Are Your Thoughts Working Against You?

Are Your Thoughts Working Against YouAm I the only one who immediately thinks that someone has died when the phone rings late at night?  Instantly my heart starts beating fast and my thoughts run to places they probably shouldn’t go.

The phone rang recently just before midnight right as I had just drifted off to sleep.  My father was officiating a wedding in a remote area in the foothills. It’s a beautiful location, but to get there meant driving along a pitch black, curvy, narrow road that could make almost anyone car sick.  My mom had fallen asleep only to be startled awake by the deafening silence of the empty house. My dad was over an hour late and he wasn’t answering his phone.

I tried to remain calm for my mom, but instantly I pictured my dad having a heart attack.  In my mind’s eye I could see him: slumped over the wheel of the car and careening off the road into oblivion. My second thought wasn’t any better, as I wondered if his blood sugar had dropped. Again I pictured him: alone in a parking lot with no one to help him as he slowly slipped into a coma. My thoughts were careening into their own oblivion of hopelessness as I wondered what we should do.

What do you do when your thoughts run down the wrong roads—the roads of fear, shame, unforgiveness, gossip, self-pity or pride? We have a couple options:

We can leave our thoughts unchecked and unguarded,

leaving our minds in distracted chaos.

OR

We can captivate and guard our thoughts, focusing our minds on truth.

During that call from my mom I had a choice—continue down the road of fear or take my thoughts captive. I quickly spoke the truth to myself; God alone knows the number of our days. He is our safety. He is our refuge. He is our comfort.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Colossians 3:2 (NIV)

My dad was fine (it was his cell phone that was dead!). The wedding party had decided to take extra precautions when traveling down the winding mountain road and everyone caravanned together.  It just took a little extra time to organize everybody.

Sometimes it takes us a little time to remember what is true and to realize that we have the Holy Spirit’s power living in us and enabling us to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5b (NIV)

When do your thoughts work against you? How do you take your thoughts captive?

If you want a daily reminder of the truth check out my devotional: How to Love Your Crazy Family–52 Quick Reads for No Ordinary Days.

Changing People—It’s Not Our Job

Changing People It's Not Our JobOne day driving along in the car we heard Emily mothering Ben with her usual enthusiasm.  Michael said, “Emily, you’re not his mother. It’s not your job.”  She sighed, loudly.

“Well, if you don’t want me to help make him a better person, fine.”

We did what any normal parents would do:  We laughed.  A lot.  Emily is so honest.  She really thinks she’s helping Ben. That’s part of what’s so funny. The other part is that we’ve all been guilty of this.  I know I have, especially with those I love the most.

Help me help you.

Do it my way.

Can’t you see where you’re so clearly wrong?

If he would change then I would be happy.

If she would stop doing…then we would have a better relationship.

But changing people is not our job. Unfortunately, that’s the way we approach many relationships. We hit a bump in the road and immediately think: If they changed, things would be perfect. Our motives for “inspiring” this change are usually less than pure. Be honest and ask yourself why you want your friend, your child or your spouse to change?

For your own comfort?

So they’ll be more like you?

To avoid conflict?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting growth in our relationships. Our mistake is the desire to BE the instrument of change. The truth is that we can only change one person—ourselves.

Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:9-11says it best…

“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” (NLT)

Let’s allow God to transform our hearts so that we will overflow with the love that only He can give, then will we have a profoundly beautiful love to offer to those around us. I’m convinced that we will be less interested in changing people when we love them the way Jesus does.

Have you ever tried to change a friend or family member? What happened? 

Made Over—Indonesia Part 4

Made Over--Indonesia Part 4What do you think when you hear the words “made over?”  A renovation? A redo? A change? A fresh start? I can’t help but think of all the TV shows from the 80’s and 90’s that were obsessed with the before and after beauty makeover.  The before picture presents a tired woman with no smile, no make-up, flat hair, a baggy sweatshirt and faded jeans. After the makeover the woman has a big smile, a high fashion hair-cut and color, perfectly applied make-up, fresh off the runway clothes and an attitude to match.  These makeovers were all about the drama.

When Pastor Korie Taylor told me the theme of the women’s conference in Indonesia—Made Over—I knew it would inspire women from all faiths to attend. Who doesn’t love a good makeover? The real goal, however, was to treat women as the precious daughters of God that they are, and to make sure they knew that the makeover could be from the inside out.

