Wednesday, November 9, 2011

is WORRY choking your faith?

Our invited guest Florence MacKenzie wrote this article for managing your emotions, published in Just Between Us, Winter 2011.

Are you a worrier? I am. After all, there often seems good reason to worry. Am I not being irresponsible if I don’t worry in some situations? Could it be that, by worrying, I’m actually making it less likely that the thing I’m worried about will happen? Is worry, therefore, serving a useful function? The answer, of course, is NO!

The word worry comes from the Old English, meaning to choke or strangle. It also carries the idea of being pulled in different directions. Worry pulls you apart. It’s very divisive. Have you ever noticed that worry divides your mind? You find you cannot focus on the task in front of you because worrying about something else distracts you and divides your attention. Worry also divides your will. It’s hard to make even the smallest decisions when you’re worried. One minute you’re making one decision, the next you’re pulled in the opposite direction and are considering making a different decision. Worry also divides your emotions. Sometimes it appears you’re in control of your feelings; at other times worry pulls your emotions in all sorts of directions so you end up not really knowing how you feel.

I was reading in Matthew’s gospel recently where Jesus gave some straight talk on worry to His disciples. He told them not to worry about everyday life; or about having enough food, drink and clothes; or about tomorrow. He concluded his teaching on worry by commenting on what little faith His disciples had. This made me wonder about the connection between worry and faith. Did they have a problem with worry because they had a problem with faith? If so, might the same be true of me? Perhaps if my faith were stronger and healthier, worry wouldn’t have such a stranglehold over me. This realization came to me when I was walking around our yard. Let me tell you about it.

We live in a house with a large outdoor area which is mostly made up of grass. Neither my husband nor I are keen gardeners and, as a result, the quality of our grass is less than perfect. As I looked at the grass on my recent walk-about, I could see all sorts of things growing there that we hadn’t planted, like moss, clover, dandelion, and lots of others I couldn’t name! Somewhere among these weeds was the grass we had planted but it was being crowded out by these invaders. That’s when it hit me – the unwelcome weeds taking over our grass were like worries that choke the life of faith in us.

But what could we do about it? Given the huge size of the yard, there was no way we could pull these weeds out individually. We knew from past experience that new weeds would soon take root to replace the ones we had removed. I had recently read that the key to controlling weeds is to keep the grass as healthy as possible. So, instead of the weeds crowding out the grass, perhaps the grass would begin to crowd out the weeds if we spent more time tending it by feeding and watering it regularly. From that point on, growing a healthy lawn became our main gardening goal! Do you see how this relates to the need to focus more on building up the “grass” of our faith rather than concentrating primarily on getting rid of the “weeds” of worry in our lives?

But how might you do this? Why not try these “faith-builders”:
·         FOCUS on the truth that it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews11:6).
·         FIX your eyes on Jesus on whom your faith depends from start to finish (Hebrews12:2).
·         FEED your faith by reminding yourself of the many promises found in the Bible.
·         FILL unoccupied moments with praise to God, for example, while stopped at a red light or standing in line at the grocery store.
·         FREE up a few minutes each day to appreciate how blessed you are─and then thank God for this!
·         FOLLOW through on replenishing relationships by getting in touch with people who will refresh you spiritually and emotionally.
·         FINISH the day by thanking God for the faith He has given you and ask Him to show you how you can keep translating it into action.

Let’s make it really hard for worry to choke our faith!

Florence MacKenzie has a degree in psychology and a diploma in expository preaching. She is the author of several books, including Destructive Emotions: Facing up to Guilt, Fear and Anger. She also ministers with her husband James through Equipped for Living (http://www.equippedforliving.org).



Monday, September 12, 2011

Coming In By the Back Door

Many people feel their lives are ruined because of some failure in their past. Ruined might be too strong a word, but relentless shame or a feeling of disgrace may plague them.

I remember when I failed terribly in front of some of my peers in a business meeting. My behavior was unkind and out of control—truly sad. Even worse, one of those peers was a man who I had been trying to help in his walk with God.  

As I thought about what I did, I wanted to run away. But the Spirit of God led me not only to go back, but to share my feelings of failure with my friend. The next day I told him how sorry I was that I had failed to be Christ-like in my actions. I also shared that I had been forgiven by God and that the failure was not fatal in God's sight. Then I learned that one of my friend’s greatest struggles was dealing with his own failures, and from that experience he began to understand that his own failures were not fatal either. 

God specializes in taking our failures and turning them into avenues of blessing and growth if we will allow him to. The Apostle Peter is a good example of how God can turn our failures into stepping stones.  

Just before Peter failed Jesus by denying him, Jesus said to him, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail." Yet, knowing the great failure Peter was to face in just a few short hours, Jesus did not treat him with contempt.   

People hold our failures against us; Jesus doesn't. People refuse to give you second-chances; Jesus doesn't. People look at failure as the end of the road; Jesus sees it as a place of new beginning. 

Jesus told Peter he had already prayed for him, that "when you have turned back," he would strengthen his brothers. Jesus believed that even though Peter was going to fail miserably, he could have a comeback. As a result of failing and coming back, Peter would be able to strengthen his brothers. Though it wasn't right for Peter to fail Jesus as he did, nonetheless that failure was used by God to help Peter become the mighty apostle we read about in Acts. 

Do you see what I mean about failure? God is able to use it for good in our lives. God can even turn it into an avenue of service. 

Do you feel totally guilt-ridden, as though you've had a fatal failure? Please understand this marvelous truth:  Jesus is in the business of restoration and recovery. Your failure can be your back door to a new beginning.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What’s Your Score?

