the narrow road, but the details typically still remain up to you and the Lord.  It would be crippling to your growth for her to always fill in the blanks for you.  You can, however, expect her to share the riches of wisdom she’s learned from her mountains and valleys, not to mention the prayer, encouragement, and support she’ll so enjoy showering on you.  The women I’ve spoken with, who’ve stepped out in faith and begun to mentor a younger lady, are so expressive of the blessing they’re receiving from the experience.  It’s a win-win for everyone!

Make it easy
You can’t push a noodle.  I’ve tried and it’s brutal.  The intangible, intimidating thing about mentoring is that there’s no real curriculum other than the issues going on in the life of the mentee.  If you’re not willing to be transparent with your mentor then don’t even waste her time with an appointment.  Also, don’t burden your mentor by showing up each time with nothing prepared.  Here’s what you can do:
  1. Be FAT – Faithful, Available, Teachable – show up, on time, with a soft heart.
  2. Be Organized and Open – Organize ahead of time what you need help with.  Present it to your mentor in a succinct way and ask some specific questions to invite her input.  This is not your hour to boundlessly vent about all your frustrations.  Keep it real but succinct.  Leave time for her to help you.  Remember, you’re only getting an hour or so a month, this time is gold, use it well!
Our obligation
Let’s correct the situation we’re in.  Let’s pledge to pursue mentoring and to pass it on!  Let’s not leave the generation of our daughters untrained. Let’s glean all we can from today’s pillars so we’ll have the spiritual depth to live lives worth emulating. 

Just imagine if spiritual mentoring became the cultural norm in our churches.  Our walks with God would mature, producing healthier marriages and tighter families.  Our children would grow up with greater examples and deeper convictions.  Our churches would be a web of interlocking relationships crossing all generations.  We could actually function as a team in tending to each other and reaching the community, country, and world with the saving message of Jesus!  And we’d have the lives to back it up! 

So, mentee, what older, wiser woman will you contact?

postheadericon Mentor Me! - Part 2

How to get it
If you want to be spiritually mentored, but there is no organic or programmed mentoring going on in your church, then here is what you should do:
  1. Keep your eyes open to notice who the wise, Godly women are in your congregation and pray for God’s lead.
  2. Ask for a one on one with one of these ladies that has caught your attention.  Tell her you’ve admired her life from afar and would like to spend an hour with her over lunch or coffee.  Tell her you have a few simple questions you’d like to ask her about life in general.
  3. Prepare 3 authentic questions that are on your heart.  These will probably reflect areas of your life where God is working on you.  After casual chit chat, ask your questions and then be a good listener.  Expect to walk away with at least one significant thing God taught you through her.
  4. Repeat this practice whenever you cross paths with a wise woman that sparks your interest. You may notice that you have a particular connection with one of these ladies.  Ask for a second appointment; bring more questions, and share more of your life situation.  If the connection continues to grow and you sense she is mutually blessed by the relationship, ask her to mentor you.

Sample Questions
  • Do you mind sharing with me about some of your mountains and valleys?
  • How do you keep your marriage fresh?
  • What has worked for you in the area of parenting?
  • What about your singleness have you enjoyed/did you enjoy?
  • What verses have been instrumental to you in times of discontentment?
  • Do you use any systems in your daily time with God?  Could you share them with me?

postheadericon Mentor Me! - Part 1

I have been spiritually mentored off and on for the past 10 years.  Sometimes it was a weekly one on one appointment, sometimes a monthly phone call.  A few times it fell in my lap, mostly I had to go out and get it.  But it was always a tremendous privilege!  Outside of my personal, daily time with God, discipleship and mentoring have been the #1 contributors to my spiritual health.  I realize I am in the very small percentage of women who ever get these opportunities and I’m determined to do something about it.  Let’s start with a practical dissection of the subject:

Why we need it
Humans flourish with personal attention.  It’s true in every facet of life.  Your grades were better when you were tutored, your athletic performance improved when your coach was around, salespeople sell more when they talk regularly with a sales coach.  Our spiritual lives are no exceptions.  If a wiser woman gave you personal attention on a regular basis, assuming your cooperation, you would notice increased fruit in your life.

Tiger, Peyton, and Serena all have coaches.  Is it because they are the best or is it in part what has made them the best?

It’s time we all stopped ignoring the 4th spoke of our life wheel, our spiritual life, and give it the same intentionality with which we’ve supplied our intellectual, physical, and social lives.

What it is & What it’s not
General Definition:  Mentoring is the intentional relationship between 2 people where the wiser, more experienced person counsels and guides the other.

In the realm of spiritual growth, let’s make some distinctions:

 Discipleship – curriculum based training program to establish a new convert in the basics of Christianity
 Mentoring – life coaching for the already established believer
 Professional Counseling – counseling for loss, tragedy, addiction, victims of abuse, etc.