ICA provided beautiful gift bags, a glam bar (complete with make-up and fake eye Made Over 2lashes), makeovers, speakers on home design, make-up, hair, personal style as well as sessions by Angela Craig, Korie Taylor and me on hope, perseverance, identity, leadership, redemption, and a life made over by God.

I saw women of all faiths come and hear the message of Christ’s ability to redeem our lives and make us new. Throughout the weekend I witnessed the power of God heal hearts and change lives. As I prayed with each woman I was reminded that whether I am in Indonesia or America the deep needs of our hearts are the same:

To be loved (Romans 5:8)

To be seen (Psalm 139:13-18)

To be heard (Psalm 116:1)

To be forgiven (Colossians 1:13-14)

To be free (Romans 8:1-2)

The good news is that through Christ we have each one of those needs met. He loves. He sees. He hears. He forgives. He gives freedom. And He gives these gifts lavishly as a Father to His children.

Our lives are Made Over by a personal God who knows each one of us by name.

Do you need a “life makeover” today? How can I pray for you?

Made Over 3Special Note: If you missed my last three posts about my trip to Indonesia you can click on the links here:To Trust or Not to Trust—Indonesia Part 1 

A Lifestyle of Generosity—Indonesia Part 2

My Crazy Family—Indonesia Part 3

 

 

My Crazy Family—Indonesia Part 3

How to Love Your Crazy FamilyIf you’ve known me for more than ten minutes then you know that I don’t pretend to have it all together. I have a crazy family, and it’s not always sunshine and lollipops—that would be boring! Life hasn’t been simple for Michael and me through our 19 years of marriage.  We definitely have a few challenges:

A take-charge personality (I’ll leave you to guess which one of us has that little gem), bipolar depression, ADD, someone who’s pretty opinionated, and two children who know their minds and aren’t afraid to speak them.  I wonder who they get that from?

But honestly, those crazy moments pale in comparison to the good ones because we have a few really amazing things going for us:

Commitment

The ability to laugh at ourselves

Supporting one another’s dreams

Unconditional love

We didn’t start day one of our marriage with all of that figured out.  However, learning from God, from trusted professionals and from each other has been a tremendous gift that just keeps reaping benefits.

My crazy family is one of the biggest reasons I can go on trips, like my trip to Indonesia.  Most people ask, “What will you do with your children when you’re gone?” The ornery side of me wants to say, “Well, they have a father, so…”

But honestly, it’s Michael’s incredible unconditional support of my ministry and my dreams that enables me to say yes without reservation.  He’s willing to take time off work to make sure everything runs smoothly at home.  While I was in Indonesia I received all kinds of funny emails keeping me updated on the homefront. When Michael heard that people were fasting and praying for the trip he sent me this message:

“I decided to fast shaving and showering while you are gone. I was fasting deodorant but the dog refused to sit with me, so I gave that up. The kids say they miss you and love you. I miss and love you too.”

Needless to say I can never take myself seriously with Michael.  He keeps me laughing and I love it.

Building a marriage and raising a family is challenging. Our spouses and kids see us when we are at our best but they also see us at our worst—sick, tired, hurting and angry.  We all face different struggles in our relationships but if we can learn to:  commit, laugh, support and unconditionally love, we will discover that crazy families can be indeed be crazy successful.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:7 (ESV)

Which one of the areas above do you want to commit to work on in your family relationships?

Special Note: Are you’re tired of trying to love on your own, stop and allow the devotions from How to Love Your Crazy Family to fill your heart with the truth that Jesus redeems our lives, even through the crazy, painful times and has the power to transform us from the inside out. Buy today on amazon for just 4.99!

 

 

A Lifestyle of Generosity—Indonesia Part 2

A Lifestyle of GenerosityDuring my time in Indonesia I was surrounded by profound generosity. Indonesians live a lifestyle of generosity that is difficult to explain if you haven’t experienced it first-hand. A friend even privately messaged me before I left: “Hide it away in your little heart.  It is more than what you will find here.”

Yet, I still found it hard to imagine. I know many generous people. My parents being some of the most generous! I grew up watching them give to missionaries, prisoners, even hitchhikers.  (YES! My dad was known for picking up hitchhikers and offering jobs or a hot meal.) I saw my mom welcome family, church members and even strangers into our home with regularity. What could compare to that?

