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Fruitful Failures

To be honest, this winter season has left me feeling quite disappointed and down. As I took an honest inventory of my life in this new year, I began to feel like such a failure at so many things in my life. I even cried as I wrote a list in my journal of all the things I had failed at lately. 

The most impactful feeling of failure I have had is my career choice, and feeling like my years and time have been wasted doing what God never designed for me to do. Perhaps you can relate?

I also reflected on how I had been unsuccessful at an online business attempt a few years ago. Have you ever tried an endeavor only to find you wasted more time and money?

Even this ministry that began a little over a year ago has appeared to produce little to no fruit, yet countless hours and resources have been sown into it. Have you ever ministered to no effect?

Even the book that the Holy Spirit prompted me to write has not lived up to my hopes and expectations. Ever spent months trying to produce something life-giving only to watch it slowly fade away?

I was honest with God and expressed how I felt. Sure enough, about a week later, my loving Father reassured me through His Word that I was certainly NOT a failure. As Paul addressed the Corinthian church he affirmed to them they were doing well in so many things.

He reminded them that they EXCELLED in their faith, their speaking, their revelation knowledge, their diligence, and in their love. Paul then urged them to also learn to excel in generosity (2 Corinthians 8:7).

As I pondered this verse, I heard a still, small voice reminding me that I have been excelling, not failing, in those exact same things: in trusting God, speaking His Word, gaining insight, remaining diligent, sharing love and being generous. 

As I looked at my “failure” list again and compared it to my “excelling” list, I heard the Holy Spirit ask, “Which areas are more important to succeed in?” Wow! What the world sees as success is so different from spiritual success!

As I rested in the loving words of Abba to my soul, a few days later He highlighted the verse, “Love never fails” (I Corinthians 13:8). I was reminded of the fact that if we walk in love, we can never really fail. As I glanced back at my earlier “failure” list, I realized that as long as I had done those things in love, then I did not fail, no matter the natural results. As long as I had been teaching in love, started a business in love, ministered to others in love, and written in love, then it was all a success in the Lord’s eyes, regardless of how it may appear in the here and now. 

I hope this encourages you to flourish through your “failures” and you find true spiritual success amid your natural struggles. May you see your obstacles as opportunities and view any earthly disappointment as a heavenly reappointment, in Jesus’ name, amen. 

Adiding & Thriving Even in Winter

Did you know that God not only wants you to survive this winter – but to thrive and abide this season? 

Scripture tells us that as believers, we can produce fruit in every season, including the dismal months of January and February. Psalm 1:3 reminds us, 

“They are like trees planted along the riverbak, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”

Again, in Jeremiah 17:8 we are told,

“They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”

Whether it’s the darkness of winter or the drought of summer, the key to thriving is staying rooted near the source of water and life. Our source of life is the Holy Spirit. As you allow Him to nourish and sustain you this season, here are some simple ways you can abide and thrive: 

  1. Give yourself permission to hibernate and recharge for a few weeks. Use those extra dark mornings to spend more quiet time with God. Snuggle in bed a bit longer, warm your toes by a fire, and read a few books that will help you grow spiritually. I love when I can stay at home and have extended times of fellowship with the Lord. 
  1. Plan a future trip or a short getaway! Having something to look forward to can give you hope for the warmer days ahead. Not only will it give you something to plan while stuck inside, but you’ll find better deals and more availability by reserving early. We just booked a fall-weekend away! 
  1. Try bringing some of the outside indoors. I bring all of my plants that are normally on my back porch inside for the winter. I love seeing touches of green in every room. I also have logs by my fireplace, and use twig bunches as decor. Be creative and find pieces of nature to fill your space. 
  1. Try keeping a few twinkly lights out even after the holidays have ended. Once I put the Christmas decor away, I enjoy putting up my winter decorations. This way, instead of things appearing empty or dreary, I see flickering candles, pretty lanterns and illuminated bottles. 

I pray that you will use your extra indoor time to abide with the Lord. May the Holy Spirit help you see the wonder and beauty of this season, and give you the desires of your heart as you thrive in Him.

Stay cozy.

Planning for MORE in 2024

As I was praying about 2024, I felt the Lord wanted me (and all of us) to continue to focus on three key activities: ABIDE, GROW and SERVE. 