Many people think the Christian motto is “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31. People often evaluate a Christian’s sincerity by how well they live this out. Whether or not it is a valid measure, and whether or not we are conscious of it, this verse is a key factor in our testimony. Based on that, if you were under the scrutiny of an official critic, what kind of a rating would you receive?

This question becomes a grim thought as I observe behavior in the church parking lot, or eavesdrop on a phone conversation in the church office, or watch as committee members gather for a meeting, or watch myself getting in line to board a plane. It is disheartening to see that Christians are often unkind, belligerent and inconsiderate. It makes me stop to think through my own conduct. In specific terms, what would happen if I really began to treat others the way I would want to be treated? How about you?

Well, imagine that you’re driving to work, and a person is trying to move over into your lane. Instead of getting angry, you would think, "You know, I'm going to do for this person what I would want this person to do for me." So, you slow down and let them in the lane. 

Now, you're pulling into the parking lot on this rainy morning, and you see a co-worker without an umbrella. You remember how miserable it is to start the day rain-soaked, so you rush over and share your umbrella, and in the process you get to know them a little better.

Imagine you’ve just arrived at work and you get a call from a very upset customer. Normally you might feel you’re getting treated unfairly and you would get defensive. But the Holy Spirit reminds you to put yourself in their shoes. That will help you respond with the thought, “I can understand how this might upset that customer." By putting yourself in that customer's shoes, you're going to say the right words and try to solve their problem. Otherwise, if you had gotten defensive, your tone of voice might have been harsh, you might have been abrupt, and the problem could have gotten worse.

Have you ever put yourself in your manager's shoes? I notice that employees tend to blame their managers without ever stopping to think about what that manager has to deal with. Think about who they report to, the budget problems they're facing, the reduction in staff they're trying to cope with, etc. If you were in their shoes, how would you want your employees to treat you?

When we develop this ability to put ourselves in the other person's shoes, we reduce our own stress. For example, if I'm dealing with a co-worker who is negative, complaining and irritable most of the time, I can reduce the stress they bring into my life by stopping and thinking, "Yeah, but if I didn't know Jesus, I'd be that way, too, or worse." That allows you to be compassionate, even with a person who is less than pleasant.

Your kindness will result in people responding more positively to you. You will discover new friendships, you will gain a greater sense of peace, you will have wider influence, you will be more successful. But the real benefit is, it will make you a better representative of Jesus Christ. Your testimony will ring true. Who knows what impact that might have on others.

I want to remember to pray Luke 6:31 into my life daily. You, too, may want to ask God to empower you to treat others the way you would want to be treated. It's a very simple approach to life, but it could score you a ten and change your life.

Friday, September 2, 2011

It’s All Tied Up

Remember when Jesus asked two disciples to get him a donkey for a ride into Jerusalem? This donkey was tied up, and Jesus instructed them to untie it and bring it to him. It had to take a little bit of nerve to walk up to this colt and start untying it. It wasn’t their colt.

When they started to untie it, the owners asked them what they were doing. I can imagine that they were a little perturbed to see two strangers taking their prized colt. But when the disciples explained that Jesus needed this colt, they were more than willing to let him use it.

They must have known Jesus in some way. Maybe they had heard Jesus speak; maybe they'd seen him heal someone or cast out a demon. I don't believe they would have let that donkey go if they hadn't met and known Jesus. But once they knew the colt was for him, they were okay with it. As was true for them, when we've met Jesus, it is also a great joy for us to give something back to the Him. But often we miss God's blessings because what he wants to use, we have all tied up for ourselves.

As I read this, I thought, "What do I have tied up that the Lord wants to use?" I think many times we've got resources and abilities that God would use in his service, but they're all tied up. It may be time, or money, or a home, or other things.

When we hoard those things for our own use, we miss out on one of the greatest joys in life—that is to see how God would use us and what we have if we were willing to let him have access to it. If we would simply untie our treasure, we would be humbled and grateful for the experience of being used in some specific way to accomplish God’s purpose. That kind of fulfillment cannot be matched.

What we offer doesn't have to be fancy or splendid. All that God asks for is availability.

What have you got tied up that Jesus wants to use?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Change Your Attitude With the ABC's

A friend said, "Mary, I've just been in the dumps lately, thinking about being single, wishing I were married, feeling lonely, feeling sorry for myself. What do I do?" Maybe the answer I gave her will be helpful to you, too.

I simply said, "Linda, start praising God." She knew the principle but had just forgotten to practice it.

The next week she told me, "I went home and started praising God for all his goodness to me and in short order, my spirits were lifted, the self-pity was gone, and I was able to truly be thankful for who I am and what I have."

Praising God changes us. Maybe you know the principle, too, but you just haven't practiced it lately. This is not something we learn once and for all. Becoming a person of praise is a daily lesson.

Here's one way I’ve found to get praise started, even when I don’t feel like it: Go through the alphabet thinking of one word per letter that expresses why you should praise God. A—he's almighty, B—he's benevolent, C—He's coming again—and on and on. By the time you get to the end, your attitude will be adjusted; your perspective will be changed.

Please, let me know how it goes for you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How Did You Get De-Railed?

Are you paying attention? I’m talking about keeping tuned in to what you know about God. What happens when we just coast, or when we get lazy about our faith?

For one thing, anxiety and unrest move in. Discontent seeps in when we have not been practicing what we have been taught. Look at what Isaiah said:

Isaiah 48:17-18   I am the Lord your God who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

"If you had paid attention..." Isaiah wrote. It's rarely a deliberate decision on our part to wander from God's principles. It's usually just a simple failure to pay attention. Our focus gets fractured; our center moves slightly off-center, because in some small ways we have failed to pay attention. A little side step gets us off-track, and then the next step gets us further away. Like a train, once de-railed we go into a skid. And the result is loss: loss of peace, loss of blessings, loss of fellowship.