I soon found out that it wasn’t about comparison.  What I witnessed was a lifestyle of generosity that permeates the Indonesian culture. We were surrounded by it from time we landed in Jakarta until we went home.

A Lifestyle of Generosity

Ronald…who escorted Angela Craig and me through customs in Jakarta’s airport (something that can only be done in Indonesia, he said!) and took us to and from the airport. He made sure we were safe and well taken care of at a sacrifice of his time and convenience.

Korie and JohnPastors John and Korie Taylor and the ICA Staff…we thought we were coming to serve ICA by speaking for the conference, but at every turn we were showered with love and care.  Angela and I were astonished to find each staff member—male and female—working hard to make this conference a success.  Whenever we complimented one person we would hear them say, “No, you should see what Mai is doing…what Nardo is doing…what Tracy is doing.” Their liberal generosity extended to each member of the staff and church.

John's OfficeSjany, Wijaya and family… who hosted us during the entire trip.  And when I say host, just imagine the most wonderful, generous, thoughtful people you have ever met and multiply that times 10 and then you will get some small picture.  They made sure we survived the jetlag—with plenty of coffee! They never let us carry a bag, go hungry or wonder what we were supposed to do next. Their kindness went beyond expectation as they gave of their lives, their time, their presence and their finances. May God bless them for their thoughtful generosity!

airportElvin and friends…who showered us with precious gifts from her business and brought friends to see us off at the airport.  These women took time out of their day—their work—to honor us generously with their presence, their appreciation, their love and lots of pastries as we waited for our departure.

The Christians at ICA…their desire to share the good news of Jesus with their friends and family, to speak their stories of hope and redemption and to generously give their love freely to those around them inspired me to imitate this lifestyle of generosity.

You and I have the amazing potential of living an average 80 years on years on earth. That is 29,220 days! The question isn’t if we will leave a legacy but what kind of legacy we will leave?  Will we live a lifestyle of generosity that:

Gives from the heart:One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” Proverbs 11:24 (ESV)

Gives to the stranger: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2 (ESV)

Gives with sacrifice: He, who gives what he would as readily throw away, gives without generosity; for the essence of generosity is in self-sacrifice.” Jeremy Taylor

You might not live in Indonesia, or even travel there, but you can live a lifestyle of generosity that points people to Jesus—the ultimate giver of every good gift.

How will you start living a lifestyle of generosity today?  Let’s share our ideas in the comments below!

 

To Trust or Not to Trust—Indonesia Part 1

tracy linda and usThe day before I left for the ICA Women’s Conference in Surabaya, Indonesia I went for a bike ride with my family.  Now, before you picture the perfect family riding along forested trails laughing and smiling, let me say that it was a little more like this:

 

Wait for me! 

Move it or lose it.

Did you see that? She almost ran me off the road!!! 

No I didn’t!

Yes you did!

I’m thinking: Great! I hope this isn’t my last memory of my children.

At one point we were all lined up in a group of four, Michael in the lead, then Ben and Emily and me, bringing up the rear.  Michael and Ben crossed the street, and Emily followed quickly behind them without looking to see if there was any oncoming traffic.  I was so irritated.

“Why didn’t you look for cars Emily?”

“Well, Ben and Daddy crossed, so I crossed,” she retorted.

Without even thinking I said, “Emily, you have to look for yourself!  You can’t trust anybody else!!”

Almost before the statement had left my lips I regretted it.  What am I teaching my daughter? Trust nobody? Where did that come from? Here I am, ready to fly thousands of miles to Indonesia—the flight alone takes a measure of trust, especially with the unpredictable world climate.  Beyond that the trip would require me to trust people I had never met, to trust my own strengths and ultimately to trust God with the unknown.

Are you struggling to trust?  Maybe you’ve been betrayed by a loved one, or disappointed by your circumstances.  These experiences can leave us to wonder how wise it is to depend on others, or to question whether it is good judgment to trust God. I understand these feelings—I’ve felt this way. After a very deep and profound betrayal I wondered if I would ever trust anyone, even myself. But God is faithful and started to heal my broken heart the minute I asked Him to. And throughout my time in Indonesia I experienced another layer of healing that is allowing me to trust Him even more.

Angela H. Made Over ConferenceOn the first night of the Made Over Woman’s Conference I taught a message entitled “Refreshed by Hope.”  Many times hope seems to be an elusive desire.  We all want it, but we rarely grasp the power of it and how it can drastically change our lives. The Bible most commonly uses the word trust in association with its definition of hope.  It comes up most frequently in the books of Job and Psalms. One book describes pain and suffering, the other praise and worship. And hope is the common thread throughout them both.

