Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Just in Case You Ever Wondered . . .

Just in case you ever wondered . . . a little about me and this place called "Heartprints of God". . .
I grew up in a loving, Christian family. I went to church every week, memorized scripture, and knew all about what it meant to be a Christian. Sadly, I didn’t grow up knowing Christ. And believe me, there is a difference. A huge difference.
From the sidelines of life, I stood watching the rest of the world march to the beat of its own drum while aimlessly stumbling around in the dark to hear the beat of my own heart. Everyone else seemed to have it all together. Everyone seemed so confident in who they were, in what they were doing, in living their life. Not me. It wasn’t easy lugging around heavy suitcases filled with insecurity, self-doubt, fear and a whole lot of other “unmentionables” day in and day out.
I knew I was a Child of God, but what did that mean? How did that help me find my place? Why did I always feel so out-of-place?
Fear held me prisoner. I was afraid of people, afraid of failure, afraid of life. Needless to say, this fear kept me from being and doing all that God had created me to be.
But then…
God began changing everything. I started experiencing a hungering and a thirsting for something more. I began to feel as though the fear in my life was suffocating me, sucking the very life out of me.
Lord, I want to be free.
I want to find my place.
I want to live.
I want to feel You.
I want to KNOW YOU.
Awww….at last, my heart finally realized what was missing. KNOWING GOD. And so my search began. I bought a brand new Bible and on the inside front cover, I placed a heart sticker with the following verse:
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart..
~ Jeremiah 29:13
Then each day, I set aside time to read God’s word.
I had read the Bible before, but this was different. I wasn’t reading the Bible to fill some religious requirement or to memorize a verse, I was reading to find God. Before opening the pages of my Bible, I would stop, kneel by my bed, and open my heart to God. I prayed for His Holy Spirit to open my eyes to see Him. I prayed for the Holy Spirit to open my ears to hear Him. I prayed for my heart to know God.
And, I was not disappointed. The Word of God came alive to me. Instead of a book I didn’t understand, it became God’s love letter to me. Each day I couldn’t wait to spend time feasting on God’s word. The more I read, the hungrier I became. The hungrier I became the more I read and the deeper my fellowship with the Lord.
Then, one day, I came across the following passage:
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
~ Ephesians 3:14-19
There is was.
May you be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. It was what I was longing for…to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. I wanted Christ in my heart, not just in my head. I wanted to be filled with ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD. Kneeling down by my bed, I invited Christ into my heart.
From that moment on, His love and the beauty of who He is has captured my heart. I am no longer held captive by fear because God’s perfect love for me has cast out ALL my fear. (1 John 4:18) Now, FINALLY, I have found my place in this world….only the beautiful thing is….my place isn’t in this world, it is IN CHRIST. No wonder I always felt out-of-place!
I am learning who I am IN and THROUGH Christ and this has made ALL the difference in who I am.
I am a sinner saved by Grace. Nothing I could ever do would be worthy of Christ’s love for me. He loves me simply because He loves me. It’s as simple and as wonderful as that. The closer I get to him, the more I find out who I am and why I was created. The more I come to know Him, the more I come to know my purpose on this earth. The deeper I fall in love with Him, the more complete I am.
A heart transformed by the love of God.
A life changed by His presence.
A sinner saved by grace.
This is who I am.
I am also a wife, a teacher, a writer, and currently, I am blessed to spend my days serving as a Director of Children’s Ministries.
You see, God has completely changed my life. Since I have come to know Him, He has opened wide doors of opportunity for me to share His love with others.
I invite you to come on in, sit down for a bit, and rest in His love. May you find HIM here. May you come to truly KNOW the Lover of your soul, the one for whom you were created to love and serve.
May you find HIM,
and in doing so,
find the very heart of who you are.~♥











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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Gift of His Spirit~

"How do you see it?" he asks,
with a tilt of his head and a longing in his eyes
that lets me know
this question is not about how I see it,
but how he can see it, too.

"How do you see something
that is as simple and as ordinary as being able to spot an owl in a tree
and draw a spiritual connection from it?"

It's as though his words
are now the ones
helping me to see.

And, I realize,
(possibly for the first time)
what a precious gift I have been given.

