It’s time to be Kingdom Workers for God. Pick Up Your Gear, and Let’s Go!

So, I’m writing a second book.  I just completed the workbook for The Full Armor of God as a companion to use during Bible studies, and I am waiting for that to be published.  Now, onto the next one.

Today I finally wrote my first few paragraphs of my second book.  I had a name picked out for the title, but that was chosen weeks ago.  I just haven’t found my footing until this morning.  It’s a praise that I wanted to share.

I had difficult pregnancies, and I would figuratively crawl and scrape to the day I would find out the gender of my baby so I could name him or her and feel a connection and a reason to keep fighting through the sickness.  My mom even cut out a picture of a baby from a magazine and used a magnet to stick it to my refrigerator.  I felt like I was in a locker room before the big game and listening to the coach telling me to fight through the pain and win one for the team.  I was having my mom’s first grandchild, so she locked eyes with me and helped carry me to victory.

My title to blank pages is a very similar experience.  I can gratefully say the picture on the refrigerator is taking shape, and I am starting to see what I will be working towards.

I keep looking up at God to see if I am finished with His plan for me, and I keep hearing, “No—just keep on writing.”  Sigh.

I am new in this arena of sharing words and feelings to unknown eyes, and even this blog is an act of faith.  Some writers have complete confidence in their place, space, and time, but I have always been a closet writer showing only my words to God and maybe a friend.  Trudging forward, I am doing this out of obedience and love for my Father.  We are meant to share the covered slate that has been written upon our lives over the years, and that is what I am feeling He wants me to do.  That is what He wants you to do.  Just keep moving forward and sharing what He has taught us.

I pray that you are listening to your Father’s voice.  When we band together and follow the path He has laid out for us, then together we can move mountains for His kingdom.  We may not like it, but only He can see what is coming up over the horizon.  He may need your gift of speaking, writing, listening, encouraging, giving, helping, cooking, building, caring…for a time such as this.  It is what God sewed inside of you since conception, and He may be calling on you this moment to use your gift to be a kingdom worker for Him.  We may never know who we touch, but we always know Who is actually doing the touching.

I will write until He tells me, “You are finished.”  Until then, I will keep sliding outside of my comfort zone and openly share my world—the world where God is our King and deserves the best that we have to offer.  He will multiply and use your efforts far beyond your imagination.  Don’t you just love God’s math?  The least is the biggest and the biggest is the least.  A mustard seed will do, and the smallest act of faith will be rewarded.

God Bless you on your journey.  We are all in this together, right?

 

A Prayer For Those in the Wake of Hurricane Irma

Dear Lord,

Your promise is that you will never leave us nor forsake us. You said we are your beloved whom you were willing to give up your life on the cross so we could live. I hold on to these truths and picture your whole hand hovering over Florida and the surrounding areas. I know this hurricane is just a puff of air against your mighty power and you could stop it with a single word—but it remains.

As humans, we will always wonder why because it is our natural inclination and desire to possess the same understanding that you have. That comes from the very first humans ever created who ate what you asked them not to. Our desire to be all knowing is still plaguing our humanity today.

I turn to you because even at the time of your death, all seemed lost for the apostles who watched and wondered if giving up their lives to follow you was for nothing. They felt fearful and hopeless, but just as your unfair arrest, trial, and death seemed to be the end to all who called you Lord and Master, you were the only one who truly knew its purpose.

I trust in your wisdom and knowledge and give over my worries, doubts, and concerns as my family and so many other families were unable to evacuate before the storm arrived. Because of your promises, I know, Lord, that you are standing by them and will continue to be with them until this fury passes. I feel your arm around their neighbors, surrounding cities, and throughout the affected areas because you will never leave us even when all can seem lost. I know you are comforting the families who are seeing the destruction of the wake for the first time and in disbelief that their house is no longer standing. You are in this storm, through this storm, and over this storm and prepared us ahead of the storm even before the evening news had a hint of the winds to come.

In this I hand over to you the present and future of the people affected by the unknown because you are all knowing—not us. Love, keep, protect, and give your peace that transcends our limited understanding to all who seek your comfort. Thank you for your promises, and thank you for holding us in your hands.

In your precious name I pray,

Amen

A Prayer for the Hurricane Irma, Katia, and Earthquake Victims.

To say that our collective hearts are breaking for all of those affected by the litany of natural disasters would be an understatement. I have family in Florida and can’t even imagine leaving my home behind to take refuge knowing that may be the last time I see my community in tact. The unknown is beyond scary.