If you're feeling anxious, or restless, or out of sorts today, check it out. Have you failed to pay attention to God's will for you? Stop and take inventory. Where have you stopped doing what you knew you should? You can get back on-track, and know peace again and have the fellowship you've been missing. ‘Fess up and let God cleanse you first, and then turn back to get on the rails again.

Friday, August 19, 2011

One Way In

Has God changed lately? It seems like it when you examine the attitudes you rub shoulders with every day. But let’s take a closer look.

Many people today shape God into a form they can manipulate and re-model as they wish. Many people want to come to God on their terms, expecting God to compromise His standards when necessary, to change His word, to make an exception. But is God like that?

Hebrews 13:8   Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. This verse is pretty clear. It says God is immutable—He never changes, His principles never change.

If we want to come to God then, it needs to be on His terms, not ours. But the good news is God's door is always open if we will come in His way, and that's through Jesus Christ, and Him alone.

John 14:6   Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

It’s settled then. God hasn’t changed; He is always the same. And there is only one way into fellowship with Him. I’m going to meditate on that today. How about you?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Attitude Check-UP

On June 15, 2011, I launched a challenge to all of us to take on a more positive focus in our lives. How are you doing with that? What about me? I said I would report later about how I’m doing, so here I am, 2 months later.

Well, this has certainly been a period of negative news features; there has been tough weather across the nation all summer; it’s been a time of financial pressure and stress in the economy; it’s the season for vacationing fellow workers and juggling workloads. All that can make for a very negative environment at work. But I’ve found the discipline of forming a positive attitude about work to be bringing about change. I’ve noticed that a more positive focus leads to a more cheerful attitude, even if I’m not perfect at it yet. All the negatives are still in place, but with this challenge for the positive, I see the downers less. It’s like they’re off in my peripheral vision, not front center.

I want to keep working on this. A negative spirit is always lurking in the wings, waiting to step back on center stage, so I need to stay disciplined. Let me know if you have any victories to report in this standoff. We might be able to help each other.

Friday, August 12, 2011

you’re WORTH it!

Our invited guest Florence MacKenzie wrote this article for managing your emotions, published in Just Between Us, Fall 2011.

While surfing the Internet recently, I came across a blog post that wanted to discover what issues women were most concerned about. Of the various topics mentioned, one seemed to dominate all the others. Self-worth!

It’s a fact that many women are in a constant battle with self-worth issues. These can range from thoughts of unfavorably comparing themselves with others to thinking they’re completely useless. If this describes you, you’re not alone. Many Christian women are living in defeat and not enjoying all God has for them because they place very little value on themselves. Perhaps negative events in their past have eroded any sense of self-worth they might have had. They blame themselves for any rejection they’ve experienced and believe that, if they could only perform better or please a particular person more, they could earn acceptance. My friend, Margi, was like this. She lived most of her life as if she had no right to be here. She once told me that she sometimes felt she should apologize for breathing! As the third child born to a single mom, Margi thought of herself as an inconvenient accident that wasn’t worth very much. Insensitive comments and judgmental remarks from others did nothing to alter her perception. One of the consequences of this was she frequently misappropriated responsibility to herself for any trouble that came into her life.

On the other hand, there are women who think their value or self-worth can be measured in terms of successes they’ve already achieved. In effect, they’re building their worth on their own accomplishments. I recently met a woman who used to do just that. She had struggled with self-worth issues for many years and, as a musician who headed up the worship team at women’s conferences, she linked her feelings of self-worth to how well she sang at each event. She couldn’t believe anyone could like her for who she was. Any appreciation they had for her must surely be because of her singing ability and it was on this that she based her value as a person. The trouble with this outlook was it caused her self-worth to fluctuate—when she sang well, she felt good about herself, but when she thought her performance was below par, she was filled with feelings of self-doubt. Not surprisingly, this yo-yo pattern of how she viewed herself played havoc with her peace of mind.

For these women, and for all Christians who struggle with issues of self-worth, there is good news. Our value is not determined by what we do, but is based on what God has done for us: He has rescued, redeemed and forgiven us (Col.1:13,14)! We are immensely valuable and precious to Him! Once we begin to appreciate what He thinks of us, we’ll be less likely to buy in to the inadequate perspective others might have of us or even our own faulty view of ourselves. God doesn’t look on the outward appearance, but on the heart. He doesn’t value us because of our successes or consider us worthless because of our failures. We are valuable because He made us and we belong to Him (Ps.100:3); He supervised our development in the womb and planned our days in advance (Ps.139:16); He tells us He cares even for the sparrow and Jesus reminds us we are worth more than many sparrows (Matt.10:31). And, to top it all, we are so valuable to Him that He thought we were worth dying for so we could know the freedom of His forgiveness and spend all eternity with Him in heaven. Can it get any better than this?

Do you ever doubt your value? Are you allowing what other people think of you, or even your own view of yourself, to eclipse God’s perspective of you? As followers of Jesus Christ, we ought to be more concerned about His view of us than anyone else’s view. He created us and, as someone once said, “God don’t make no junk!” Only when we grasp the amazing truth that our identity is found as new creations in Christ, will we be ready to hold our heads high, knowing we are daughters of the King.

Florence MacKenzie holds an honors degree in psychology and a Diploma in Expository Preaching. She is the author of several books, including Destructive Emotions: Facing Up to Guilt, Fear and Anger. She is a member of the preaching team at her home church and is married to James. Visit them at http://www.equippedforliving.org.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

She Sounds Just Like Her Mother

Recently my daughter and her family were visiting us. Her 2-year-old was playing “Mommy,” earnestly putting her baby to bed. As I eavsedropped, I heard her say the same phrases her Mommy says, use the same tone of voice, give the same care to the arrangement of the blankets, and devote the same loving attention to the bedtime procedures. I thought, “She sounds just like her mother.” In fact, my granddaughter was practicing in order to grow to be just like her Mommy.

