Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses...

Many of us have life-changing dreams and ideas living in our hearts. We have plans. We have goals. There are books inside of us. There are business ideas seeping out of our pores. We have detailed, play-by-play road maps of how to make our visions reality, but why aren't they reality? Why are those dreams, ideas, plans, goals and visions still lying dormant inside of us, rather than living and breathing in full operation outside of our personal thinking spaces?

I submit to you that our EXCUSES are keeping us from (are delaying us in) making our dreams reality.


Understand This
We are all created by God ON purpose FOR a purpose; we all have specific assignments in the earth. And each of us has a particular set of skills and different gifts to fulfill our purposeful assignments. For example, I've been gifted with the ability to speak (publicly), teach and write. There was no question, even in childhood, that I would be an educator of some sort, and eventually, an author. God placed my specific gifts inside of me when He created me in my mother's womb, and throughout my life, my gifts were sharpened so they could one day be used at maximum potential in the assignments that He would eventually call me to.

And the same is true for you. God placed some specific gifs inside of you when He knit you together in your mother's womb. There are some things that flow naturally from you that don't take any real effort for you to do well. No one had to teach you how to sing. You just opened your mouth and the ability was there. Sure, over time, you've grown in that gift, and you've sharpened your singing skills, but the ability was there all the time, ready to be used. Your gift of singing was given to you to be used in the assignment(s) that He calls you to.

No one taught you how to create and design. You've always been good with your hands. You've always been able to take random objects and make art. You've always been able to envision a picture in your mind and bring it to life. And sure, over time, that skill has been sharpened with schooling and practice, and you've grown in your ability to make masterpieces with your hands, but even without the sharpening, you were already masterful. It was always in you, and those gifts were given to you to be used in the assignment(s) that He calls you to.

Whatever our individual giftings, they're all designed to be used to help others in some way. And because God created us with these gifts with the intention of using them to help others, He sometimes gives us DIRECT ORDERS to do so.

Your Assignment
That dream you have to start a shelter for battered women and children... Yeah...that's God telling you to get to work because there are people who need what you have to offer. There are women and children who need you to put your gifts of compassion, nursing, and administrative expertise to work so they can be taken care of. They're crying out to God for a place to go. They're praying and pleading with the Lord for someone to care enough about what they're going through to provide them some relief.

And He hears them.

So He tells you what He wants you to do to help them.


You give Him excuses.

And that book that you keep waking up in the middle of the night outlining with details on all you've learned from being a teenage mother: finances, self-respect, honoring one's body, following God's plan vs. your own, forgiveness... Yeah...that's God telling you that someone needs to hear your story. He wants you to use your gift of writing and use your newfound gift of financial planning to help others who are walking the same path you once walked. He wants you to share your experiences to save all the young women who are about to do the SAME THINGS you did. He sees them. He wants to save them because He hears their prayers. They're asking Him how to get out of the relationships they're in. They want to get out, and they know they should, but they just don't know how. And He can help them, but He knows what He put inside of YOU to help them, so when He hears their prayers...

He tells you EXACTLY what to do to help them.

He gives you specific instructions on how to get it done.


You give Him excuses.

God Got Angry at One Man's Excuses

430 YEARS!

That's how long the Israelites were enslaved under Egyptian rule, and Pharaoh (the Egyptian king) made sure their labor was tough. Generation after generation of Israelites cried out to the Lord, asking Him to free them of their slave labor. They prayed and prayed, and the Bible speaks of many times that the Lord heard their prayers and He, himself, provided for them so they could have some relief in their captivity. that 430th year, when the Lord decided that it was time for the Egyptian rule over the Israelites to end, He didn't work alone in getting it done. God gave a very specific ASSIGNMENT to Moses to do the work of having the Israelites freed from Egyptian rule.

The Lord said, "I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians..." (Exodus 3:7-8)

Then He said, "Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt." (Exodus 3:11)

As soon as God said He was sending Moses to Pharaoh, Moses was like, "What?!? ME?!?! Who am I that you would send me?" And then came THE BARRAGE OF EXCUSES.