But how do we begin to hope in a God that we’ve only heard about?  How can we hope in God without knowing Him personally?

Psalm 62:8 says: “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”(NIV)

Looking out into the faces of the beautiful Indonesian people I saw men and women that were reaching out to God as their refuge and their hope. In the sea of faces I would come to know those who were facing heartache, devastation, death, failing marriages, infertility, persecution and hate. It was my joy to see those very people choose to trust God in spite of, and because of, all that they had been through.  I saw people who had never heard the good news of Jesus experience His love up close and personal and reach out to Him in faith.

What would I say to my daughter today as we head out to ride our bikes?  What would I say to you?

You can trust others—even though people aren’t perfect.

You can trust yourself—even though you’ll make mistakes.

You can trust God—He is our ultimate refuge and strength!

terima kasihLook for Indonesia Part 2–September 4th!! 

I can’t wait to share more pictures from the trip and all that I’ve learned.

Flying to Indonesia!

Going to IndonesiaSpecial Note:  I’m flying to Indonesia to speak for the Made Over Women’s Conference!  As you read this I will probably be heading to the airport with friend and fellow speaker Angela Craig. If you haven’t heard the story behind the trip to Indonesia see the video and the text below.  Thank you for all your prayers!

Have you ever felt like God was planning your life behind your back?  That’s exactly how I felt as I sat in a Sunday morning service this past November listening to missionary John Taylor speak.  While watching a video of John and Korie’s work in Surabaya, Indonesia I had the unmistakable sense that I would soon be seeing it first-hand.  How or why I had no idea.

When the service ended Korie approached me and asked me how I was doing and mentioned that she had been reading my blog.  I could hardly believe it!  We talked about our families and out of nowhere I said, “Do you know the story of Michael and I and our discovery that he has bipolar disorder?”  This isn’t my usual conversation starter.  In fact, I rarely bring this up.  But it was almost as if it fell right out of my mouth.

Korie’s eyes watered.  She said that there are women in her church struggling in their marriages and also those who have husbands with bipolar disorder.  “Would you ever consider coming to Indonesia and speaking for a women’s conference?  We’ve never done an event like this before but have been praying about who to ask and would love for you to come.”

It was my turn to cry.  How could I say no?  I knew God had prepared the way.

The following week, while talking with Korie about the details, I asked what she thought about having my dear friend and fellow minister Angela Craig come and speak at the conference. Little did I know that she had spoken with Angela earlier that week and had secretly wanted to ask her to come but was afraid and felt shy.  Korie was beyond excited!

The beautiful story of Angela’s recovery from a traumatic brain injury comes at the perfect time for the church in Surabaya.  Their own Executive Pastor Poedji has  suffered through a terrible car accident and spent a month in a coma (Click here to see more of this story).  While he is facing a daunting journey of reclaiming his former abilities we are thrilled that Angela will be able to encourage both his family and church during this pivotal time.

We all live to the glory of God and know that ultimately His grace and mercy will be evident through this struggle.  We can’t help but think of Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John:

“This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3 NIV)

While in Indonesia, Angela and I will be providing leadership training, speaking for the conference, as well as speaking for the Sunday morning and evening services.  We are so excited to see how the Lord has put all of this together and are confident that He will provide the strength and wisdom we need to serve.  We are investing in the women who will be coming from Surabaya, Jakarta and surrounding areas to seek God and learn more about training up leaders to serve Him.  We hope that you will invest with us—through prayer—as we go.

When Someone Wrongs You

when someone wrongs youWhile driving through a grocery store parking lot recently I encountered a very unhappy woman. I choose to believe she is unhappy because of this incident.  In her shiny new Honda, she began to back out of her parking place after I had come to a stop behind her—waiting for the car in front of me to move.  I honked to warn her that she was going to back into my not so shiny nor new van.  She kept backing up.  I honked again thinking she didn’t hear me.  Apparently she had heard me and let out an extended honk in return.  I guess she didn’t appreciate my help.  She finally stopped backing up and as soon as I could move forward I did.  As I pulled out onto the road Miss Shiny New Honda tailgated me honking for two blocks, and then gave me the universal sign for “I really, really don’t like you!”  Pretty sure you get the picture.