Then I awoke to the news that Mexico has been hit with the worst earthquake it has ever seen just as Hurricane Katia was making landfall. Aren’t these the moments we look up to heaven and say, “Really, God? Couldn’t you hold back this devastation? What is the deal?”

Then I remember the God that I serve. Any one of us could be in the path of something bigger than we could ever imagine, but we have a God that is bigger than anything we could face. Why is this occurring? I have no idea. Can God still handle our questions, pleas, and doubts? Yes, He can.

I know He is with everyone who is feeling this devastating loss, and my prayers go up to the One who holds it all. He knew this would take place even before we were born to experience it. God knows the beginning to the end. During all of this devastation, it may feel like He has left us, but He hasn’t. He could have left us when we chose sin over Him, but He stayed and continues to stay because that is how much He loves us. We need to reach out to Him and in our hurt and confusion, ask Him to be the mighty God that He is and help all of those who are in the wake of this unleashing from nature.

Dear Heavenly Father, we know that you are mighty and powerful. We know you could stop all of this with an inaudible whisper. The reasons it still remains is beyond our human understanding. Lord, I may not know the why’s, but I know the Who. It’s you that I search and seek to provide comfort, calmness, peace, and hope in the midst of this scary time. It is you that I beseech to be with the people affected by these disasters whether we are experiencing the reality of the situation first hand or watching it from afar. It is you that I pray to because I know even in the fear, you are holding every person in your hand and living among them because you are omnipresent. You never turn your head away from us and you never leave us. In this I put all of my faith and trust. Please be with everyone during this difficult time, and please give the emergency workers the unobstructed opportunity to assist and save those in need. Give them your eyes to see who is in need and your supernatural strength to perform these tasks. Give our leaders the wisdom you possess in how to best help and serve the communities. Please unite our shields of faith and hear our prayers. We weren’t promised an easy life on this side of Eden, but some days, it can seem almost unbearable. Please Lord, give us your heart for comfort and help us to comfort each other. In Jesus precious name I pray. Amen.

Who Was Your Greatest Influence and Why?

little me

I had to write on my Goodreads’ profile page who my greatest influence as a writer was and only one person owns that title—my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Topitzes.

My family and I lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during that time and we moved away after my 6th grade year which was over thirty years ago.  I just texted my brother to verify the spelling of her last name and I floored him because he was just thinking about her last week!  Apparently she made an everlasting impression on the both of us.

Mrs. Topitzes told me that I was a great writer, and I owned her words throughout my life.  I was a shy, awkward kid, so her words gave me a purpose and direction and writing has been my best companion ever since.  Thank you, Mrs. Topitzes, for giving me my voice.

Our words have the power to change the course of a life.  Was it a teacher or someone else who changed yours and which direction did your compass point?

I would love to hear your comments and examples of how the power of words influenced your direction.

(Proverbs 12:14) “From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward.”

 

Save

Unwrap your gifts and use them.

You are given gifts.  When God formed you in His hands, He bestowed upon you a specific set of gifts.  He was sending you into a dark world that breaks his heart every second of every day.  It is temporarily occupied by Satan who is free to do what Satan does best—deceive, disarm, and devour.

God designed for you specific gifts and talents that no one in the world possesses.  They can only be used by you and were created with only you in mind.  God wants you to use your gifts as beacons of light piercing through the darkness so you and others are able find our way back to Him.

Satan sees your gifts and he hates them.  He convinces you that your gifts and talents are small and insignificant.   Seriously, they can’t be that great, right?  He will do whatever it takes to keep you from using your gifts to their full potential because he has experienced the powerful results when we use our gifts for God’s glory.  He aims fiery darts of distractions, fears, and confidence busters to keep your gifts hidden from view.  He wants you to store them in the steam trunk forever and never have any inkling of the way your gifts can truly transform others.  Hold up your shield of faith.  Put your trust in our mighty God who desires for your gifts to shine light and hope.

What are your gifts?  Have they been hidden for so long you don’t remember what they look like?  Do they seem trivial and unworthy of even being dusted off and used?  Have you been criticized before or told your gifts are silly? Your faith shield is given to you to put a halt to these fiery darts of doubt and allows God to use you in a powerful way.  Trust in Him and see what God can do with what He gifted you before you entered into your mother’s womb.  Not sure what your gifts are?  Call upon our Holy God who loves you so very much and ask Him to help you unwrap your gifts and see what is inside.  The creator of the universe gave you a gift.  It must be something pretty special.