How spiritual lessons and a deeper understanding of God
are broadcast across my mind
and felt down in the deepest places of my heart
from morning to night,
all through the moments of my day.

How what I see
and what others see
is so very different.

How what I perceive and
what others sometimes perceive
are separated by heaven and earth,
"of God" and "of the world".

How God's precious Holy Spirit
guides and leads and reveals -
all day long. 

How in the simplest of moments,
God speaks the most profound,
life-transforming revelations to my spirit.


And, I'm beginning to realize
what I have been given
is more precious than the air I breathe.

And, I'm coming to understand
that not everyone
sees what I see,
hears what I hear,
connects with what I connect with,
understands what the Spirit reveals to my spirit.

"How do you see it?" he asks.
 "How do you see something
simple and ordinary
and draw a spiritual connection from it?"

This understanding of spiritual lessons in the commonest of places,
this undeniable revelation of God in our midst
which is often missed
by others
sharing the same space,
and experiencing the same moment,
is indeed a precious, precious gift.

And, I'm beginning to understand,
with an urgency and a
"calling" that will not let me rest,
that this gift is not for me alone.

How if others are to see what God shows me,
and hear was God tells me,
and understand what God reveals to me,
I must be faithful to give of my gift to the world.

When I see, I must reveal.
When I hear, I must tell.
When I receive, I must give.

The lessons,
the revelations,
the connections between God and man
are not for me alone.

Because what I am beginning to realize,
and what I am coming to understand,
is this precious gift -
was handpicked by God for me,
so that I, in turn,
would take what I have been given,
and give it away.

Because -
not everyone sees,
not everyone hears,
not everyone notices
God in the everyday places,
until
someone who does,
through the power of His Spirit,
points God out.~♥



But God has given us his Spirit. 
That's why we don't think the same way that the people of this world think. 
That's also why we can recognize the blessings that God has given us. 
Every word we speak was taught to us by God's Spirit, 
not by human wisdom. 
And this same Spirit helps us teach spiritual things to spiritual people.
~2 Corinthians 2:12, 13











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Friday, January 29, 2016

It's All in Your Mind~

Please hold your laughter (if possible) until you have moved on from this post,
opened another email,
or jumped down to another Facebook post.

I've never said I am the brightest lightbulb in the box,
and what I am about to reveal will certainly "back me up" when it comes to this claim.

Sometimes (ok, most times), it takes me a little while to catch on.

What others grasp instantaneously, I have to grapple with for a bit.
What others come by naturally, I have to ponder, digest, and reflect upon.

Thankfully, AHA moments do happen for me,
sometimes they just take a while to happen.

Like, for instance, my most recent AHA moment.
This one only took 50 years,
and it is the simplicity of the revelation,
combined with the 50 year time frame in which it took me to process it,
that has me asking you to please hold your giggles.

Balance is all in your head.
(There - it's out in black and white, typed out on paper for all to see. )

For 50 years of my life, I struggled with balance,
particularly balance when it came to standing on one foot.
Try as I might,
no positioning of my arms or controlled movement of my leg seemed to bring success.

As soon as I lifted one leg up,
I would teeter and totter until I finally (ok, quickly!) had to place the lifted foot right back on the ground.

For 50 years, I could not balance on one foot.
Could. not. do. it.

And then, it happened.

One day, while trying to lift my foot long enough to take off a very uncooperative sock,
I started to teeter,
and when I did,
I heard myself (out loud) telling myself,
 "Stacy, come on girl!  Think about what you're doing here!"

And, I did.

For the first time ever, I intentionally thought
about what I was doing,
about what I was wanting to accomplish,
about the need to stay steady and stable.

And, you know what?

The more I thought about being in balance,
the more I was.

The more I thought about standing steady and sure,
the more I was.

The more I took my mental focus from what I wasn't doing and placed it into what I wanted to do,
the steadier (and prouder) I stood.

Have you ever been there?
Teetering and tottering through life?

Wanting so desperately to stand steady and sure
in a temptation,
through a trial,
during the battle?

Struggling to not lean to the left or the right
in a moment of weakness,
when faced with opposition,
in times of fear and doubt?

If so, remember this:
The victory begins in your mind.