    It is helpful to note that one does not need a seminary degree or counseling degree to mentor.  A track record of walking in cooperation with God’s lead in your life is what it takes. 

    Why the lack of it
    Despite the command in Titus 2:3-5 for the older women to train the younger women, we’re not seeing much mentoring in the Christian community.  Here are 3 reasons why:
    1. It’s hard to do something you’ve never seen done or had done for you. 
    2. The older generation tends to be private and modest, thinking, “Who am I to probe into your life?” or “Who am I to be able to help you?”
    3. Proactive & Reactive - Many crucial ministries such as divorce recovery, crisis pregnancy, inner city tutoring, soup kitchens, recovering addict groups, and single moms’ classes are reactive in nature.  In addition to these, we should think proactively about ministry by mentoring those younger than us.  In this way, we can save marriages before they break down and avert addictions before they start.  Over time, there would be less need for reactive, mercy ministries because our proactive efforts would counteract the problems before they even arise.

    postheadericon Something From Nothing

    “I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys.  I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs…so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.”  Isaiah 41:18, 20

    This is my new favorite passage because it reminds me of God’s fiat power.  He can make something from nothing.  He made all of creation from no raw material, just from nothing, and with only the power of His word.  Sometimes when I’m explaining this to my son I point my finger and say, “Let there be light” to show him how light came about and then I realize God didn’t even have to point his finger.  His words were enough.  

    In this Isaiah passage, God is promising provision for Israel.  He could have said he’d show them where to find the water as they went on their journey.  But dramatically He declares he will turn dry land into flowing rivers.  Verse 20 explains why.  The main point of the provision, and of everything else God does then and now, is so that all people would understand that He did it.  All glory to the Lord.  

    Ok, for daily application…where do you need God’s fiat power?  Where is the desert in your life that needs to be turned into a pool?  What is dead in your world that needs to be brought to life?  A spiritually lost friend? Your lost soul? A relationship?  Your marriage?  Your hope in the future?  A vision for how God can use you? A battle with a specific sin?  Acknowledge His complete effortless ability to bring it to life.  Beg Him to exercise His power and pledge your cooperation!  We know from all over the Bible that God is eager to help us.  James 4:8 says “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  So the ball is in your court.

    When the victory comes and God breathes life into the situation, remember verse 20 and help those around you to see, know, consider, and understand that God’s hand did it!

    Ok, now for an old favorite.  2 Cor. 5:20 – “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf:  Be reconciled to God.”  As God is performing miracles all over the world using His fiat power, He’s allowing us to be the conduits or ambassadors of this power.  Can you believe this?  This is the most significant job we could ever have!  So, while He’s getting all the glory, we’re getting to be His hands and feet.  For anyone who loves to feel important and productive, this is a transforming truth!

    Here is part of my record of God’s fiat power in my life:  As a child, God used my parents’ conversion to open my eyes to the truth of Christ.  In college, he used Jennie Patton, the lady who discipled me, to breathe life into my limping walk with Christ. He used my brother Bo, my future husband Brad, Christy, Missi, Janet, Ryan, Mason, Tim, Corey, Joel, Mike, David, Lisa, Chris, Jennie, and many other college students to fan into flame a vision for how God could use me in this life to advance His Kingdom.  As a wife, God used Brent, Joanne, Dana, Janet and Corey to bring life to dying areas of my marriage.  In the area of friendships, God used my husband’s advice and example to rescue several terminal friendships.  

    Do you see?  God’s fiat power in my life almost always takes the form of a person’s tangible help.  And I’m sure it’s the same with you if you were to stop and take a look.  We are His conduits.  So go deliver God’s fiat power as a friend, spouse, evangelist, discipler, mentor, counselor, whatever!  And all glory to Him.

    postheadericon Rejoice in the Lord Always

    You may never have noticed that God commands you to have certain emotions.  We’re used to Him commanding our actions, attitudes, and thoughts, but sometimes don’t realize our emotions are under His jurisdiction as well.  Can we help what we feel?  Are we obligated to produce certain feelings for God?  Yes and Yes!

    Rejoice means to feel great delight.  At times we have plenty of delight in our Lord but then it fades quickly at the slightest threat of discomfort, opposition, or stress.  Think about the last time you genuinely rejoiced in the Lord.  How long was it before you lost your great delight in Him?  

    Our biggest barrier to rejoicing is our worldly paradigm.  We are ever forgetting that the spiritual realm is more real than the physical one.  The physical realities of pain and disappointment cast dark shadows over the spiritual realities of life and victory.  Like all other spiritual issues, the battle is in the mind and intentional effort is paramount to victory.  The fuel for rejoicing is found in the truths of Scripture. There are ample verses in the Bible that, when taken to heart, quickly supply great delight in Christ, so we’re not without ammunition.  Most of us, however, are without skill or the habit of discipline.  