As we enter into the excitement of a new year, we should ask ourselves the following questions:

1. How will I continue to ABIDE with God in the secret place in 2024?

The secret place is our place of refuge, protection, provision and relationship with the Lord (see Psalm 91). Cultivating a lifestyle of dwelling with His Presence and His Word is vital for the coming year. We can live from our spiritual high place of authority, peace and rest. This resurrected perspective helps us focus on God’s promises and goodness instead of any lack, want or need.

Think of ways that you can prioritize abiding in Christ this year. Perhaps it’s more prayer, scripture, journaling, or worship. Think of creative ways you can cultivate the secret place-dwelling in your everyday life. 

2. How will I continue to GROW spiritually in 2024?

As a result of abiding in the secret place (see above) we can expect to receive wisdom, revelation, and protection from our faithful Father. God has promised to finish and perfect the good work He has started in us (Philippians 1:6). Expect to grow in grace, favor, power, resources and abilities this year! Continue to persevere in renewing your mind with the truth of God’s Word and to stretch your faith. 

Be intentional regarding your spiritual growth. Maybe attending certain conferences, small groups, or bible studies will help. Perhaps you enjoy reading spiritual growth books or listening to inspirational podcasts. Do whatever you need to do to develop deeper roots in your spirit this year.

3. How will I continue to SERVE others in 2024?

Another result of abiding in Christ is that we bear much fruit (John 15:5). This fruit isn’t a product of our individual striving – it’s a product of God’s Spirit, grace, strength, and power. The Bible tells us not to grow weary or give up in doing good, but His strength will energize us to serve others in amazing ways. 

As we receive from God, we are to give to others in return. Look for opportunities this year to bless others, pray for them, and bring them into their own divine encounters! Share revelation, prophetic words, and healing with those around you. Sign up for ministry opportunities in church and in your community. Give of your time, treasure and talents as you feel led by the Holy Spirit. 

I pray that you prioritize ABIDING. GROWING and SERVING, and that 2024 will be your year of MORE! 

6 Financial Blessings in 6 Months!

Ever wonder why your giving isn’t reaping to its fullest?

I’ll never forget the first time my husband, Scott, told me that he was writing a check to the church. I was a new Christian at the time, so I was surprised and asked him, “What for?” Scott proceeded to explain to me the biblical principle known as “tithing”, and as believers, we give 10% of our income back to God. Needless to say, I was quite upset but admittedly a little intrigued. 

Due to Scott’s faithfulness 23 years ago, we have continued to give back to God every single month. We have been blessed. We have had more than enough money to pay our bills, pay off debt, and live comfortably. In reality, we have been living under the blessing (and certainly not the curse) as described in the book of Deuteronomy. Nevertheless, we’ve never really received any miraculous provision or financial breakthrough we’ve heard of others having.

We started attending a new church a few months ago. It was a decision we did not take lightly, and made only in agreement with each other and at the leading of the Holy Spirit. One of the key factors in choosing a new church was to find one that had financial accountability and was making an impact in the local community. We wanted to be sure our giving would count in the Kingdom of God. 

So we decided to partner with our new church and “go all in”. All I can say is, WOW!  For the past six months, since we have been sowing financially into our new church home, we have received six significant financial blessings! What confirmation this has been that we have chosen the right church for this season of our lives. 

Without getting into too many details, over the past six months, we have received not one but two pay increases, one crazy unexpected bonus, two lucrative investment strategies, and a costly financial planning document provided at no charge to us. It’s as though the doors of heaven have been pouring out a harvest of increase!

Coincidentally, we attended our new church for the first time on Pentecost Sunday. In the New Testament, that was the day the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church; but before that it was a holiday where the Israelites celebrated an abundant harvest!

As I’ve pondered these amazing blessings, I’ve come to the conclusion that: 

1. Faithfulness Brings Increase.  

God rewards us as we are faithful to His biblical principles. If we had never decided to give back to God a small portion of all that He has given us, we would never be in the financial position we are in now. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a person sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7 NASB). We can decide to be givers or takers. We can faithfully lead by giving of our time, talents and resources to our community and church.