Moses went back and forth with God, pointing out reason after reason why He shouldn't be the one sent to Pharaoh. Moses' first question was (1) Lord, why me? The Lord told him not to worry because He would be with him when he went to Pharaoh. Then, because he still felt so unqualified to be called to such a great ASSIGNMENT, Moses said, (2) When they ask who sent me, who should I tell them? The Lord told him, "I AM WHO I AM, so tell them that I AM sent you."

Poor Moses was still terrified at the magnitude of the assignment so he kept on with his questions. He said, (3) Okay, Lord, what if they don't believe that you sent me? What if they don't listen to me? The Lord answered Moses by giving Him the power to perform 3 miracles before the people if they didn't believe him. The Lord knew that seeing those miracles would cause the people to believe that he was sent by God. And THAT, you'd think, would have been enough for him to believe God and trust that He would have him covered. But nooooo...Moses had yet ANOTHER concern. He was done getting answers to his questions from the Lord, so he began with his excuses.

He said (4) But Lord, you know I don't speak well. You know I'm not eloquent. The Lord then answered with a question.  He said, Who has made man's mouth? Have not I, the Lord? God let him know that He could cause him to speak perfectly if He wanted to, whenever He wanted to.

Moses opened his mouth one more time, but God had had it with his questions and his excuses. Moses said (5) Lord, please send somebody else. The Bible says...and I quote..."So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses..."

And wouldn't your anger be kindled too if you told your child to do something that you KNOW s/he's capable of doing and s/he came back to you FIVE TIMES telling you why s/he couldn't do what you already knew could be done the moment you said do it?

Wouldn't your anger be kindled if your gifted child, who's full of wonder and greatness, found every way out of doing the very thing that you know will bring him/her the joy and the fulfillment that s/he seeks?

That's how God feels with our excuses. He feels like that parent. God knows what He's placed on the inside of us. He knows what He created us to do. The assignments He gives us line up with who we are and with what He's created us to do. He wouldn't give us the assignments if He didn't KNOW we could get them done. And when He calls us and gives us the assignments, HE WANTS THEM DONE!

What Are Your Excuses?

Lord, you have me outlining this book, but you know I don't write well. You know there are people our there writing books who write waaaaay better than me. Nobody will even read what I write.

Lord, where will I even get the money to create this thing I keep seeing in my head? I have all these student loans and I have a 6-year plan to pay them off. I won't be able to do anything until then.

  • Lord, what if I can't get this grant?
  • What if I can't get that approval that I need?
  • What if they say something about me being fired from my previous job?
  • What if they tell me my GPA isn't high enough?
  • Can't you find someone who knows more about this to do it instead?
  • But I really don't have time when I get home from work. I'm tired when I get home.
  • These kids...
  • My husband...
  • My wife...
  • My health...
  • I need to do this around the house...
  • I have this deadline at work...
Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!

When Moses finally laid down the excuses and trusted that God would be with him to give him what he needed every step of the way... When he finally did what God told him to do, He helped free a nation! God wanted to show Moses His power, and He wanted the Egyptians to know His power and know that He is God. Don't miss your opportunity to show forth God's greatness in what He does through you. At the end of the day, that's really all it's about--God being great in you and showing forth His glory through you. Complete the assignments that He's given you. He already knows you can. Don't incite His anger with your excuses.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Teacher Tales: I Pledge Allegiance


When I first started teaching, my prayer life was jacked up! You would think I would've prayed more because of how much I'd taken on and how much I desperately needed Him to figure my way through those first days, but the opposite was true. Instead of going to Him and laying every concern at His feet, I got completely tied up in the busyness of planning lessons, writing tests, creating seating charts and ability groups, grading papers, writing meaningful feedback, and doing assignments for the classes I was taking for my Master's program. I did everything BUT pray. Sure, I talked to God because our relationship was accustomed to constant conversation, but I wasn't TALKING to Him. I wasn't spending quality time with Him, allowing Him to talk back to me. And I was suffering. I was doing so much in my own strength that it began to show. My hair began to shed. I was already a small little something, and I just got smaller. I was ALWAYS doing something for my students, even when I was with family and friends. I'd be grading papers and entering grades into my grade book at holiday gatherings. And one day, the Lord convicted my spirit to change all of that. He knew I needed Him. He'd watched me suffer long enough. Plus, He just WANTED to be with me. He longed to hear my heart and to share His heart with me. (Isn't it sweet to know that the Lord desires to talk to you and wants to be with you?) Enough was enough. He was going to get my attention.