    Let’s talk about skill.  Quote 5 verses that instantly give you great delight in the Lord.  This should be easy assuming our extensive exposure to God’s Word, but so few Christians actually memorize Scripture.  Start now.  Choose 2 verses, write them on a note card and begin to meditate on them.  To meditate is to chew on the meaning in your mind repeatedly till the concepts are deeply embedded in your heart and the words easily come to mind.  When you meditate, memorization happens naturally.  Place your note cards somewhere you frequent – your dashboard, mirror, window sill above the kitchen sink.  I keep mine on my treadmill to meditate on while I run.  It’s hard to read when you run so I use very large font on half sheets of paper.  Without fail, I always leave my workout with a heart full of love and joy for my Savior.  The Word of God is living and active!!

    That leaves the habit of discipline.  To continue a habit requires completely different ingredients than starting one.  You have to have resolve and accountability and guts.  Look at yourself in the mirror and ask, “Are you going to stay this way forever or are you serious about changing?” Weigh the pros and cons.  Convince yourself to work hard at cooperating with the change God is trying to bring about in you.  Then write a few goals, a simple plan to follow on a daily basis.  If you meditated on God’s Word and prayed to Him every day for as little as 30 minutes, your life would transform!!  You have to try it!!  Then tell someone your plan that has the heart and care to ask you about it regularly.  Lastly, when life squeezes you hard to drop your plan, beg God for strength and step out in faith.  James 4:8 says “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  Notice who’s to take the first step.  You are!  

    Pray with me:  “Lord, there are a million plus reasons why I should take great delight in You but I often don’t.  I confess this and am deeply sorry.  I am wrong for putting this world’s circumstances first in my heart and mind.  I want to make a change.  Help me to establish a doable plan to meditate on Your Word and pray to You every day.  I do rejoice in You because You have rescued me from the pit and crowned me with loving kindness!  And for a million more reasons, I love You!  Thank You for all Your involvement in my life.  I want to be on Your page and cooperate with Your agenda.  Change me.  Use me.  Amen.”

    postheadericon Encouragement for the Broken

    My beloved cousin, Lindsey O'Brien Kesling

    I had the privilege of speaking at my cousin's Memorial Service this week and below is what I said.  For anyone who has faced the reality of death in a personal way, I hope this post brings comfort: 

    We all have something in common today.  It is likely that we are thinking more clearly at this very moment than we ever have.  We are acutely aware of how fragile life is and how certain death is.  It gives us a unique grasp on reality, a unique wisdom we don’t normally carry with us.  All our priorities come into perspective.  So may we all pay attention to this moment and learn from it. 

    We are feeling tremendous grief inside…even anger, despair, confusion, and disbelief. And it makes sense that we would feel this way because humans were created for life.  We were never meant to die.  Things were never meant to be like this.  But we live in a broken world and there is brokenness all around us.  Each of us ourselves is broken.  We’re broken on two levels:  physically our bodies are breaking down and will eventually die, but we’re broken on the inside too.  There is a restlessness and an insecurity within, a hunger we cannot fill.  If we’re honest with ourselves, no matter how much genuine passion we have for life or deep love we feel for others, we still cannot fix our inner brokenness, our unquenchable thirst for purpose, security, and fulfillment.  

    I submit to you that the reason for our brokenness is that we all in some form or fashion have lived as if we have no Creator.  We’ve lived our life as if there is no God.  The Bible calls this sin.  For some it is inward and subtle for others it is outward and blatant.  But it doesn’t matter:  we all have neglected our obligation to live loyal to our Maker.  And because of this, we experience brokenness.

    No doubt God is offended by our disregard for Him.  He takes it as a personal offense.  But He also is merciful and has provided a very clear solution.  The solution is unexpected.  It is not doing better or being better.   See, the bottom line is that broken people can’t fix themselves.  We have to have outside help.  That is why God’s solution for us is a person, and a relationship with that person:  the person of Jesus Christ.  He did for us what we could not do for ourselves.  He fixed us inside and out.  He lived the perfect life we could not live.  He died the death that was intended for us, to pay for our sins.  And He came back to life, defeating death, our biggest enemy.  He paid our debt before God and He freed us from our enemy.  No one in history has ever done this or claimed to do this but Him.  That’s what makes Him so unique.  Jesus truly is our Rescuer and Hero.  When you believe this, the only logical response is complete loyalty.

    In John 11, Jesus Himself attends the funeral of one of his best friends.   And he did three very interesting things there:

    First, He raised His friend from the dead.  It was Lazarus; you are probably familiar with the story.  All He did was speak the words, “Lazarus, come out!” and he did.  It is amazing!  His words alone have power to create life and restore life.  This is good news because we all need life to be restored to us on the inside.  He brings peace to our inner restlessness and quenches our inner thirst.  And the Bible teaches that when He returns, He will raise up the bodies of those who believe in Him, just like He did with Lazarus.  We will be given new, perfect bodies just the way we were originally intended to be.  Do you see?  We have two levels of brokenness and Jesus answers them both.