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].
~ Romans 12:1-2 AMP



Keeping our mind on Christ,
intentionally focusing our thoughts on God,
allowing God to transform
our ability,
our resolve,
our wishy-washyness,
our unbalanced living,
into
a rock-solid faith.

This is how you and I can begin to find our spiritual balance.
Enlisting the power of the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do and what we never can,
seals our victory.

It's not about trying to position our emotions just right.
It's not about trying to place one foot of faith here so as to outweigh one lean toward fear there.
It's not about trying to stand steady on our own.

It's about surrendering our need to be in control,
by placing our mind on The One in control,
and then allowing Him to do what we can't.

It's about removing our focus from self,
and placing our mind on The One who can bring all things into focus.

It's about taking our thoughts off of
our problem,
our situation,
our temptation,
our need,
our trial,
our whatever is trying to throw us off balance,
and placing them back on
our Almighty God,
our Heavenly Father,
our Good Shepherd,
our Jehovah-Jireh,
our Abba-Daddy.

It's all in our mind.

Believing,
Knowing,
Surrendering.

The next time you find yourself wavering to the right or swaying to the left,
set you mind on things above.

The next time you feel wobbly and gimpy standing on your own,
stand your spiritual ground by
focusing your mind back on to Christ Jesus,
the one on whose promises you stand.

The next time you start to teeter and totter
and wave your emotions frantically in an effort to find something stable to grab on to,
reach your mind upward
and grab hold of your God -
the rock of your salvation,
the anchor of your soul.

Yes, it's all in your mind.

And, as long as your mind (and mine)
are fixed on Jesus,
we will stand.







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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Trained Eyes~

Have you ever spotted something high up in the sky,
then looked away for a mere second,
only to look back and not be able to find it again?

It's amazing how quickly we can lose sight of something if we don't keep our eyes clearly focused upon it. It's also amazing how quickly we can regain our focus if someone is willing to come alongside us and point our eyes back in the right direction.

Today, I am so blessed to be the featured writer at The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide. Come on over and join me there for my devotion entitled, "Trained Eyes".










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Saturday, January 23, 2016

When Doing the Unthinkable Sets You Free~

So many times in life we find our self in a place where we never thought we would be.

Divorced.
Addicted.
Depressed.
Abused.
Overweight.
Unemployed.
Diagnosed.

The list could go on and on - but, you don’t need me to identify your present location.
You are there.
You already know the place where you are all too well.
And, you feel trapped.
You feel as though you have no way out.

Either by choices we have made or circumstances beyond our control,
life takes an unexpected turn,
down an unanticipated path,
to a never before imagined place.

Before we know what has happened or where we are,
we find our self behind locked bars with no key and no way out.

I know. I’ve been there. So have Paul and Silas.

Acts 16, NLT
22 A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. 23 They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. 24 So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.

Paul and Silas were stripped, beaten and thrown in jail.They found themselves in a place where they never thought they would be. It wasn’t their choice to be where they were. It was the choice of the angry mob. Yet, here they were. Mistreated. Locked up. Trapped.

Sometimes we, too, find our self in a place not of our own choosing.
Someone else or circumstances out of our control have made the choice for us.

We didn’t want a divorce.
Cancer wasn’t in our plans.
We did nothing to deserve being abused or mistreated.
Yet, it happened.
We were stripped of our dreams,
beaten down by something outside of our self,
and thrown into our situation.

We are there - seated right beside Paul and Silas.

25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.

Amazingly enough, despite what they had just experienced and in spite of where they now found themselves, Paul and Silas decided to pray and sing. PRAY AND SING! Life sent them to an unthinkable place and in turn, they did the unthinkable. With feet bound, and flesh torn, they praised God. Those around them couldn’t help but hear the praises flowing from their hearts.

Chances are you are not alone in your unthinkable place.
 If you look around, you will discover others going through the same experience you are.
Could it be you have found yourself in this place by no choice of your own
because God has plans to use you to bless others who are walking this road with you?

26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!

Paul and Silas chose to praise God and when they did, God responded.
And, don’t miss this!!!!
Their praise not only set them free,
but it brought freedom to the entire prison.
EVERYONE in the prison was set free.