Every morning, at the school where I was teaching at the time (and in every school where I've taught since then), we started the day with the Pledge of Allegiance before morning announcements. This particular morning, just like every morning, I stood with my students and saluted the flag. I recited the pledge with full volume to set an example for my students. As soon as the pledge was coming to a close, "...with liberty and justice for all," I heard the Lord say quietly to my spirit, "
You salute the flag and recite the pledge at the same time every day, but you haven't said one word to me today. You honor the country, but you forget about me."

Talk about conviction! Talk about shame! Oh, how my heart hurt to know that the Lord had to even say that to me! I was embarrassed! I thought
, "How could I let the busyness of my profession steal the intimacy of my relationship with the Lord?" It was a hurtful, heartbreaking eye opener, and it changed the way I see my relationship with Him.

EVERY school year, I have to revisit that conviction. Every. Single. Year. I take great pride in getting my students what they need, and that passion gets me SO wrapped up in the "doing" of it all. Every year, I hit a point where I get too involved and begin to pull away. Every year, I find myself fighting with grading papers and planning lessons and doing all that teachers do, and MAKING quality time to be with Lord. But every time I stand to say that pledge, I'm reminded that I can do none of what I do for my students if I'm not filling up on Him. There have been times every school year when I've gone a week or two without consistently, SERIOUSLY meeting with the Lord to have that intimate time with Him, but thankfully, that pledge won't let me go for long. In fact, it reminded me today.

I rushed out of my house this morning because I stayed up late working on details for summer dance camp. That caused me to sleep a little later than usual, which made this morning's "work session" go a little later than it normally does. I did some talking to the Lord while writing a chapter in my book, but that wasn't intimacy. When I stood for the pledge at school this morning, I heard His voice reminding me, once again, to put first things first. He pulled my heartstrings and told me that He wants to sit with me. He wants me to talk to Him, and He wants to talk to me. He reminded me that I pledged my allegiance to Him with my heart when I gave Him my life and that my daily pledge to the flag should be secondary to my daily "pledge" to Him.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

My Mother's Love Still Teaches Me

I remember being so sick once as a teenager that all I could do was sleep. And for about 3 days, that's all I WANTED to do. I could barely lift my head from the pillow when I was awake and it hurt to even try. I didn't want to drink. It took too much effort. I definitely didn't want to eat. I didn't even have enough energy to chew. My mom knew, however, that me not eating or drinking would only hurt me; it wasn't going to help me fight whatever bacteria had invaded my body. She knew if I was going to regain strength and eventually get back to my normal self, I would HAVE TO eat and drink. She would make her way to my bedroom several times those 3 days and make me sit up to drink apple juice. I would be a groggy, pained mess, but she would still place one of her hands firmly on my back to steady me, and use the other hand to carefully and very surely tilt that cup just right so I would get a few sips in my system. And like clockwork, she would enter my bedroom with a bowl of chicken noodle soup and, again, sit me up and steady me, no matter how much I cried and moaned and murmured that I just didn't want to eat. She didn't care. She knew I HAD TO eat. She would patiently, spoon after spoon, shovel that soup into my mouth until she felt I'd had enough to sustain me until the next feeding. I didn't know it, and I didn't realize, but with every feeding, I was regaining strength.

I remember the first day of my illness having to have my mom hold me up every time she fed me, but that next day, by the second feeding, I was able to raise my own flesh from the bed. I was still very weak, but I was stronger than before. I would've only grown worse and maybe even have died had my mom not exercised her wisdom to MAKE ME eat even when I didn't want to. She refused to let me lie there and waste away.

What a sweet reminder the Lord gave me this morning of my mother's loving care for me. I'd completely forgotten about that time, but He didn't. He had me to recall how she consistently fed me, day after day, because she knew I needed it. He wanted me to remember that specific instance so I could see what I need to be doing now: consistently feeding myself, day after day, even when I don't feel like eating; it's vital for my strength.