    The second amazing thing is that earlier that day before He raised Lazarus, Jesus was with Lazarus’ two sisters, Mary and Martha, and He wept with them.  This is Jesus, fully God, knowing that He was about to raise their brother, but also fully man, identifying with their intense pain and feeling it too.  This should bring you so much comfort.  He feels your pain right now.  We have a God and Savior that is personal and can identify with us.  He is real and present here today and He is intimately acquainted with you even if you do not know Him.  He longs to make a difference in your life and bring comfort to your souls.  All you have to do is reach out to Him – He is there!

    Thirdly, in John 11:25, Jesus makes an outrageous claim.  He says, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me will live even though he dies.”  He confidently claims to be the source of life and then He proved it with His actions by raising Lazarus.  He says if you believe in Him your soul will live even though your body dies.  And that life in your soul that only He can give will never die (as the next verse explains).  Then He ends His statement with a question to Lazarus’ sister, “Do you believe this?”  He is asking us the same question today.  “Do you believe this?”  Do you believe that Jesus is the source of life?  Can you admit that you are broken?  Do you see that it is because of your sin?  Where do you look to be fixed?  How’s it working out for you?  Will you consider turning to Jesus for Him to fix your brokenness?  You may think you’re too far gone to ever turn to Jesus but that’s not what He says.  He says anyone can believe in Him and He’ll wipe your slate clean.

    I would suggest you read John 11 for yourself.  Ask God to open your eyes to the truth in the Bible.  I know the Bible may seem outdated at first, but give it a chance to sink in and you’ll find it is the most relevant book of truth for all seasons of your life, including this tragedy we’re currently facing.  

    I can think of no greater way to honor Lindsey O’Brien Kesling on this day when we celebrate her life and mourn her death, than to evaluate our own lives and get right with God and those around us.

    I love you Lindsey!

    postheadericon Calling - Part 3

    This post is part 3 of knowing God’s calling for your life.  Previously I mentioned there are 3 aspects to calling:  WHAT, WHERE, AND HOW.  The WHAT aspect of calling is that all believers are commissioned to share the good news of Christ with the lost. The WHERE is your current location; where you live, work, and play.  The HOW has to do with your individuality.

    SHAPE is a helpful acrostic: Spiritual gifts, Heart desires, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences.   It takes time to understand these things about yourself, but you’ll find it quite helpful and freeing when you do.  I always benefit when I better learn myself.  For instance, I used to try to be more extroverted than I actually am.  This was very exhausting and anti-productive.   Now I know I’m relationally at my best after having sufficient alone time to refuel and refocus.  Another example…I used to leave my past in the past, not thinking how my experiences could uniquely connect me to people.  Now I look for ways to connect my past with those I’m reaching out to, providing a natural bridge for sharing my testimony of how Christ transformed me.

    There are many helpful materials out there to learn your giftedness and personality type.   You can also excavate your own heart and mind through journaling.  Ask yourself…what are my heart’s desires? When have I been most useful in the kingdom?  What comes naturally to me? What abilities has God allowed me to develop over the years?  What topics make my face light up?  What experiences, pleasant and painful, have shaped my life? How might God use these in my future? Discuss these things with those who know you best.  Ask God for clarity and keep your eyes open for His providential hand at work in your future.

    Three additional thoughts on learning your HOW:
    1. When God has something to tell you, He doesn’t have a hard time getting the words out.  We are the ones that make it hard to hear.  My best advice is to be in God’s Word daily.  As seen in Isaiah’s calling in Isaiah 6, his calling came after his cleansing.  The Word will expose your sin, soften your heart, and then align your passion with God’s agenda.  But if you’re not deep in His Word with a receptive heart on a regular basis, you won’t be getting this clarity.
    2. Serve in lots of different ways.  Give to the needy, lead a Bible study, encourage people, pray for people, mentor someone younger, plan an event, go on a mission trip, and evangelize anyone and everyone.  Make observations along the way.  Where were you most useful?  What came naturally?  What energized you?  If it’s hard for you to tell, ask your husband, or roommate or someone close to you their thoughts.
    3. Consider your season and capacity.  If you are married and stay home with your kids, your big rocks are supporting your husband, caring for your children, and managing all things “home”.  Once those are covered, see how much time and energy is left.  Talk with your husband about your ideas for investing that extra time in kingdom work outside the home.  If you are a working student, your big rocks are work and school.  Then see what is left over.  (We all share a few common big rocks that I didn’t include in the list because they are a “given” in my mind: Time alone with God, involvement in your local church, & stewardship issues [health, possessions, finances, etc.].)
    Just in the last year have I pinpointed my love for packaging and presenting information.  When I’m writing and speaking on topics that advance God’s kingdom, I am EXTREMELY energized and hopefully useful.  So I suspect this will be my “station” in God’s workplace.  My capacity, audience, and venue may vary, but I’m seeing this as my niche. 