Childlike Faith

Mathew 18:2-4 (NIV)

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

My mom grew up Catholic and had a little prayer book she would take with her to Mass when she was in school.  When I was nine, I don’t remember if she gave it to me or I just happened upon it, but it ended up in my possession. How I acquired this prayer book is the only fuzzy part of this memory.

Neither of my parents went to church when they married, so I was never raised in a church.  I went to church when I visited my mom’s parents in Long Island, New York, every few years, but that was about it.  I remember going with my grandmother and telling her that I thought it was boring.  She told me to follow along in the missal so I would know where we were in the service.  She thought that would magically make it more interesting for me.  I still didn’t get it, and she couldn’t convince me otherwise.

One night while lying in my bed, I opened my mom’s prayer book and started to read  its pages.  When I did, I felt something.  What I felt wasn’t because someone was telling me what I should believe.  It wasn’t a building of people telling me how I should worship.  It was God in my hands as I laid open His words telling me who He was as I read the prayers to myself.  I was bundled up under the covers against the cold Milwaukee winter’s night and held words I had never read before.

Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.

These words were strange to me and didn’t roll off my tongue very easily, but I was mesmerized by them.  My nine year old brain was asking God, “Did you really write this?”  I tried to say it over and over again waiting for it to make sense.  The way it read sounded odd, so I decided to change all of the thy’s into the’s.  That sounded even worse.

I settled on the fact that God probably knew what He was doing, so I kept it how it was written even though I didn’t fully grasp their meaning.

I looked at that little prayer book the next night as well.  By the third night, I had this prayer memorized.  I laid my head on the pillow, closed my eyes, and recited these magical words.  In my child’s heart, I knew they were important.  They must be if God said them.

After a few nights, I felt like I was supposed to do more than just recite the prayer.  By this time, I had memorized the Hail Mary as well.  Again, I had no idea what I was saying, but the words felt peaceful to me.  I had heard them in church when I visited my grandma, so they must be important.  I was in awe of how easily they came to me and savored how they sounded.

One thing that confused me when I visited my grandma’s church, though, was while I was there, I felt fearful towards God, but while talking to Him at night, I felt completely calm and peaceful in His presence.  I couldn’t rationalize how I could feel so differently about God while attending at my grandma’s church.  The reason may have had to do with the formality of their service, or maybe when I acted like myself (a kid) I was hushed and glared upon.  Maybe the organ music mournfully bellowing in my ears or the choir’s echoing voices rising straight up and out through the ceiling scared me.  I didn’t know why I did—I just did.

I remember lying in my bed and talking to God one evening.  By this point we were having conversations, and I was trying to get to know Him.  I had my own routine of how I talked to God.  In my kid brain, I felt having a routine was important and the honoring thing to do.  I was trying to still do church in my head.

I opened up with the “Our Father,” followed by my conversational ramblings about my day, hopes, and fears, and wrapped it all up with the “Hail Mary.”  That felt right to me, so that’s what I did.  I didn’t ask anyone what I should do or if this was even the correct way.  Everything I did was lead by Him, and I can see that clearly now when I look back towards the bedroom I still carry in my memories.

After saying the “Our Father” one night, I worked up the courage to tell God that I wasn’t afraid of Him.  I didn’t think I should be afraid of Him and wanted Him to be my friend.  This had really been bothering me, and I talked with Him about this for an awfully long time that night.  I gave God an out and told Him that He could go on to some other kid’s thoughts if He needed to since I was taking up so much of His time.  I didn’t understand about the omnipresence of God, yet.  That night, I felt like He stayed with me until the end, though.

He was and is my friend.  I’ve wrestled with my faith, I’ve fought against His ways, and I’ve questioned my resolve to follow Him throughout the years, but just as I was a child praying in my bed, I have never felt that God left me to move on to something more important.  I feel like He is here still and will stay with me until the end.

He is our Dad, and I am forever grateful He put that prayer book into my hand as a kid.  I felt like it was our first introduction: “Crista, this is your Father, Jesus. Jesus, this is your child, Crista.”  God found a skinny, awkward nine-year-old girl lying in her bed one night, asked me to follow Him, and I did without giving it a second thought.

Psalm 139:13-16  For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Through the Storm

I wrote the following poem when I was in my twenties.  I had just experienced a devastating loss, and I thought I was going to burst from the pain and hurt.  When I walked into work, the first line of this poem came into my mind, and the rest spilled out in less than ten minutes.  When the words started to form, I was in a desperate search for pen and paper to capture what was flowing like a person who is ready to vomit and runs to make it to the trashcan on time.  It’s a pretty disgusting analogy, but I felt like if I didn’t write it down quickly, I would miss the paper, and it would have been lost forever.  Over twenty years later, I still have it memorized even though it’s in a folder under my bed with the rest of my heart explosions written on random pieces of paper I grabbed to capture my thoughts.