Children learn through imitation; it’s a principle we learn in education. It’s also a principle taught in the Bible.

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children (NASB).

Here we are told to imitate God, but the reason for it is found in the previous verses.

Ephesians 4:23-24 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

In other words, in order to change to be like God, we should imitate him like a child would imitate his father. Imitating him helps us actually take on his attitudes and godly character. I would love to hear someone say of me, “She sounds just like her heavenly father.” But there is another reason for us to imitate God.

When I heard my granddaughter, my first thought was, “Look what that shows me about her Mommy.” Her imitations gave me a glimpse of the kind of mother my daughter was. That works the same way with those who observe us. By our imitations, the observer gets a glimpse of what God is like. That picture is one way to put God in realistic terms that are understandable to someone else.

So there is a double challenge here for me: imitate God in order to grow to be like him and in such a way that others will come to know him. That may challenge you as well.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pizazz I Can Take Home

Mary is back from Africa now. The highlight stories have been recounted, the bags are unpacked and put in storage, the reports have been made, and the photos will soon be filed. The trip was exciting and rewarding and worthwhile. But now the pizazz is neutralized by the return to regular life. Does that mean that the normal work days that lie ahead for us now will be mundane and of no account?

Nope! Here’s why. We continue to reach out to encourage marketplace Christians, to apply biblical principles to work day issues, to help Christians live out their faith on the job. And in return, we hear comments like this one that just arrived in my inbox:
      This web site has been a great inspiration to my life as a "Christian Working Woman". It has been a blessing to my life.

Or like this one Mary received recently:
      Mary, thank you so much for your inspiring messages. Your messages touch me to the bones. I have always desired to make a difference in people’s lives in my daily work and walk with God. You should know you have contributed a great deal in this.

Or like this comment after a seminar:
      I am inspired to go back to work to put in practice what I learned.

As long as lives are changed and there is evidence of God’s work through our efforts, can our work ever be called mundane? No. I would say that is real pizazz to take home at the end of the workday.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Baggage Allowance = 2 (50-lb) Bags Per Person

In recent years, I have traveled with Mary to Africa many times. Among other things, my task was to pack for the trip. That also meant re-packing for the trip home. At the start of the packing process, my mind’s eye viewed the task something like the photo above. The challenge would be to organize it all and squeeze it down into 4 tidy 50-pound bags.

Of course, I didn’t actually have all those suitcases to contend with, but I did have a hodge-podge of materials to maneuver into the stipulated size, shape and weight for international flight baggage allowance. Today, Mary and Traci are tackling that process as they prepare to return to the USA tomorrow.

Let’s just imagine for a minute what their suitcases might contain on the return trip:
  • There will be the memories of many faces and smiles and arm clasp/shoulder pats (African equivalent to American hugs). They were part of the joyful welcome from the women anticipating blessings at each location.
  • There will be the compassionate prayers of African sisters supporting their American sisters on their long journey home.
  • We need to include some stories of interesting foods, puzzling customs and shopping ventures.
  • Photos of new friends and recently discovered ministry partners will be tucked in between layers of encouragement in finding dedicated people serving God in difficult situations.
  • I also see a heap of fulfillment in being able to teach and minister to women with responsive hearts, where God was invited in to work.
  • But there is a collection of regret too, that the problems were too great to resolve in such a short time, that the money just couldn’t spread further, and that there were some who went away to return to heart-breaking situations we didn’t even learn about until later.
When Mary and Traci arrive at the airport to check in their bags, the airline workers will have no idea what treasures their scanners are examining. They will pass through customs without notice too. But God will know what’s in them. May He use them for His glory and purpose.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Here and Half Way Around the World

Today, Mary and Traci went to a church in a remote part of Kenya to conduct a conference for the Tabitha Ministry. Tabitha is a Bible study ministry that also reaches out to help meet the physical needs of those involved, when the individual shows an exceptional indication of responsibility and integrity. Today’s sessions were for tribal women who are leading Bible studies in small primitive villages.

The women can participate in a rigorous scripture memory program that, when completed, earns them a Bible in their own language. In the picture, the women are happily holding up the rewards of their dedication to learning the assigned verses. However, they not only learn to recite the verses, but they have learned to assimilate the truth of the verses into their lives. Their faith is based on those verses.

Mary came back hoarse because there was not an adequate audio system, so she had to speak loudly throughout each message. She was tired at the end of the day, but she said:
“Had a wonderful day with 300 Bible study leaders of Tabitha. It was so encouraging to hear them report that they remembered my messages from last year. Music to a teacher's ears! Thanks to those who are supporting our ministry here.”

And thanks be to God whose word says: faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word (Romans 10:17)...both here and half way around the world.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Showers of Blessing

For the remainder of the week, Mary and Traci will be in remote locations in Kenya, visiting the Tabitha Bible study ministry, and speaking to leaders and hospital workers in the area.

Yesterday the scene was the home of one of the Bible study organizers. In the photo, the lady of the house welcomed everyone to her home, all decked out for the festive occasion. But at the set starting time, hardly anyone was there. Little by little women arrived from across the valley and kept coming, and kept coming...and kept coming. After an hour or so the room was filled to capacity, women shoulder to shoulder, front touching back, squeezed in for food and to hear Mary speak. Her message encouraged them, but they were in store for another blessing. It rained! It poured. It came down in buckets for about an hour! Hallelujah!