Today, in the very midst of your situation, I challenge you to praise God - not silently, but boldly. Praise Him with everything you’ve got!
Praise Him no matter where you are and no matter who may hear.
Praise Him from the very depths of your heart.
Like Paul and Silas, your praise has the potential to not only set you free,
 but to loose the chains of all those imprisoned with you!!!

27 The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. 28 But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”

The jailer was the one responsible for all the prisoners.
This was his job.
This is what he had been told to do.
This was his place in life.
Yet, when the prisoners appeared to be free and he thought his job and his life were over, he almost killed himself.

Chances are the ones in your life who have been holding you prisoner
are in this place because this is what they know.
This is what they have been taught.
This is where life has placed them.
Those who have been abused often abuse others.
Hurting people hurt people.
But notice, through the power of praise, even the jailer -
the one holding them captive - was set free!!!!

29 The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” (Act 16)

Did you notice the jailer brought them out of the jail.They didn’t remain where they once were now that they had been set free.When God opens locked doors in our life we can’t dilly dally around and stay in the place that once held us captive.We must get out. We must move into the new place of freedom God has for us. The jailer knew this. He wanted nothing to do with the old place he had been.

And, he wanted whatever it was the Paul and Silas had.

He wanted joy - the kind that makes you sing when you are imprisoned.

He wanted power - the kind that opens prison doors and sets captives free.

Most of all, though - He wanted to experience true freedom in Christ. He (the only one physically free) wanted to truly be set free!

It doesn’t matter where you are today.
It doesn’t matter if you are there because of choices you made or choices someone else made.  
All that matters is that God is there with you.

Like Paul and Silas, you can be set free.
Like Paul and Silas, God can use you to set others free.
The choice is yours.

Are you in an unthinkable place today?

Then, like Paul and Silas - do the unthinkable.

PRAY AND SING! PRAISE GOD! - and watch God do the unthinkable!

Watch God move!
Watch God shake your world!

Watch God open the doors and loosen the chains and set you and everyone around you, free!!!!

{Photo Credit}








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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

In Thunderous Applause~

Have you ever done it?

Admittedly, (and ashamedly) I have.

Sometimes, (dare I say most times) it happens before I even realize it is happening.

The way you drive through a stoplight, only to get to the other side of the intersection and find yourself asking "Did I even look at that light?"

The way you grab your jacket, take your last sip of coffee, latch onto your keys and head out the door in the morning, only to get in your car, drive half way to work and find yourself asking "Did I remember to lock the front door?"

It's not a case of being forgetful,
it's more a case of not being mindful.

We get caught up in the moment and our natural self goes on autopilot,
reacting and doing without us so much as thinking.

And while driving through an intersection without being mindful of the light is not good,
and while not remembering whether or not you locked your front door might keep you wondering about it all day,
there is a kind of natural reaction that is far worse than either of these.

A compliment is given.

An award is handed out.

A round of applause is heard.

A pat on the back is felt.

And . . . we
blush,
beam,
soak it in,
and stand up tall.

Without even thinking,
without being mindful at all,
we takes these forms of praise and we claim them as our own.

And, we forget what Mark Twain so quaintly and boldly reminded us of:
"Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work."

Before we even realize it is happening,
without being mindful of it at all,
self goes on autopilot,
and we
steal God's thunder.

Because you see,
any good thing in me,
(and dare I say)
any good thing in you -
any accomplishment,
any success,
any victory,
anything at all that causes those around us to
stand up and take notice
the way thunder catches our ear -
is simply a direct result of The Light,
His light,
working in us.

It is not us,
but God who deserves the praise.

It is not us,
but God who deserves thunderous applause.

When people in our life,
somehow miss "His lightning",
and only notice the
crackling,
thundering,
reverberating sound of His mighty work in our life,
it is our first and only duty
to direct their eyes to Him.

Only, we often don't.

Caught up in the flattery,
knee deep in compliments,
riding high on the accolades,
we say "thank you" and allow His thunder,
(a direct result of the work of His hands
lighting up
our gifts,
our talents,
our less than perfect efforts and attempts)
now mistaken as ours,
to shine in the spotlight.

We may be the one heard,
the one noticed,
the one who others see,
but
it is our
duty,
honor,
privilege,
and our only appropriate response
to point all the applause
back to our God,

Yes,
we might look good,
and we might seem impressive,
but it is God who does the work.