I have to admit that I felt totally irritated.  Really?!  I help YOU not hit ME and this is the thanks I get?

When someone wrongs you it’s pretty natural to feel annoyed and angry.  If you’re anything like me you usually go through a mental checklist of why they are clearly wrong and you are clearly right.  Then you might (not that I’ve done this before) tell someone about it (like the people who read your blog!) and hope that they jump on the bandwagon of “You’ve Been Wronged!”  Pretty sure there’s a country song with that title!

But what if there is another way?  What if we lived with a conscious mindfulness of God’s presence and perspective in our lives?  I don’t know about you, but I can’t achieve that on my own.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s not something that we achieve at all.  I believe we can live with this mindfulness as we draw close to God and allow His Word to become a part of our inner dialogue.  We do this when we exchange the lies we’ve believed for the truth that sets us free.

So, when someone wrongs you…

Bless:“Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse.” Romans 12:14 (GNT)

Ignore it: “When someone wrongs you, it is a great virtue to ignore it.” Proverbs 19:11 (GNT)

Don’t be afraid: “Do not be afraid when people taunt and insult you.” Isaiah 51:7 (GNT)

Forgive: “Be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another.” Ephesians 4:32 (GNT)

Life is full of opportunities to react or respond—let’s make each one count!

How will you begin to live in conscious mindfulness of God’s presence and perspective in your life?

Broken

SBrokenpecial Note: I’m so happy to share today’s guest post with you!  Amy Slater is a dear friend and wonderful writer.  Find out more about her on her bio at the end of the post.

We get broken in different ways.  Sometimes it’s through suffering.  Sometimes it’s the struggle to live an overcoming life in the midst of our ever-present weaknesses.  Sometimes it comes through a series of events or choices that have left us completely shattered.  Broken.

I’m broken.  Without sharing how you got there, I would guess that maybe you are broken too.

I “get” broken people.  I relate to those who struggle against their weaknesses.  I empathize with those who suffer.

I sense that in our world of quick fixes and distorted doctrines that elevate happiness and prosperity, admitting brokenness is very hard.  But brokenness is a reality.  And it is not wrong or bad or a sign of not loving God or having enough faith.

Psalm 34:18 says: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

David faced many points of brokenness.  And in the midst of them, he knew that God was there.  That even with a broken heart, God would receive his prayers.

Psalm 51:16 & 17 says: “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Regardless of how we got here – whether through weakness, suffering or poor choices – a heart, broken and desiring atonement, lifted to God in praise, is a beautiful sacrifice and will not be dismissed.

God loves the broken.  He sent his son, Jesus, for the broken.

Jesus is the story of redemption.  He came to make the broken whole again.  Not whole in the sense that we are perfect and we will never suffer or go through difficult things anymore, but healed, mended and made beautiful so that others would see Jesus through our brokenness.  Jesus came so that we could offer our broken sacrifices to God, and find wholeness through complete surrender.

Sometimes it’s the broken things that are my favorite.  There is beauty in the brokenness.  There is beauty in a broken heart.

This song by The Afters is a perfect musical illustration of offering a broken sacrifice to God…enjoy.

Amy SlaterI grew up in Africa and married an Oregonian. I’m a working mom of three, a pastor’s wife, and I have a standing date with my laundry room three days a week. I love the beach, ocean, collecting shells, writing, creative interior design, being with my family and following Christ. Come visit me at my blog Simplifying…Me.

What Are You Settling For?

What Are You Settling For?We settle for a lot of things in life, and that’s not all bad.  We can settle for french fries that are less than crispy and coffee that’s a little too strong.  We can settle for unmatched socks and a wrinkled shirt.  But what happens when we start settling for the important things—like the relationships we invest in and the values we believe in?

A lot happens and it happens to our souls.  We start to fill that God-shaped hole with food, money, entertainment, and a desperate attempt to connect to things instead of people.  We forget what God says about who we are and maybe we never knew.  The Psalmist, King David writes this…

“For you [God] created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—” Psalm 139:13-18

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

I am.  You are.  So stop settling for less than extraordinary.  The creator of the universe is spending time thinking an infinite number of thoughts about you.  Let’s live like we believe it.  Let’s live like sons and daughters of God who have an amazing purpose to live out on this earth.  A purpose that will impact eternity—whether we live a day, a month, a decade or one more moment.

Stop settling and live this extraordinary life for God.