I think I memorized this one because it gives me comfort still.  It captures a moment in time when all seemed lost until my Savior stepped in.  I don’t think these moments of pain ever stop coming on this side of Heaven, but when they do come, it’s a wonderful reminder that we don’t have to panic or get caught up in the gust of wind that seems to be tossing us to and fro.  The winds don’t own us—Christ does.  I thought I would break down the poem into its parts and talk about how important it is to let go and give into our faith.  God’s promises never fail no matter how big of a storm is brewing.

To follow my train of thought, you can insert your storm experience that seems to be overtaking you right now: a broken marriage, a wayward child, a sick family member, a broken heart, a lost dream, a missed loved one…

In a whirlwind I became, that treacherous gust ripping the plain,

How often have we created a windstorm in our lives by willingly stepping into a situation that wasn’t good for us or getting caught up in the cyclone from circumstances that were out of our control?  Whatever the reason, we suddenly find ourselves whip-lashed by the spinning and churning that occurred faster than we could put two thoughts together.  It quickly feels like forever ago since we last felt normal.  Our stomachs are aching from the constant chaos, and we wonder if this will ever stop.

Then midnight struck creating a lamb, within the eye of this horrendous sham.

When we have a second to breathe and take inventory of the situation, we wonder what is the best course to take.  We process and plan trying to decide if we go left or turn right, what will be the potential outcome?  We feel out of sorts and disoriented and the solution can seem just as far from our grasp as the problem.  Which road is the right one?   Which decision, life choice, or focus will help to stop these winds?

Leary, tired, and dizzy I was, horrified, crazed, and lost because

When those feelings of being overwhelmed are almost too much to take, we wonder if we will ever experience peace and joy again.  Every effort forward can feel like walking through a big pool of Jello®—a ton of energy exerted with very little movement forward.  Why aren’t our attempts at fixing the issues working?  Why are the solutions so elusive and the problems so overbearing?  We are trying after all!  Our best efforts are futile and our need to control the circumstances becomes weaker and weaker. 

Across the perimeter of this soulless storm, loomed the other half booming its warn

Time’s up!  No rest for the weary.  No solution=problems are still winning.  Our thoughts, our desires, our every fiber of self-will can’t seem to erase this fortress around us.  Why is this not leaving!  Round two can feel like it will take us out.  Another marital argument? Another bill that is months overdue? Another doctor’s appointment or referral to a specialist?  Another bout of depression or fear of the future? A funeral arrangement that was unexpected and left you broken?  What more can we possibly take?

That once again I will be ripped apart, unless I offer God my heart

Deep down we always knew the answer.  We struggle against the ties that are binding us and try so hard to solve our own problems.  We know this, but that doesn’t keep us from trying it on our own.  Is God really bigger than this problem I am facing?  Does He even care that I am drowning right now?  Does He even notice that I am coming up for a breath and my head is barely above the water?  God does notice and He does care very deeply, but  He can’t force Himself upon us.  He wants us to humble ourselves, lay down our self-will, and offer up to Him our faith and trust.  Can we do that?

To guide, protect, and love me from this shadowed, cold, lifeless twist

This issue, this problem is all encompassing.  I may be getting a glimpse of the truth that maybe my problems are bigger than me.  They are towering over anything I throw at them and they are looking at me and laughing.  They have no concern for me and will toss me where they may.  Will I keep letting them?

Whose knees know no ground to pray and offers me no light of way

When we bend to our problems and succumb to their whims, we give up our strength, close our eyes, and silently pray that this will all end soon.  We make the decision that we will deal with the aftermath then.  God wants more for you than just crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.  He sacrificed everything to give you the best, and He is ready to lead you away from the darkness and into the light.

So I chose my hand to reach for Him, praying that He could stop the winds,

That moment when we finally humble ourselves before the Lord.  Why did this take so long?  I tend to go through this cycle with each setback that comes my way.  Sometimes I have to be brought to my knees in my stubbornness before I allow the truth to come into my heart that this isn’t for me to bear on my own.  Whether we allowed this twist to enter our lives with open arms or it hit us from behind, God is with us, He will restore our peace and joy, He will forgive us if our sinful decision caused the fury, and has the answers that we seek.  Then I remembered:

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?  The Lord is my stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps. 27:1 NIV).