I struggled with talking to the Lord and studying His word this morning. I struggled yesterday. I've learned over time, though, that in our relationship, some days will just be like that. On those days, I don't have a lot to say. I don't know what to say. I feel like He's quiet. I feel like I'm not getting any answers. And because the push is so hard, I really don't want to go to Him  to "eat". I would much rather just get on with my day. But EVERY time, I'm reminded that if I don't feed myself...if I don't open my mouth to talk to Him or open His word to receive some nourishment, even if it's a little,  I'll be weak. Even if I don't want to "eat", it doesn't mean that I don't need to.

I've learned over the years in my relationship with the Lord, just like in my relationships with others, there will be times and days when He's more quiet than others. There will be days when I'll read His word and I won't get any huge revelation. There will be days when I pray and He won't say anything right then. That doesn't mean that I shouldn't go and "eat" though. Just as it happened with my physical strength after eating food consistently and how it eventually caught up with me, the same will be true for my spiritual food. On that first day, I ate the morning meal with my mom, and at lunch I was still weak. I ate the afternoon meal, and at dinner I was still weak. The next morning at breakfast, I was still weak, but by lunch that second day, I'd gotten some strength. I'd gotten enough strength that I was able to lift myself up. I still needed some help, but I was slowly getting back to myself. By dinner I was able to eat more than I had in two days! My capacity to receive was greater. I was stronger! And it was all because my mom didn't stop feeding me. I didn't feel the effects of the food immediately, but it was working all the time.

Just because it seems quiet sometimes when you're reading and studying and praying, it doesn't mean that you're not getting nourishment. No food can enter your body and it not do what it was consumed to do. By the simple laws of nature, food will do in you what it's supposed to do. The Word of God, your spiritual nourishment, is no different, so "eat" even when you don't feel like it. "Eat" even when you're tired. "Eat" even when He seems quiet. The things you're putting in will eventually "wake up" to give you the strength and power you need to live.

"Eat" Light

I've learned to "eat" light on days when praying and studying is just plain hard. The truth is, there are some days when we just don't have much of an appetite. On those days when I feel too weak to eat a big meal, I go to Proverbs to get light bites. There's SO MUCH practical wisdom there! I tuck my light bites away so they can be used to sustain me. I may not be eating much, but I know I won't die, and I know those light bites are building blocks for my strength.

Change Up Your Diet

I'm grateful that God has used people to write books that encourage us to live for Him and walk in His ways. Some days, when I don't have the appetite to "eat" directly from His Word, I pick up on a book I'm reading and allow the Holy Spirit to use it to speak to me. He has already spoken through the author, so when I choose to read a book, I pray that the author's work will encourage and speak to me. Right now, I'm reading Sincerely Jesus by Edward Goble. The book is SO rich that I've started and stopped it 3 different times. Every time I stop it, I have to start it all over again. And every time I start it, it's like I'm reading it for the first time. It's THAT rich! It's taught me (and it's teaching me) so much. It causes me to go to the Word of God and dig deeper, and just as was the case this morning, I didn't hear directly from the Lord for myself, but I didn't go lacking on some nourishment. It wasn't the food that I originally planned to "eat", but I DID "eat".

Feed Others

Have you ever heard the saying that goes something like, "Taking care of others takes the care off of you?"  It's true. I sometimes feel burdened when I go to the Lord to talk to Him about my students at school and about everything I know I'm called to do there. And I sometimes feel heavy when I talk to Him about  Praise Movement School of Dance because of all He's placed in my hands to do there. Having my hands wrapped up in kingdom work in those two arenas AND in ministry at church can be plain out tough at times. It can be SO tough that I don't even know how to pray. Sometimes I don't even know where to start. In those times, I begin to pray for others. I take the focus off of me and I lift others up before Him. Before I know it, I'm not even thinking about myself or how heavy I felt. The burden is lifted when I focus on others and tune in to giving their needs to the Lord. I found, too, that as I'm "feeding" others, He's "feeding" me. Things that were on my heart that I didn't even know how to verbalize, He completely takes care of without me even having to say a word!

Even when we don't want to "eat",  we have to. When we're too tired to "eat", we have to. When we can barely feed ourselves, we still have to "eat". We may not "eat" much, and we may have to change up our diets from time to time, but every bite is working in us, building us and making us stronger, even when we can't see it.