    The important thing, however, is that I remember the end game, that all people groups are to hear the gospel and draw us closer to Revelation 7:9-10. So no matter how much I enjoy sitting here typing on my computer, I never want to neglect being in the lives of those around me that don’t know Jesus yet.  That’s a calling ALL believers share, and if you don’t know your specific job yet, at least you know that!  

    postheadericon Calling - Part 2

    This post is part 2 of knowing God’s calling for your life.  Previously I mentioned there are 3 aspects to calling:  WHAT, WHERE, AND HOW.  The WHAT aspect of calling is that all believers are commissioned to share the good news of Christ with the lost.  If you’re not on board with this part, the WHERE and the HOW aren’t going to matter much.  

    The WHERE has to do with your current location in life.  If you are a working mom, then you are called to share the love of Christ at home and at work because that is where you are.  If you are a student then those in your classes and in your dorm are your WHERE.  Stay at home moms have their family and possibly neighbors or other moms they know from car pools, play dates, soccer practices, etc.  Randy Pope, a pastor in Atlanta, says “where you live, work, and play” is where we live out our calling.

    So think about that for a second.  Where do you live?  Are you sharing a roof with anyone who is not a believer in Christ?  Do you have neighbors who need to hear the gospel?  Where do you work or go to school or volunteer?  Are there unbelievers there you could reach out to? And where do you play…the mall, the gym, the spa?  Whose paths do you cross on a regular basis that need to hear about Christ?  

    The WHERE aspect is definitely a variable.  It changes for all of usThere are natural changes because of school, work, or having a child, but sometimes God prompts us to pick up and go for no other reason than taking the gospel to a new place.  My WHERE has changed 6 times since I’ve been married, 5 times because of work related moves and once when I became a mom.   Each change opened the door to new relationships and new opportunities to share Christ. 

    Being clear that the WHAT of our calling is always the point and the meaning behind each of our WHERE’s is key to a fulfilling life.  I’m sure we’ve all been in a location that we didn’t love...a city, school, or job that was drudgery.  But if you see your current placement as a divine appointment to accomplish the highest mission, it suddenly takes on a new look.  Feeling useful and productive are great solutions for boredom and discontentment!

    I’m pretty sure I would go crazy staying home if I didn’t see the spiritual calling behind my full time mom job.  I literally feel the significance of each moment of teaching, loving, and caring for my children that it satisfies my naturally driven self.  We even only have one car right now but I don’t mind because there is no where I’d rather be than with my family and neighbors.  This is a testimony to God’s grace that He is willing to put feeble men and women in such eternally significant roles!  I LOVE my place in His kingdom!  And I know that when my kids are grown or if we relocate again, my new placement will be just as fulfilling because my overarching calling is always the same.  We truly can bloom where we're planted, no matter where that is.

    postheadericon Calling - Part 1

    The next 3 posts are about knowing God’s calling for your life.  I recently attended a Bible study with 10 other women discussing this very topic.  Two things are for sure…it’s a confusing topic for most of us AND we all really desire to know our calling.  Imagine the peace of mind and inner stillness that comes with being right where you are supposed to be!

    To define calling, let’s use a metaphor.  Imagine life as God’s gigantic corporation, His workplace for us, filled with millions of jobs.  He’s the CEO and you’re His employee.  Your calling would be your specific placement in this company with a specific task to perform or role to fill that utilizes the abilities He made you with.  Can you see how this could be confusing?  How can I know that I’m working just the right job in God’s enormous company of life?

    Well, the whole idea of a calling suggests that there is work to be done.  And when you define that work to be winning lost souls to Christ, the whole thing comes into view and simplifies significantly.  No, I may not yet know exactly my perfect fit in God’s kingdom work where I’m maximizing my SHAPE (Spiritual gifts, Heart desires, Abilities, Personality, Experiences,) but I do know that if I’m sharing my faith with those around me, I’m at least moving in the right direction. 

    I learned to share my faith 13 years ago.  I memorized 4 main points with a couple of verse references to go with each point.  Then I learned how to communicate the 4 points in a kind, relational way by watching my friend do it.  It was simpler than I had anticipated.  As I started to try, it became more and more natural.  I can easily fit the gospel into everyday conversations now.  And you know what…some of my friends came to Christ along the way!  Some have even led others to Christ and are still walking with God to this day.  I recently spoke at a women’s retreat for college students where I was blown away to meet a girl who introduced herself to me as my spiritual great, great grandchild!

    Now, ask me if I knew my specific placement in God’s workplace back in college when I first started sharing my faith?  No, I could barely articulate my strengths and weaknesses let alone my calling, but God was pleased to use my simple efforts.  And looking back at the last 13 years, they have been without a doubt full of the satisfaction that comes from living out one’s purpose.