After yesterday's blog, you can understand the importance of that downpour. It didn't mean the drought was over, but it did refresh all who came. They left with smiling faces and hearts brimming. It was a good afternoon together. They will meet up again tomorrow for a big one-day conference with over 300 of their friends. Maybe it will rain again tomorrow too! I hope so.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Power Outage Means Trouble Ahead

The concert of prayer shown in the photo was the way Mary closed the conference in Nairobi. It was timely to devote the session to prayer, in view of the hardships these women are facing. Although our recent blogs have presented reasons for praise as Mary ministers in Africa, today we got news that sobered us. Mary sent us a message that in Kenya, notice has just gone out that there will be planned power outages beginning Wednesday, due to low water levels.

That is more than just an inconvenience. The lack of rain from a prolonged drought has been causing food shortages, leading to severe malnutrition in certain sectors, and even death. And food prices are climbing fast, with a 60-80% increase in the last 2 years. The low water levels, in turn, impact hydroelectric productivity. The lack of electrical power leads to all sorts of business struggles, and households face yet another challenge. All of these factors lead to critical health issues, and the downward spiral continues. The dominoes are falling one by one, as failure in one domain brings about crisis in another.

That one short paragraph over-simplifies the situation, of course. But it does make us think about the troubled lives of the people Mary ministers to there. It also reminds us that she needs protection, discernment and strength as she continues her journey, now made more complicated by the lack of electrical power. The power outages impact the airport as well, so please pray that Mary's flight on August 2 will be able to depart as scheduled.

As I said at the beginning, Mary ended her Nairobi conference with a concert of prayer. That helped the women tap into the one true source of power to meet life's challenges. The electrical power outages may bring trouble, but they can also be a reminder to turn to God himself for power in daily living. Let us join them and pray for God's help for the nation, as well as for Mary's outreach there.

You've Earned a Certificate

Mary closed the conference in Nairobi Friday. They commemorated the day by awarding a certificate to each one who had 100% attendance. However, the "award" that Mary earned is receiving notes like this: I just really don't know how to express to you my gratitude. I am so sure you came to speak to me. I have been going through so much and one thing I can surely testify is that God's timing is always the best. I have learned so much and I am really ready and willing to allow the Holy Spirit to transform me into being the woman that God created me to be. The topic on the book of Ruth left quite a great impact on me. God bless you.

Well, God has blessed Mary. It's a privilege for her to be able to make the long trip, teach dedicated African women in ministry, be God's mouthpiece with transforming power, and have the backing of sincere women back home who pray and donate funds to make it all possible. See Africa 2011 for the back story.

She will take a couple days to rest and re-group, and then be off to another location for other speaking opportunities. You can follow along using her itinerary.

If you are praying as she travels and attending the conferences in spirit, then you have become an honorary attendee. You can claim the certificate above. Congratulations!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Nairobi News

The conference Women of Excellence that Mary is leading in Nairobi is an effective leadership training seminar for women in ministry. Yesterday Mary taught "When You've Been Wronged" about how to deal biblically with the pain of the past. Some of these women have suffered great injustice and abuse and have dealt with issues that do not have obvious solutions, so this was a significant message.

Mary ended the session with a challenge for those who wanted to show one step in the process as they faced these matters personally. As at a funeral, (see above photo) they could come forward to bring a flower to place on a symbolic "coffin" to express their commitment to "bury the wrongs done to them in the past." Mary writes: It seemed to be very meaningful to them, and we praise God for some breakthroughs that many women had.

These days have been fruitful, and Mary has been able to see some of what God has accomplished. Your prayers have contributed to that. She has also been pleased to make contacts throughout the city that will be helpful for future ministry there, for example finding a trustworthy driver, connecting to a Bible-centered church, and working with a well-equipped printer. These are just a few of the details that are important to her safety and effectiveness, so we are grateful for God's provision. Join us in praying for these and the other elements essential to support her as she and Traci continue their journey throughout Kenya. But especially, please pray for the spiritual impact of their efforts. Maybe you could even ask a friend to join you in praying and in following along on the journey spiritually. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sharing the Joy from Uganda

Mary has now moved on to ministry in Kenya. Her first stop is Nairobi, where she is already leading another 4-day conference that began yesterday. She and Traci are enjoying the fellowship of the team there, pictured above.

But we are still hearing from women in Uganda who were touched by the messages Mary and Traci presented there. Here is a word from them:

  • I have learned a lot from your presentations, especially from the Book of Ruth, the definition of Ezer and to know I am an ezer-warrior. I saw clearly our position in our homes, church and communities. I now feel confident and bold for I am an ezer-warrior. God bless you.

  • Thank you so much for taking time to prepare and for choosing good messages that touch our hearts. Since the time you began to come here, you have encouraged me, equipped me and I will use these messages to teach women in Southwestern region of this country in our January conference.

  • The Word of God is powerful, and it is a joy to see it transforming the lives of those who hear it. I'll post news tomorrow from Mary in Nairobi.

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    What We Heard About Uganda

    Before Mary left Uganda, she sent us this word about the conference there:

    After my presentation on Ruth, an Ezer Warrior, there were several women who expressed how it had given them an entirely new understanding of the story of Ruth and Naomi. One older woman made the comment that it was a good lesson to all the mothers-in-law. Many times there are serious conflicts between mothers-and daughters-in-law because the mothers-in-law are very critical and demanding. She challenged the mothers-in-law to be like Naomi!

    It is rewarding for Mary to be used by God to teach the Word to women who are eager to learn and diligent to apply the truth to their lives. As you can tell, they will take these lessons home and will be "Timothys", ...reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2.) So Mary's contribution begins a ripple that spreads out far across the country.

    Next destination: Kenya. Pray with us that God will accomplish His purpose in the conference in Nairobi this week. Itinerary for Prayer

    Friday, July 15, 2011

    What Is Happening In Uganda Today?