May we never forget to give Him the glory.

May we ever be mindful to sing His praise in thunderous applause.











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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Not a "One or the Other" Option~

"So which is more important? What god you believe in or how you treat your fellow man?"

I read his words -
a comment from someone I don't know,
left on a post of someone I don't know,
that I happen upon as I scroll through my Facebook feed.

And even though I don't know either of the people sharing in this "comment conversation",
and even though this conversation isn't mine to barge in to,
I find myself speaking the answer out loud.

So often,
we allow the pieces to keep us from seeing the whole.

Instead of seeing how one might relate and even complete the other,
we spend our time
dissecting and pulling apart,
separating and comparing,
discussing and debating,
until we no longer can
make sense of it at all.

"Which is more important?
The God I believe in or how I treat my fellow man?"

How can you possibly begin to think you can have one without the other?

How,
can you take hydrogen from oxygen and expect to have water?

How,
can you take breath from a body and expect to have life?

How,
can you take God out of the equation and expect to have love for your fellow man?

To me, they can never be separated out into a "one or the other" scenario.

Because -
how,
do we learn how to treat our fellow man
if we don't first know the God who teaches us to love?

How,
can we truly put
someone else first,
forgive and forget,
sacrifice our interests, our money, our time, our very life,
without the power of our God,
(who so loved the world that He gave His only Son,
so that whoever believed in Him,
wouldn't die,
but have eternal life,)
living in us and through us,
enabling us to do so?

I don't know about you,
but I know me,
and I am
selfish,
uncaring,
mean,
jealous,
revengeful,
hateful,
self-centered,
prideful,
and all about me.

They only way I am able to treat my fellow man
in the way he deserves to be treated
is because of the God I believe in.

No,
this is not a two part question.

This is not a one or the other.

These two can never be
pulled apart,
separated,
considered independent one of the other.

This is the whole of it:
Christ in me,
Christ with me,
Christ through me. ~♥










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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Especially With My Words~

One thing I never want to do is hurt someone.

 I learned from the earliest of my days on this earth just how very sharp, and how very wounding words can be. Knowing full well the pain words can inflict, I try my hardest to think before I speak, to pray before I open my mouth, to only say what I feel will honor God in a way that will honor God.

A lofty goal, I admit. 
A desire I fall short of time and time and time again. 

And when I do fail,
I think I hurt as much (if not more so) than the one I have hurt.

Regardless of what version of the Bible you find yourself reading Ephesians 4:29 in, 
it is very clear what our words are to do:

Minister grace.
Build one another up.
Benefit those who listen.
Bless those who hear.
Be a gift.

KJV:
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.  

NIV:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

NCV:
When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you.

MSG:
Say only what helps, each word a gift.

I firmly believe,
no matter what we have to say,
all that we do say 
can be said in a way to live out the command of this verse.

Words of every day conversation.
Words of instruction.
Words of correction.
Words of expectation.
Words of conviction.
Words of explanation.
Words of frustration. (Yes, and especially, even these!)

Each word to benefit.
Each word helpful.
Each word a gift.

As I look back over my success rate with words,
I find one common denominator.

The times I have honored God by honoring others with my words,
no matter the situation,
were the times I spoke with the other person in mind,
instead of "speaking my mind".

I read the following quote once and I never forgot it:

If it's very painful for you to criticize your friends — you're safe in doing it.
But if you take the slightest pleasure in it, that's the time to hold your tongue.
~Alice Duer Miller

To me,
and I think to God, too -
it all comes down to this:
our words aren't meant to be used to
benefit us,
build us up,
make us look good,
bless us
at the expense of others.

Our words are to
benefit others,
build others up,
help others up,
bless others,
no matter the cost to us.

Yes, they must be truthful,
always truthful,
but,they must also
be full of His grace,
always graceful.

Because -
regardless of what version of the Bible you find yourself reading Colossians 4:6 in,
it is very clear what our words are to be:

KJV:
Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

CEB:
Your speech should always be gracious and sprinkled with insight so that you may know how to respond to every person.

MSG:
Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.

Help me, Holy Spirit.
Because one thing I never want to do is hurt someone,
especially with my words.~♥












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