    With that said, I do have some thoughts on knowing your calling.  There is a WHAT, WHERE, and HOW to your calling.  The WHAT I’ve already mentioned - winning lost souls to Christ.  All believers share this general calling to proclaim the good news of Jesus rescuing us from God’s wrath and our sin.  We proclaim it with our words as well as affirm it with our lives.  Proclamation and Affirmation…I remember it because it rhymes.  The WHERE and HOW aspects are where each of our callings gets more specific.  I’ll address these points in the next 2 posts.

    But for now, let’s ask ourselves these questions:  Do you know how to share the gospel?  Can you do it in a kind, relational way?  Is there anyone you can watch to learn how to do it?  Do you have any friends who don’t know Jesus?  Are you praying for them regularly?  How can you show them Christ’s love this week?

    postheadericon God, Make Me Useful!

    This post was going to be about mentoring.  But before I go there I need to say:  What is the point of thriving?  Why dedicate an entire blog to it?  So we can be useful in advancing God’s kingdom.  If we are not faithful with our “big rock” responsibilities, we won’t be mentally or emotionally available for outreach.  When I’m at odds with my husband, sharing Christ’s love with my neighbor is the last thing on my mind.  When I’m stressed because I didn’t budget my time well and now I’m behind on three different projects, my mind and heart are consumed with the temporal.  But if marriage, parenting, work, my home, my body, etc. are functioning smoothly, (not without glitches but as one who’s given careful forethought to each area), then my mind and heart are open to spiritual realities and opportunities.  

    I’ve never wanted God’s kingdom to advance as much as I do now.  I’m begging God to bring my friends into a relationship with Christ.  I don’t want it to be just Brad and me sitting together at church but that we could fill an entire row with new believers in Christ!  Imagine how incredible that worship service would be.  I visualize it every Sunday morning, I can’t get past it.  If only He would use us like that!   I would give anything.  And why wouldn’t He?  Jesus told us to make disciples.  2 Corinthians 5 says God gave us the ministry of reconciliation.  If He gave us the ministry, He will use us, unless, of course, we’re not useful.  And that’s what the thriving thing is all about, helping us become useful.

    2 Timothy 2:20-21 says “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.  If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”  I want to be useful more than anything in the world!!  The thought of partnering with the Master in His work feels to me like landing the dream job in the most influential industry.  What is more significant than being a player in advancing Jesus’ kingdom???  So how can I be useful?  Cleanse myself from articles used for ignoble purposes.  Umm, what does that mean?  Well, the verses around it are saying to turn away from wickedness, evil desires of youth, foolish arguments, quarreling, and resentment.  I guess those would be the wood and clay.  It also says to pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, a pure heart, kindness, and teaching ability.  Those would be the gold and silver.  Let’s evaluate the articles in our lives to see if we’re useful.  If we find we’re not, let’s do whatever it takes to get there…that’s what this blog hopes to help you do!

    In college, I led some girls in my dorm to Christ and started leading them in a Bible Study.  But then my immaturity and unsurrendered areas of idolatry crept in and overtook all my usefulness.  AKA…I got boy crazy and the kingdom work lost its luster so I gave it up.  Fortunately, I had an awesome mentor and roommate who both walked me through it and called me back to following Christ.  I did, by God’s grace, and got back in the game.  It’s been 11 years since and being useful has been a 2 part effort:  praying for and sharing Christ with my friends, but also taking care of my big rocks so that when opportunities do come along I can act.  That’s being useful.  That’s living in light of the Great Commission.  If you want God to use you, then get ready for it! 

    postheadericon Will You Bring Your "A GAME"?

    Reason #3 for writing to 30 something’s about thriving – We are the Future Leaders of Churches and Society.  Let’s expand:

    Who are the 2 most influential women in your church? At what age did they come into this role? How many years till you hit that age? What about your community… How old are the women running the Chamber of Commerce or running for office? How old are the philanthropists making the biggest impact or the moms on the Site Based Council who interview the high school principal applicants? How many years till you hit that age? When you do…will you bring your “A Game”?

    The answers about these ages definitely vary: my mom was interviewing the principal applicants at age 55, but I have a good friend who is the director of recruitment for the Chamber of Commerce and she’s my age! Most churches I’ve worshiped at are primarily influenced by women in their 40’s and 50’s, but they’ve been well established for years. I know several newer fellowships where the 30’s and 40’s are the leaders. Whatever your city, whatever your situation, you’re probably either at bat or on deck.