My mom doesn't care for me when I'm sick anymore. I have to see about my own well being. I know when I'm physically hungry, I feed myself, and if I'm physically weak, I do what I need to do to sustain myself. Spiritually, I have to do the same. In those moments when I feel weak...when my prayer life is quiet and my reading and studying mundane...I STILL have to "eat"! I may not see it working, but thank God He reminded me with my mom's example that it is definitely working in me, giving me the strength I need to live.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Discipline Series: Final Words

As the Discipline Series comes to a close, I want to leave you with some practical things (from my pastor) to do to grow in discipline. My prayer is that we make changes as the Lord speaks to our hearts. My prayer is that when He speaks to, and convicts our hearts, we move! He shows us where we need to change and/or grow because He knows where He wants us to go. Will we trust Him with our lives? Will we trust that a call to discipline in EVERY area of our lives is for our good?

Consider the following things to help you live a life of discipline.
  1. Have definite goals. A "plan" without specific parameters is simply a thought, and thoughts come and go. Having a goal means you've set measurable confines that you must meet and usually by a certain time. Measure your goals and see them through.
  2. Detach from distractions. PUT THAT PHONE DOWN! (I'm definitely talking to myself. I have to leave my phone in a completely different room sometimes. I'm growing in discipline in that area.) TURN OFF THAT TV! And distance yourself from anything else that hinders you from reaching those goals.
  3. Pursue with diligence and consistence. To have diligence is to pursue with painstaking perseverance and persistence. If you really want to please God with your disciplined life, don't give up when it gets hard. Push harder!
  4. Practice self-control. I'm a witness that if you really want something and you're willing to do what you need to do to get it or achieve it, the Holy Spirit will help you. He honors a heart that truly desires to honor Him. Watch Him make CRAZY ways for you to be successful when you really mean business and you're willing to deny yourself for His sake.
  5. Tell yourself "no" by the power of the Holy Spirit. Again, I'm a witness that denying yourself doesn't have to be difficult. When you renew your mind and set within your heart that you want to walk in discipline, the Holy Spirit will help you say "no".

And when you've done all of that, reap the rewards of your discipline. You will...
  1. be more orderly and have a less stressful lifestyle. My favorite example is what I shared in this series a couple times about taking out and ironing my clothes for the week. Makes life SWEET! When I don't do it, I'm a mess!
  2. feel good about yourself. When I work out, I feel GREAT, and I'm confident. When I achieve a financial goal because I was disciplined in my spending, I feel like a champ. When I know I'm applying God's word and I begin to see Him working on my behalf because of it, I feel like daddy's little girl. 
  3. be more productive. I tell my girls (dancers) all the time that productivity breeds productivity. If your life of discipline makes you more productive, you'll fall in love with productivity and want it more and more. You'll see goals being realized and you'll never want to go back to goal-less life.
  4. have a positive impact on other people. We don't follow people who slack. Period. No one wants to be led by someone who doesn't have themselves together enough to lead effectively. Think about someone you respect now. Think about someone who's leadership you would gladly follow. Now compare them to someone you wouldn't follow. What are the differences between them that inform your decision? I'm sure whatever it is has impacted you on some level. Your disciplined life will allow you to be that for someone else.
  5. have open doors of opportunity. Just like I said in #4, people want to follow those who will positively impact them. And the same is true for employers and other leaders when they're looking for someone to serve on their "team". They want someone who's disciplined. When you're disciplined, it shows in your productivity. It shows in your appearance. It shows in your punctuality or lack thereof. It shows in EVERYTHING. The doors of opportunity will swing WIDE open for someone who proves themselves worthy of the opportunity.
  6. reach your goals. That goes without saying. If you're disciplined, it's inevitable that you will see what you're seeking, in full view
I've enjoyed sharing with you.

Until next time...

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Discipline Series: Life Without Discipline - #12 Can God Use You?

Can God use you? Sure, He can. He's God. He can use anything or anyone He pleases. And He WANTS to use you, but will He use you is the question.