    Mary is in Uganda, ending the conference today that I told you about yesterday. Her travel associate is Traci Mason. Her presentation yesterday, Overcoming Obstacles and Moving Forward, challenged the women to identify their obstacles and not allow them to keep them from doing what God wants them to do. After the message, a young woman stood to give a testimony:

    Yesterday I received a request to do a job for someone, but I felt that it was just too much for me. But my husband encouraged me to do it. Then, this morning, when I thought about it again, I was afraid I really couldn't do it. So I decided I would call them today and tell them I couldn't. But after hearing Traci this morning, I knew God was speaking to me. I realized I needed to overcome this obstacle of fear, and now I'm not going to make that call. I'm going to do what they asked me to do, with God's help.

    What a joy to receive that kind of immediate response to a message! I know God is at work through Mary and Traci, so let's praise Him together for what He is doing.

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Where is Mary?

    Mary is ministering in Uganda this week. Right now she is teaching a 4-day conference for women called Women of Excellence. The Christian Working Woman provides this ministry through the donations of people like you, our supporters. I thought you might appreciate reading this note one of the women attending handed to Mary yesterday:

    God used you three years ago to heal my bitterness about being single. I got married last year, thank God, but I had found peace in remaining single, if that was God's will for me. Thanks for reminding me that being married to the wrong man is worse than being single. You are a perfect picture of God's restoration.

    It's encouraging to see this example of what God is doing through your gifts. I hope it lifts your spirit today. Check in another day for an update on Africa 2011.

    Next week Mary will be doing the same thing in Kenya, so please follow her with your prayer support.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Positive or Negative?

    A study shows if we have a positive experience, we tell three people. But if we have a negative experience, we tell eleven people! Whoa! When I read that I caught my breath. Do I really do that? I suppose the negatives test our character, so they may become exaggerated in our minds; we think about them, talk about them more, and become more disturbed by them. And it looks like we make a lot of other people share in our trouble too.

    But that isn’t how I want to be. You neither, I would suppose. So how do we become more positive?

    It's good to look at what Paul wrote: "Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything..." (Ephesians 5:19-20). Paul didn't write that we are to feel thankful, but we can still choose to be thankful by reciting words of thanks and by thinking about our Father, the God over all.

    If you are having some difficulty with your work attitude now, are you willing to put this passage to the test? First, start singing in your heart to the Lord. Then thank God for whatever it is that you don't like in your life right now. Then tell 3 people about something positive in your life. And by a set of your will, choose to be thankful. Now that’s a challenge for all of us.

    For me, this is the perfect week to begin to apply this test. I’ll let you know later how I’m doing. Who else is willing to rise to this challenge?

    Monday, May 16, 2011

    The Freedom of FORGIVENESS

    “If you don’t come to tea with Amy on Friday, I’ll never forgive you!” Even at ten, I thought this outburst from my friend’s aunt was rather extreme. Never to be forgiven if I refused an invitation to tea? Apparently not, as Aunt Millie had decided that forgiving such an offense was not an option.

    I’m guessing that most of us probably don’t find it too difficult to forgive minor upsets but we draw the line at forgiving people who’ve really hurt us. Perhaps we try to rationalize this by saying, “But he/she doesn’t deserve to be forgiven.” Well, you’re probably right. But if people are forgiven only if they deserve it, none of us would qualify!

    As I grapple with this issue in my own life, I’m discovering that forgiveness is not what I thought it was. For example:
    • Forgiveness is not saying my hurts don’t matter. Forgiving my offender doesn’t minimize the seriousness of the offense against me.
    • Forgiveness is not letting the offender “get away with it.” If someone wrongs me, he/she is answerable to God, and He will deal with that person in the right way.
    • Forgiveness is not forgetting. Only God has the capacity to forgive and forget and Jer.31:34 tells us that His “forgetfulness” is a deliberate choice not to remember.
    • Forgiveness is not a weapon. Forgiving someone doesn’t give me the right to manipulate them at a later date by dredging up reminders of their “forgiven” offense.
    • Forgiveness is not reconciliation. I can forgive, but I might never be brought into a right relationship with the person who has wronged me because he/she might not be willing to cooperate.
    • Forgiveness is not easy. I can’t do this on my own and need God’s Spirit to see me through.
    I like to think of forgiveness as giving up my right to pay back or get even with someone who has wronged me. When I see it this way, I find a freedom that I otherwise wouldn’t have. “I forgive you” no longer implies my hurts are insignificant, nor does it indicate the one who wronged me is “off the hook.” It forces me to face up to the reality that I don’t have to live in denial by pretending the offense never happened and it removes the responsibility for reconciliation from me alone. It also draws me closer to God as I seek His help in extending forgiveness.

    Forgiveness is our call. We can choose to forgive or, like Aunt Millie, we can choose to address our offender by thinking, “I’ll never forgive you!” However, there’s a problem with the latter option. Refusing to forgive someone has serious consequences for our spiritual and emotional well-being because it keeps us in bondage to that person for the rest of our lives. Instead of experiencing the freedom that forgiveness brings, we’ll find ourselves increasingly bound by anger, bitterness and resentment.

    It’s not unusual to feel angry when someone has hurt us deeply. Neither is it always wrong to be angry. But, if we allow that anger to continue unresolved, we make it easy for bitterness to take root deep in our souls. This “root” of bitterness can then show itself in the “weed” of resentment where we find ourselves keeping a record of wrongs that only intensifies our hurt as we keep rehearsing our offense. Perhaps it’s time to apply the “weed-killer” of forgiveness! But how do we do this? The letters of the word FORGIVE give us some pointers.