    Now the point isn’t just to be an influencer, but to use your influence to advance God’s Kingdom. Human nature is to promote our personal preferences and rally for our own agenda. This is very dangerous, especially in the church context. That is why we need to prepare ourselves ahead of time. Being at an influential age doesn’t guarantee you’ll be a useful leader. You need wisdom, maturity, discernment, experience to be ready. Here’s what we can do:

    1. Walk with God Now – Without a steady flow of Living Water, we won’t be much good for anything.
    2. Be Faithful in your Roles – Child of God, Wife, Mom, Employee, Home Manager, Steward, Church Member. List them out and make sure your bases are covered. Then, when extra time and energy comes along, start reaching out.
    3. Seek Mentoring – Help the older generation obey Titus 2:4. If they aren’t initiating to you, you ask them!! You’ve got nothing to lose. I initiated to 5 older women in the past several years. Two ended up being extremely helpful mentors.
    4. Accept some Responsibilities –When time allows, take on a task, project, or position to serve. On the job training is the best way to learn. It would be ideal to have a mentor walk you through it, giving feedback and encouragement along the way.

    It’s not ok to slide on through life and not give back. That is lazy and safe and not Biblical. We can’t drop the ball for the next generation. And don’t think you can’t be influential because you’re shy or not a skilled communicator. God goes “out of His way” in Scripture to show that influence isn’t tied to personality or status. Think about Abraham’s personality vs. David’s, or Peter’s vs. Thomas'.  Moses had a speech impediment. Think of Esther’s status vs. Mary Magdalene’s or Ruth’s vs. Lydia’s. Surely you know by now that the laws of spiritual leadership are upside down from the world’s. Believe it, my friend, so you can move forward and THRIVE!

    postheadericon What Values are you Reproducing?

    Reason #2 for writing to 30somethings’s about thriving - Family Foundations Are Being Laid. Let’s expand:

    I’m 31 and in my 10th year of marriage but my kids are 2 and 4. The way my husband Brad and I run our family will forever make an impression on them. We had 6 years together before the kids came along. It was valuable time to get the kinks out because now everything counts. Every conversation, decision, interaction makes an imprint on their being.

    The following are questions Brad and I are wrestling with:

    What are our values, our convictions? What are our family’s non-negotiables? Do our kids ever see us spend time alone with
    God or talking about scripture in everyday conversation? Are they secure about mommy and daddy’s love for each other? Do our kids know they’re more important to us than our careers and our stuff? Can they tell that we are after their hearts, not just their behavior? What precedent have we set in conflict resolution? Is Sunday just a day to wear our new dress clothes and eat out or a special day for worship and family? Are holidays about the kids or about Christ? Are athletics a chance to get the kids out of the house or an opportunity for character development and ministry? Will our kids leave home with any heart or skills to interact with those of different status or race? Or have they only seen how to climb the social and success ladder? Are they seeing us casually wave to our neighbors or engage in their lives? Do they see us pack our days full or leave margin between appointments? Will we hand down healthy eating, sleeping, and exercise habits or a pattern of indulgence or neglect? Are our financial decisions ones we’d be proud of our kids reproducing?

    Decisions flow out of values, and values out of beliefs. If you believe in the Bible as God’s Word, then you’d agree we should value eternal things above all else. Namely our Triune God and the only 2 things on earth that last forever…the Word of God and the souls of men. These values should color all our decisions. For instance, because a person’s soul is of more value than our comfort, it is worth getting uncomfortable to reach out to a neighbor or coworker. Another example…since the words of God in the Word of God are of more value than our culture’s beliefs, it is worth transferring some of our media time to studying God’s Word. You can use this template to state your values and turn them into written convictions. Our values always dictate our choices.

    Here’s a Challenge:

    If you’re married (with or without children, it doesn’t matter) – Join Brad and I in discussing with your spouse some of the above questions. Maybe even put on paper your values and convictions. I know you won’t follow them perfectly, but you definitely won’t follow them if you never think them through.
    If you’re single – Grab a close girlfriend and take an afternoon to get alone with God and think through these questions. Many will apply to you even though you don’t have a spouse or kids yet. It will be great prep for now and later. Then share with your friend what you decided. Let her check in on you over time to help you stay on track.

    Here’s an inspiring story about my older brother. Two of his major objectives in life are obtaining a heart level connection with his kids and being salt and light in his community. So when he was asked to coach his son’s baseball team, he didn’t cower to the extra effort and inconvenience it might be even though he had little baseball and no coaching experience. Instead, he took it on and became a hero to his son and a living example of Christ to the other players and parents. This is how pre-thinking our values tees us up to take those divine opportunities God places in our way.

    postheadericon What do you Splatter?

    Reason #1 for writing to 30 something’s about thriving - The Stakes Are Higher. Let’s expand:

    Imagine yourself in college…If you were to throw all your convictions to the wind and live a weekend selfishly and without constraint, you would probably wake up Monday felling guilty and regretful. You may have a few apologies to make and forgiveness to ask but within a week all would be close to normal. Take that same weekend and imagine it now. The consequences are exponentially greater. Your husband would be livid and deeply concerned about your behavior. Your children would respond with confusion and insecurity. Anyone you had been a Christian witness to would lose all respect for you. And who knows what effect it might have on your career and standing in the community. The more responsibility you have, the harder the fall.