In scripture, God is referred to as the potter, and His disciples (Christians) are the clay. When a potter is molding clay on the pottery wheel, the clay never loses contact with the potter's hands. It can't. If it does, the clay will be misshapen, and it won't become what the potter intended for it to be. The clay is in the potter's hands until it is shaped to his liking and becomes what the potter desires it to be. The potter knows, when he sits to the wheel, if the clay in his hands will be a cup. He knows if the clay in his hands will be a vase. He knows if it will be a bowl. So he keeps the clay in his hands and carefully shapes and molds it to its expected end.

Some clay, depending on temperature and other conditions can be a bit stubborn. It doesn't shape quite like the potter desires, but he doesn't throw it away. He clumps it back into the ball of clay that it was when He began so he can try to shape it again later. He can't use that clay for the purpose He had in mind just yet because it won't "bend" to his hands, but the potter finds that sometimes the clay is a bit more pliable after it sits for a while. It gives and bends to his hands a bit more and finally allows itself to take its intended shape.

Some clay, of course, does exactly what the potter expects it to do on the wheel. It forms as he shapes and it becomes what he intends for it to be. That clay--that bowl, that cup, that vase--is able to be used for its intended purpose sooner than the clay that wouldn't "bend".

Some of us are like the stubborn clay that can't seem to adjust to the "temperature" of life and the other conditions that surround us. They take our attention away from what the potter is doing with  us. When the potter puts us on the wheel, we don't allow His hands to shape us. We don't bend. We don't form into what He intends for us to be. We're not disciplined. We're not ready. If the cup He's trying to make, for instance, won't shape properly and ends up with a hole in its bottom and is allowed to dry and harden that way, it won't be any good for drinking. Its whole purpose for being created is ruined. But the potter refuses to waste clay. This is why He would simply ball the clay back up to its original state so he could rework with it later when He thought it was ready.

This is when He grabs the other the clay, those of us who aren't affected by the "temperature" of life and the other conditions that surround us. He grabs the ones who are disciplined. He places us on the wheel and we take shape. We become what He intends, and he releases us to be used for the purpose for which we were shaped.

If we're not disciplined clay...if we don't hear and DO what the Lord says...if we don't allow Him to shape us and bend us as He sees fit, He'll use clay that's READY to be used. It's not that He doesn't want to use us, and it's not that He can't, but we're not ready. Could He use a cup with a hole in it and still see some of its intended purpose come forth? Sure. But a cup's use would be a lot more effective if it was masterfully shaped with full ability to serve the purpose it was created for.

Why don't we settle in our hearts today to take inventory of the areas in our lives where we know we're not disciplined...those areas that we know we haven't given to the Lord...those areas that are holding us back from being used by The Potter for our intended purpose. Why don't we settle in our hearts today that being used by the one who has already determined our design is more important than our comfort. Let's just kick "us" to the side and trust that, even when it's uncomfortable or hard, He knows what He's doing and we should just obey.

He WANTS to use you. He has determined what you are to be as a finished product. Will you let Him shape you?

The Benefits and Rewards of Discipline

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Discipline Series: Life Without Discipline - #11 A Ruined Witness

Throughout this series, I've introduced some indicators that let us know if our lives are lacking discipline. A few indicators revealed what a lack of spiritual discipline looks (and sounds) like, and others explained what a lack of physical discipline looks like. Today's indicator, like the others, certainly helps us see if we lack discipline, but this one points more to what can happen if we lack discipline.  If we're undisciplined, especially spiritually, We Ruin Our Witness.

Anyone can ruin their witness, or, in other words, lessen their credibility. Let's take a police officer, for example. If an officer is knowingly breaking the law that he is expected to defend and uphold, we would certainly think, "But he's supposed to be an officer, right?" And rightfully so. We SHOULD question that officer's actions if he's breaking the law that he should be enforcing. We would probably develop a sense of mistrust when dealing with police officers after that. Even if in the back of our minds we tell ourselves that not all cops...not all people are the same, we'd still have a guard up just incase they are. That officer not only ruined his witness/credibility, but he messed it up for other police officers too. Now all of them will have to "prove themselves" before they can be trusted.