2. Step Out to Find Out.

If things are not working out in your current circumstances, take a small step of faith to see what may happen. You will quickly find out if God’s grace and favor are in that situation or not. If not, then pause, pray, and wait for the Holy Spirit’s leading. If so, then take a step farther toward the places God may be leading you. Change is scary, but without risk, we cannot stretch our faith.

3. Seed is for Planting, not Consumption. 

Why did our financial blessings become so much more pronounced once we began giving to another church? John Wimber, a founding leader of the Vineyard Movement said, “The Church is not the building, it’s the people. It’s not just the gathering, it’s also the scattering.” Churches that scatter (or invest) the seed (money) they receive through generous giving, praying, ministering, sending, and planting will reap a great harvest. The seed received is to be sown rather than hidden or hoarded. Remember the parable of the talents in Matthew 25? Only the two men that invested their money were rewarded.  

I pray this stirs your heart toward generosity, especially in this season of giving. May your faithfulness to God’s Word bring an increase to your life. As you step into the new things He wants to do in your life, be sure to partner with others who have generous hearts.

UPDATE: 2 more financial blessings since first writing this post! God is so good.

The Whole Word

 I was awakened and troubled by a dream I had the other night. In the dream, the “Abbreviated” Bible version had been released and was being sold. This Abbreviated Bible was a shortened version of Scripture, where almost half of the original phrasing had been eliminated. It was marketed as being the latest and greatest version, as the reader could ingest bite-size pieces of the Bible in mini-doses quite quickly. This version would appease the minimized attention span and the need for instant gratification of today’s society.

The frightening part was that I was really considered buying this Bible version, as the salesman so convincingly continued to praise its benefits. Suddenly, my husband, Scott, began to read a passage from the book aloud.  He realized that about 50% of the original wording was gone. He sternly suggested that I not buy the book. Then I awoke from the dream. 

As I processed this dream with the Lord, the Holy Spirit brought up 3 points that I wanted to share with you: 

1. Be alert for the enemy’s schemes to alter, remove, or distort what God says in His Word, no matter how charming or convincing of a salesman the devil may be. Determine to guard the entirety of God’s promises in your heart and mind.

2. Stay focused, determined, steadfast and grounded in God’s promises. Don’t try to take shortcuts to success. There is no abbreviated form of mind renewal or victory in God’s Kingdom. Through faith and patience we inherit the promises of God (Hebrews 6:12). This is a commitment of lifelong learning, growing and progress. 

3. Don’t be afraid to stand up for truth in today’s society, as Scott did in the dream. Remember that God’s truth trumps any so-called facts, and we are to be led by Holy Spirit not by fads and feelings. Truth is eternal, while facts are temporary!

Be blessed as you continue to chew, feast and meditate on the whole of God’s powerful word!

Perception Over Proof

In all honesty, I’ve been believing God for a lot lately. I’ve even given Him a deadline. How dare I do that, you ask? Well, I’m daring to believe that God has a good plan for my life, and that He’s willing and able to help. After all, who am I to deny what the Lord can do?

I like to call a problem that only God can solve a “God-sized” problem. Perhaps you have one or two God-sized problems of your own. Let’s face it – waiting is hard, and waiting well is even harder. But the Bible says that we can to be full of joy and peace as we believe, and that the Holy Spirit gives us power to remain hope-filled (Romans 15:13). Yet I had still been struggling with doubt and unbelief regarding the some of the God-sized problems I had. I knew I had some spiritual work to do.

So I sat down and had a heart-to-heart with God. I cried. I complained. I felt sorry for myself. I told the Lord that I didn’t understand why all this was still happening and why after so many years of believing nothing was changing. The Lord then, ever so gently, explained to me that things actually had been changing but I just hadn’t perceived them yet. Then I heard,

“Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19

Could it be possible that while we are waiting on God to do something, we are actually missing what He is really doing? Perhaps we miss the things God is doing because they are not what we were expecting or hoping for. Maybe we’ve been too busy or distracted to catch what the Lord is trying to do for us or even in us. Perhaps what God is doing begins so small we deem it insignificant or silly. What if I pray for a tree and God gives me an acorn? Does that mean God didn’t answer me or that He isn’t working?