    My above example is extreme. But what about less obvious temptations that wiggle their way into our hearts and thinking? We must recognize them to be just as dangerous as the wild weekend. We can’t flirt with immorality or dishonesty like we’re 20 anymore. If you do, you need to take a hard look at yourself in the mirror and declare your real age and all that is riding on your shoulders. My neighbor told me the other day that sometimes her husband doesn’t like to do work around the house on his days off. Her response was, “Honey, we’re grown-ups now! That’s what we do on our days off.” Just hearing her say that empowered me to view myself like a grown up and face the hard reality of having a lot depend on me.

    This is a spiritual issue too, of course. In Biblical terms, “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” To think you can act foolishly, and it not come back to bite you, is like mocking God. In His economy, you reap what you sow, more than you sow, and later than you sow. That goes for sowing foolishness but also sowing righteousness. It works for you both ways. Sin splatters but so does right living. You will influence those around you and now you have a lot more people around you than before. The stakes are higher. What are you splattering?

    Practical Questions:
    1. Are you fair at work?
    2. Are you honest with your husband/roommate?
    3. Are you emotionally available for your children?
    4. Do you do what you say you’ll do?
    5. Married women: Are you reconnecting with old flames on Facebook?
    6. Are you respecting the boundaries of your marriage physically and emotionally?
    7. Do you spend money in secret?

      If your conscience is not clear, make it right. Before God and whomever else you’ve failed. Make it right so you can thrive! It’s not too late!

      postheadericon Why 30Something's?

      8 Reasons why I’m writing to 30something’s (other than the fact that I am one):

      1. The Stakes are Higher – you now have as much as a career, spouse, and minivan full of kiddies depending on you. 10ish years ago you were in college and nothing was yet permanent.
      2. Family Foundations are Laid – you feel more ownership of your life than you ever have. You are both recalling and rewriting traditions from your upbringing to shape your new family’s foundation on which you intend to build in years to come.
      3. Future Leaders of Churches and Society – you’re only a few years away from being the most influential women in your churches and communities.
      4. Pace of Life- We cram so much in, we leave little or no margin, yet we always feel behind or guilty. You’ll burn out before you reach 40 if you don’t change this one area!!! More to come on this for sure. It’s a huge problem for our generation!!! Especially for women.
      5. Disillusionment, Discouragement, Disappointment – the 3D’s of Midlife Crisis are coming your way if they haven’t already hit. They don’t exactly wait till you’re 40.
      6. 5-7 year marriage hump- many say years 5-7 of marriage are the toughest and those typically fall in your 30’s. It was definitely true for us, except we married young so we were in our late 20’s. And you know…family breakdown is the beginning of societal decline.
      7. Lazier of mind- We are lazy thinkers compared to generations before us. Couple that with all the opportunities and decisions society offers now and you end up with over-scheduled, guilt ridden, exhausted people who can’t articulate the problem or the solution.
      8. Less Time to Recover – if you "blew" it in your 20’s, it’s not so hard to start over now. But if you "blow" it now, your 40’s could look grim. (Since we serve a Redeeming God, a follower of Christ can't really blow it. No one’s life is irreparable. But we do reap what we sow.)

      Points 1-3 are the opportunity. Points 4-7 are the barriers. Point 8 says NOW IS THE TIME! I want to walk with you through this stage of life as we learn to live thoughtfully, step intentionally, and THRIVE!

      More to come on all the above topics.

      Be sure to become a follower of 30Thrive so you can comment along the way. Thanks! -Codie

      postheadericon Thrivers Wanted

      This blog is for Christian women in or around their 30’s who want to thrive in their roles. To thrive means to grow vigorously. I know that sounds exhausting but so does barely surviving. It seems to me that most 30somethings are in one of those categories (except those who don’t aspire for much). If you only react to your ever growing number of responsibilities and increased pace of life, your head will barely bob above water, but if you can stay just one step ahead of yourself and think through life before it pummels, you have a chance at thriving. And that is my purpose in writing. I want to help you live a well thought through life. This is my passion and my invitation…I’m looking for some Ladies to thrive with me!

      Thriver is its noun form. I think it takes 3 components to become one:

      1. Devotion to Christ – you can’t be your own lord anymore. From initial conversion to daily growth, our hearts must be surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. If you get this wrong, you can still “thrive” temporally, but definitely not eternally. And the temporal thriving will be an illusion anyway.
      2. Aim – a focus, a direction. Lots of women genuinely love Christ, but they have no understanding of the big picture of scripture or of their life and so they float ignorantly instead of stepping intentionally.
      3. Resilience – the ability to bounce back. The consequences of sin and the presence of evil are all around us because redemption is not yet complete. So if we can’t bounce back when trials hit, our potential for growth is quite limited.

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