    Face the fact that withholding forgiveness feeds anger, bitterness, and resentment.
    Openly admit these feelings to God.
    Remind yourself that God, in Christ, has forgiven you.
    Give up your right to pay back your offender.
    Invite the Holy Spirit’s help as you begin the process of forgiveness.
    View your offender as one whom God will deal with justly.
    Embrace the freedom that forgiving your offender brings.

    When I treat weeds in my yard, one application of weed-killer is not usually sufficient and I need to repeat the process, sometimes several times. The same is true in extending forgiveness. Those bitter roots will put up a fight, but don’t give up. Aunt Millie may not have discovered the freedom of forgiveness, but we can – by choosing to forgive. Let’s go for it!

    by Florence MacKenzie
    This article was originally published in Just Between Us, Summer 2011

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    How TCWW and YOU have helped in Haiti

    Last year after the terrible earthquake in Haiti, we asked you to help a woman named Bernadette who lost everything. Our missionary friends, David and Patricia Carwell, put us in touch with her and through them we sent your donations to help rebuild her home. Here is what Patricia recently wrote to me:

    So much GOOD has happened for Bernadette and her daughters, Sandra and Bernadine, since the earthquake; the Lord has showered them with one blessing after another. The contributions from your listeners was essential in helping toward rebuilding their home.

    The house is still not completed because we have run out of funds. BUT, it is livable. The girls are in school thanks to a donor who pays their monthly tuition. Bernadette has a job working part=time, and is trying to manage on her own. A million thank yous from Bernadette, the girls and the Carwells from Haiti.

    Click here to view pictures of Bernadette's house being rebuilt, and the men who worked hard to finish it. Also, David Carwell is pictured with Bernadette and her daughter, and the happy day he handed Bernadette the key to her new home.

    Thanks to all of you who helped.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    That's Just the way I Am

    All of us have personality weaknesses. For example, I am not a naturally patient person, so I could just give myself a pass and say, "That’s just the way I am."

    But the Bible teaches me that a fruit of the Spirit is patience, so I can't use my personality weakness as a defense. Rather, I have to work harder at learning to be patient and make it a matter of earnest, daily prayer.

    Often people use—"That's just the way I am"—as an excuse for not facing their faults. But until we're willing to look in God's mirror, his Word, and recognize the areas that need improvement, we will keep missing out on God's best for our lives.

    What areas in your life have you been excusing or ignoring with this common copout? Is it your sharp tongue? Or your lazy streak? Or your tendency to be late? Whether it's something minor or major, as long as you justify yourself with "That's the way I am, " you'll never have victory in that area of your life.

    I encourage you to get rid of the ploy "That's the way I am," and ask God to continue to transform you into the image of Jesus Christ with ever-increasing glory.

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Nobody’s Perfect. Right?

    Often we say, " Nobody’s perfect. " That's true, but don't you think we sometimes use that as a copout to be less than we could be?

    The Bible tells us, "Be holy because I am holy" (Leviticus 19:1-2). If we use the copout "Nobody's perfect" to excuse our less than perfect behavior, our less than acceptable attitudes, our failures and mistakes, we don't take seriously God's call for holy living. But He commands it.

    Holy living is a growing process for us. Just as we expect a ten year old to behave better than a two year old, so God expects more of a mature Christian than a new one. But even so, the standard that we are held to is holiness, meaning free of impurity and imperfections.

    But the good news is that the One who requires a holy life is the same One who has promised to complete the work he began in us (Philippians 1:6). With the power of God's Spirit dwelling in us, we can come a lot closer to perfection than we ever would think.

    I want to encourage all of us to get rid of this copout—"Nobody's perfect"—and adapt a different attitude, namely: "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13). If we stop telling ourselves that we're not perfect, and instead encourage ourselves to be holy, we'll see some remarkable improvements. Let’s go for it!

    Thursday, March 31, 2011

    Have You Been Framed?

    What have you been complaining about lately?

    I used to complain about having so much to do that I could never get it all done. My first thoughts when I woke up would be about all I had to do that day, and worrying how I would get it done. My conversations frequently revolved around my busy schedule.

    God’s Holy Spirit began to convict me of how wrong I was to complain about anything, but particularly about being busy. So, I began putting it in a different frame. I began to say to myself, “Mary, how blessed you are that you have more to do than you will get done. How extraordinary that God has entrusted you with lots of good things to do. Imagine how bored you would be if you didn’t have much to do!” Do you get the idea? As a result, I truly began to see my daily schedule in a different frame, and it changed my attitude, reduced my stress, made me more joyful—it worked.

    I still have to work at it, but when I re-frame, it helps a lot. Whatever you’ve been complaining about lately, try putting it in a different frame. God will help you; you can do it. Then, please let me know how it works out for you.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    Truth or Consequences

    I’ve been thinking more about truth. There is another key about truth we should think about: Truth Heals.

    If you go to a doctor because you've been having bad headaches, you don't want to be told that you have a simple headache when in reality you have a brain tumor. Your only hope for healing is to know the truth and have an operation to remove the tumor.

    I think of a woman who has difficulty in almost every relationship in her life. She continually refuses to face the truth about herself, and she shifts the blame to others. As a result, she never heals. She is in constant inner pain because she runs away from the truth.

    Once we face the truth, we're in a position for healing. It's like lancing a boil so that the poison can escape. The cut is painful, but once you do it, then healing begins. As long as we refuse to accept the truth, we can only get worse. The truth about truth is that it heals, it sets you free!

    If so, we've got to find the truth. Where do we look? Jesus said He is the Truth. So we should look for truth in Jesus. We can read the gospels, study what He said. Jesus prayed for His disciples: "Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth" (John 17:17). Truth is found in the Word of God. Anything that does not line up with God's Word must be discounted. If we don’t know God’s Word, we are susceptible to believe any error that sounds good.