What if our perception of what God is doing is more significant than having proof of God working? Paul references the passage (above) in Isaiah as he explains that some will look and look with their eyes but will not see. He goes on to say that they shut tight their eyes so they will not perceive what God wants to do (Acts 28:26-27). I don’t know about you, but I have decided that I want to embrace and participate in whatever new thing God wants to do in my life, whatever that may look like.

While we’re still waiting on God, let’s be hopeful, expectant and assured that the Lord will perfect everything that concerns us (Psalm 138:8). And until He does, let’s speak, believe, see and partner with the things God is doing, no matter how small, insignificant or different they may seem. Amen.

May I Borrow Your Boat?

In Luke 5, we read the story of the miraculous catch of fish, and the calling of Peter from being a catcher of fish to a catcher of men. As I was studying this passage last week, I heard the Lord ask me, “May I borrow your boat?”

You see, when Jesus asked Peter to use his boat, He was actually asking for the use of his most valuable resource – his livelihood. This boat was essential to his survival and success. Yet Peter freely gave Jesus his boat in obedience, surrender and faith. As a result, the Lord then multiplied and blessed Peter by bringing in an enormous load of fish, which until then, Peter had been unsuccessful at catching that day. Furthermore, Jesus called Peter into his identity and destiny!

So what is the boat that Jesus may be asking to borrow from you? For me, I believe the Lord wants to use my words and language skills. I have earned a living for the past 30 years by speaking and teaching Spanish. However, God has been leading me from teaching the language of Spanish to teaching the language of the Spirit.

What is your greatest resource that the Lord may be asking to borrow from you? Notice that He doesn’t take, He gently borrows, uses and then fully restores what we offer to Him in surrender, obedience and faith.

When you do allow Jesus to borrow your boat, I offer this advice:

1. Don’t be afraid of hearing new instructions from the Lord. Even if you’ve been an expert at “fishing” all day, God may surprise you by asking you to launch out into the “deep” or to “fish” at odd times of day or in different ways. God can bring about long-term gain from short-term loss. He is the God of the impossible.

2. Prepare for a miraculous provision of sales, profits, raises, and promotions. As you offer to God what is vital and valuable, even if you have spent years working to no avail or satisfaction, God will use what you give Him. It’s not by our abilities but by His Spirit, working in us, that will cause miracles to happen.

3. Be willing to partner with others. This does not mean you are not able, but that the “catch” will be so large it will affect those around you! Peter had to ask the other fishermen to help him, since the catch was so large. When I set about to publish my book, I had to work with an editor, a cover designer, and a printer. God is excited to work through so many of us to accomplish His will.

4. Beware of “Imposter Syndrome”. When you embark on something special and significant for the Lord (as Peter did) you may feel unqualified, unworthy or insignificant. Am I really an author, evangelist, or prophet, etc? This is where God’s grace takes over! Scripture assures us that His grace works best in our weaknesses. He does His best work through yielded, available and broken vessels. This is the way we bring HIM the glory – not ourselves.

Won’t you let Jesus borrow your “boat” in this season?

Fruit of the Vine

When I was kindly given two tomato plants last spring by a co-worker, I decided to have a go and try to grow tomatoes. Now, I’m a city girl. I don’t like dirt, sweat, animals, or being in the middle of nowhere. As such, I live in a condo with my husband. Since we don’t have a lot of free garden space, I decided to plant the tomatoes in a large pot on the back patio. An expert gardener at church told me about “grow bags”, so I ordered a pack online.

When they arrived, I didn’t have a lot of extra soil, so I plonked both plants into one grow bag. I knew they would get tall, so I also bought a tomato cage and even some fertilizer. I was now a real gardener. 

As the months and hot days of summer rolled on by, I was faithful to water, fertilize and stake the plants. I was excited to see small flowers develop. I was even more excited when I realized the flowers formed the fruits themselves!  

I was worried about two things: enough room in the bag for the roots as the plant had gotten taller than me; and enough water during our upcoming week away.  

Our trip to Lake Michigan came and went. As we returned home, my first instinct was to check on my plant. It looked pathetic. It was so wilted it had diminished at least a foot in height. I spent the next week trying to revive it. After about 3 days, the plant started looking like its old perky self! 

A few weeks later, I saw little green tomatoes emerging! I was so excited. Soon, some of the tomatoes turned yellow, then orange, and then red. As the branches grew heavy with fruit, I added more support and cut back branches that had no flowers or fruit to make more room.  