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Ps. 55:22 NIV)

Then the Hand I thought was gone, turned my lamb into an immortal fawn.

I feel like I ran a marathon.  All of the struggle to maintain control and all of the fighting to convince myself I can do this by myself just made the winds blow stronger.  My Lord took them from me.  Whenever I cast my cares on Him, He never lets me down.  My pride keeps me at the helm of my ship through wind and rain, but my Lord often has to remind me who the real captain of my life is.  Christ is my guiding light and saving Grace, and He is yours, too.  Let Him calm your winds.  Lift up your Shield of Faith and let the winds be diverted away from you allowing you to experience His calming presence.  It’s a personal decision that we have to make daily.  Our shields are much more effective when they are put out in front of us and not held behind our backs.

I pray for the winds to be calmed in your life, and you feel Jesus wrapping you in His wellspring of love and mercy.  In Jesus precious name I pray.  Amen.

The Shield of Faith

shield-of-faithI need my shield, don’t you?  How often have we walked out of our front doors without it and wondered why the stinging arrows hurt so much?  With my faith shield leaning against the wall by my front door, Satan had a clear target, and I made it very easy for him without even knowing it.

What are some of the reasons we leave without our faith shield?  I know for me I leave because God is taking too long, He has no idea what I am going through and only I know how to fix it, my problems are too great and God doesn’t seem to really understand, or is God even here to see this?  I step over the one thing that will extinguish the flaming arrows of my enemy and invite into my life the one thing I am trying to avoid: Chaos.

Putting our shield in front of us takes practice.  Our arms may get tired, and we may feel like it is unnecessary during the times in our life the arrows don’t seem to be flying—but it is always needed no matter what our enemy tries to make us believe.  The second I lower it, he is waiting and smiling because he is always waiting.

I recently learned what my faith shield can do for me.  I am still learning how to use it, and my arm gets stronger holding it up every time I see how much God has protected me, guided me, and helped me advance forward when all I saw around me was a desert. In His perfect timing, He showed me the oasis I was walking towards and the destruction I was walking away from.

Writing this book was hard.  Satan constantly whispered in my ear that no one would read it, and I was wasting my time.  At one time, I distinctly heard him tell me that I was writing a coloring book because that is the level of value it will hold.  It’s funny though, Satan’s voice often sounds like my own voice of self-doubt because he doesn’t want credit for these negative whispers.  He wants us to believe they are solely ours.

I would pray every time I heard the whispers, and I just kept on typing even though a part of me believed what he was saying.  I confessed to friends, and they would pray over me and my book.  We need our community to fight with us and for us.  I wrote on faith and had absolutely no idea how I would pay for it.  I am a self-published author and the package I was choosing was not in the budget.  Actually, a new pair of shoes wasn’t in the budget, so this seemed almost impossible.

I kept praying for God to make a way to pay for this book to be published if it was His will.  He didn’t say much, so I kept on writing.  Halfway through the manuscript, I prayed again and still no answer, so I kept on writing.  When I was almost finished with the book, I prayed again and asked Him to make a way to pay for it, but this time, I told God that I knew He would and the answer would be something I never could have imagined on my own.

I work in a school system in Illinois and a  week after I gave it to Him to take care of, I received news that the state of Illinois was eliminating the early retirement option, and we would be refunded the money that we put into this program for the last eleven years!  And do you know what?  It was almost exactly the amount that I needed to publish this book.  Not only that, the month I decided to publish the packages for publication were on sale, and I was able to sign up for the next level, and it cost less than the original package I wanted!  This happened in September of 2016, and I told the publishing company I would like to see the book out by Christmas.  The man at the other end laughed because they were so busy he said I probably wouldn’t see it come out until January or February at the earliest.  I continued to hold up my faith shield even though I was disappointed and chose to believe in God’s perfect timing—not mine.

God wasn’t done.  My book was published on December 19, 2016, and it was fully operational for purchase on Amazon on Christmas Day.  I think holding up my shield just got a little easier.  The moment you want to put yours down because God seems elusive and out of touch, decide who is telling you this false lie.  Don’t go based on your feelings but on your knowledge of the truth.  Hold up your shield and see all that God can do for you by putting out the arrows that are meant to take you down.  Your faith in the One who created the world, defeated death, and rose again has much power.  Stand behind it and feel its protection.  Pick it up before you leave each day and watch Satan frown.  You have so much forward advancement to do with your faith shield in front of you, and God can’t wait to show you where you will go.

In Christ,

Crista