    The truth about truth is that even though it hurts, truth heals and it sets us free. I want to set my life to pursue the truth and settle for nothing less. How about you?

    Friday, March 18, 2011

    The Trouble With Truth

     Jesus said: "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32). Truth sets you free from error, free from bad choices, free from sin and its consequences. The converse is also true: error binds us. Any untrue belief we have puts us into bondage. If that is true, you’d think everyone would want to know the truth, wouldn’t you? But people have often suppressed the truth, exchanged it for lies, rejected it, denied it. In fact, today many believe that truth is relative and everyone's opinion is right. Well, you are entitled to your own opinion, but you're not entitled to your own truth!

    Since truth sets us free, why do so many of us either run from it, ignore it, or reject it? Here's the key truth about truth: Truth Hurts.

    I got a phone call once where someone told me some truth about myself that was painful. My reflex was to drown it in busyness. I told myself it wasn't that important. The truth hurt, and my natural reaction was to run away from the pain.

    Finally I said, "Mary, this is the truth about you and you better face it and do something about it." If you refuse to take the pain of truth, then it can never set you free.

    Can you think of where the truth about yourself is painful and therefore you've been denying it, or ignoring it or shifting the blame? We all need to face the truth even though it hurts. It won't hurt as much as you think it will, and once you face it you can do something about it.

    Truth hurts, but if we let it, it will also set us free.

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Do You Need Courage Today?

    “You are my divine treasury, in whom all fullness dwells…” This is a line from The Valley of Vision, a prayer book from my shelf. I got snagged up on the thought of God being a treasury. The rest of the line is, “…my life, hope, joy, peace, glory, end.

    What is a treasury? It’s a secure place, where valuable items are stored and preserved. To me, that means that if God is a treasury, then He is where my life, hope, joy, peace, glory and end are being kept safe. What an interesting image! But is it biblical truth?

    Hebrews 13:5-6 —God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

    Deuteronomy 33:12— Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.

    That sounds pretty convincing, doesn’t it? I love the idea of resting between the shoulders of God. Curled up there, I know my life, hope, joy, peace, glory and end rest secure. What comfort! With that in mind today, I should be able to face anything. I hope it puts courage in your heart too.

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Can We Redeem Our Bad Decisions?

    I’ve made many wrong decisions. The worst decisions were the ones I knew were wrong when I made them. But there have been others that were not so intentional, just misguided. My guess is you can see the same trends in your life. But how does God see us?

    God remembers our frame and knows that we are dust, so it doesn’t surprise him to see how often we make wrong decisions. What must, however, break his heart is to see how we wallow in those wrong decisions and allow them to keep us living in guilt and despair instead of taking our medicine and going forward.

    God can give us the grace to live with whatever bad or wrong decision we have made, even the ones that last for a lifetime, if we will allow him to do that. And you might be amazed at how you can find joy and peace and fulfillment and be used of God even though you’ve made some wrong choices. That’s the kind of God we serve.

    Are you willing to let him take your wrong decision and make something good out of it? Are you willing to stop using your bad choices as excuses for not going forward with God and being a blessing to others? If so, you can make a fresh start today.

    This topic is the theme of our Weekend Getaway April 8-10. Judging by the pace of registrations, this topic hits home with a lot of us. Here’s where to go if you would like more information about it. I hope to see you there. http://www.christianworkingwoman.org/23rd_annual_weekend_getaway

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Is Courtesy Out of Style?

    I’ve noticed that few people in our culture take time to be polite. People sound off if you simply cross them on the street, many send email messages that are unkind and caustic, people show so much rudeness in our work places. How do you cope with impoliteness?

    The topic for one of last month's radio messages was Annoying Habits of Coworkers. As I prepared for the week, I was thinking about this problem. The level of civility and everyday courtesy has taken some dramatic moves downward in the last few years. We are surrounded by it, so let’s consider our actions.

    As believers we need to make certain we follow simple courtesies ourselves: saying please and thank you, opening doors for others, letting others go first in the parking lot, smiling and greeting people. Perhaps if we role model it more consistently, others will catch on.

    Then think of how you could bring this topic up in a meeting where you work or where you go to church or where you volunteer. I’m sure others are aware of it as well, and a return to simple courtesies can help to reduce the stress levels in the group. My guess is you’ll find many in agreement with you.

    Please let me know what works for you.

    Friday, January 7, 2011

    Quiet Time in a Noisy Life?

    “I know that I need to read my Bible and pray each day, but as a single working mom (or business executive with long hours, or teacher with papers to grade, or ??) there is no time. I feel guilty about it, but I just can’t put another thing in my schedule.” Have you ever thought like that about having a quiet time reserved for your relationship with God?

    There are a lot of reasons our lives are crowded, but we need time with the Lord in order to have the strength and joy we need. How can we fit quiet time realistically into a noisy life?

    I’ve used what I call “no-brainer time” for prayer. For example, when I’m driving, I pray out loud. When I’m dressing in the morning, taking a shower, blow drying my hair—I use that time to talk to the Lord.

    There are lots of ways to listen to the Bible while driving or exercising or cooking or cleaning. So, I use these no-brainer times to have time with Jesus. I’ve discovered I can make it work if I really want to.

    The busier Jesus was, the more he took time to be with his Father. It is in our most pressurized circumstances that we most need the peace and guidance that comes from time with the Lord.

    When I try to save time in my schedule by foregoing my time with God, I find that all kinds of things go wrong, and I am far more stressed and less productive than usual.

    Most of us manage to do what we truly want to do. The beginning of a new year gives us a good opportunity to put new practices in place. Seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness must be our highest priority, regardless of our busy schedules—no, because we have busy schedules.

    Do you have suggestions to offer someone struggling with having a Quiet Time?