It was finally time to pick my first fruit from the vine! It came off quite easily. I inspected it with great admiration, only to see the skin underneath it was black, deformed, and rotten. In despair, I threw the tomato into the nearby woods.  

Luckily, the next batch of fruit was red, ripe, sweet, and lovely, just very small, and these were not the cherry tomato type. The subsequent tomatoes were healthy and delicious, albeit still quite small. 

I have pondered this tomato growing experience and it has taught me several spiritual lessons that I’d like to share:

1. The size of the pot determines the size of the fruit. We will only produce what we have the capacity to believe. If our faith and our thinking remain small, our lives will produce only the small things we believe we can do. God had promised us wide, open spaces of abundance! Let’s not limit the roots of our faith to fit into bags or pots.  

2. A few days of drought can do damage, but deep watering restores. This is why we need daily watering and nourishment from the Word and the Holy Spirit. Extended time away from those sources will be visible in our lives. But once we return to the true Living Water, we are refreshed and revived once again.  

3. Even if a plant produces rotten fruit at first, it can later produce a sweet harvest. We may have gotten a rough start in our life, family, ministry, or career, but that doesn’t mean we are useless and fruitless. As we mature in Christ and transform our thinking with the Word, God will work things out for good in our lives.  

4. We have Divine Gardener who is faithful to lovingly nourish, support and even prune us as needed. God is happy to be our Source of life. When we are dry, He refreshes. When we are weak, He makes us strong. When we are weary, He revives. All we need to do is welcome and receive His care. We are invited to be careless in the care of God.  

The Lord Will Fight

I’m so excited about my book being released in the coming weeks! I believe it will be life-changing for many people. Consequently I’ve noticed an increase in the amount of spiritual attacks lately. I’m sure I’m not the only believer who has experienced a rise in demonic activity just before some advances in God’s Kingdom.

In the face of these attacks, I was faced with two choices: faith or fear. To be honest, my initial reaction was fear. But I quickly allowed my spirit to take authority over my mind, and I began to think and speak in line with God’s Word.

I had weapons with which to fight! But they were not physical weapons. I came against the enemy’s advances with the name and the blood of Jesus, and with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

The young shepherd boy, David, knew this truth. He yelled to the giant Goliath, “You come against me with a sword and a spear, but I come against you in the name of the Lord God Almighty!”

Scripture is full of examples of God fighting for His people. I’d like to share a few of the declarations that I have been saying recently. They have helped me claim the victory in the recent battles before me:

The Lord commands justice and vindication for me! (Ps. 7:6)

Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me! (Ps. 35:1)

You deliver me from those who try to rob and steal from me! (Ps. 35:10)

God has redeemed my life in peace from every battle that is against me. (Ps 55:18)

The Lord is my helper I will not be afraid. What can men do to me? (Ps. 118:6)

Rescue me from all those who persecute me, for I am no match for them! (Ps. 142:6)

I’m not sure which battles lie in front of you today, but I do know that our God promises to prepare a table before us in the very presence (not absence) of our enemies. Focus on the table of blessing, provision, fellowship and victory that is right in front of you.

Voice & Vision

“And the Lord said, Behold, they are one people and they have all one LANGUAGE; and this is only the beginning of what they will do, and now nothing they have IMAGINED they can do will be impossible for them.” (Genesis‬ ‭11‬:‭6‬ ‭AMPC‬‬)

The Bible mentions two instances where the people of God joined together in agreement according to one vision and in unity of voice. When these two principles were combined, the impossible became possible.

First in the Old Testament, Noah’s offspring tried to build a tower to fulfill their ungodly desires. Because they were of one purpose, in one place, and one language, nothing could stop them but God Himself. And He did. God confused their language and displaced the people. (see Genesis 11). No communication and no contact = Defeat.

Later in the New Testament, Jesus’ disciples gathered in one place (the Upper Room) and for one purpose (to wait). In this moment, God unified their language and purpose with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). ONE Voice + ONE Vision = VICTORY!

Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37), or for Jesus’ followers, as we learn to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit and seek a common kingdom vision.

Which impossible situations and circumstances in your life might change if you began to speak in agreement with others and envisioned the expected outcome together? Be encouraged and challenged today!

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