How many other professionals ruin their credibility and break the trust of those who look to them to do what they're in position to do? How many teachers are having inappropriate relationships with students? How many doctors are intentionally wrongfully prescribing drugs? How many judges go into the court room with "fixed cases"? And right along those lines, how many Christians ruin their witness by CLAIMING to be one thing but by BEING something else? Those Christians, I assure you, are lacking spiritual discipline, and a lack of spiritual discipline ruins their witness, which ultimately sheds unfavorable light on Christianity as a whole.

Without a doubt, when people see a Christian out of character, the first thing they think is, "But ain't she supposed to be a Christian?" And they have every right to raise that question. When we allow our speech to become reckless (gossip, cussing, belittling others, defamation, etc.) and when we're not walking in love and we're causing chaos and confusion,  among others things, we're not disciplined in His ways. We haven't allowed His spirit to dominate our carnal thinking, and as a result, we don't represent Him well. And just like that person who doesn't trust any police officer because of what that ONE officer did, we could be the cause of someone not trusting the Christ that we proclaim because of what we do. We can cause them to walk in the complete opposite direction and not want to have anything to do with God. And why would we want that blood on our hands?

Remember This...
If you're a Christian, you're not saved just to go to heaven; you're saved to lead others to Christ. Period. We are ALWAYS "on the job", so even when we're not talking, we're "talking". Everything we do, speaks. For instance, if everyone's standing around talking about Mr. Stewart and you're with them from beginning to end, even if you're not saying anything, you're in it. Your staying there speaks about your character. How about changing the conversation? How about walking right on out of the convo, which is my favorite "go to" escape. I just walk. And it's taken practice. Sometimes it's hard to gauge if you're just having general conversation about what's going on with the people in your life or if you're talking "about" them, but I get a check in my spirit because I asked the Lord to tell me so I'd know to get myself in line. I had to recently ask a friend that we change our conversation when we're together because I found that WE, not just her, were engaging in conversations about people too much. Even though we weren't putting anyone down or dragging anyone through the mud, I just found that we spent more time discussing the people in our lives and how what they were doing was connected to us instead of us sharing what was going on in OUR lives. I apologized to her for not being the one to stand up and keep us away from conversation about others, and she apologized too. We knew that we were skirting the line and we don't want to hurt the heart of God with reckless speech.

Christians should be doing everything in excellence because of who we serve. People should wonder about us and want to do things the way we're doing things because we're doing things right. If we're not disciplined in the way we live out God's word, others don't get to see Him for who He really is. What an honor we have to be able to share Christ with others, and we should treat it as such! Our lives are not our own; we gave them up when we gave our hearts to Him. We don't get to have moments when we don't want to love people. We don't get to have moments when we don't want to show compassion. We don't get to have moments when we don't want to speak words of life and encouragement. Not when we're His. We must always reflect Him, even when it hurts. We must reflect Him, even when we're tired. We must reflect Him, even when no one else is because imagine if Leah was hurt by the church. She was hurt SO badly that she wanted to quit on God. She knew He was real though. She'd experienced His love for her on too many different occasions to doubt Him, but she was DONE with the "so called" Christians. She wanted to fellowship with other believers who were real. They may not have been perfect, because she certainly wasn't, but in her walk (and she hoped in theirs too), she strived to live a life that pleased God. When she messed up, she didn't continue to walk in her wrong. She turned to the Lord and His word to allow Him to get her right. She didn't pursue sin like so many were doing where she'd come from.

As she was visiting churches to find a new home and meeting people along the way, she met 3 people in a 2 month span who said they were Christians but did everything contrary to what a Christian should. They were not even TRYING to live for God. They didn't have hearts of repentance when they sinned. They didn't seek the Lord to learn how to fix what was broken in their lives. They didn't study. They were happy living their lives the way they were living them. Apart from church on Sunday, there was nothing else about them that made her want to fellowship with them. Leah told herself that she was just gonna stop trying to meet people. It would just be her and God. She gave up on the hope that Christianity was even real to anyone anymore. There wasn't anyone she could look to to believe that it was. And then she ran into you.

What happened next? Did she continue to think that Christianity isn't real and throw in the towel, or did she believe and have hope again? Does she know, now, that she's not alone in her walk and that there ARE others out there who sincerely want to please the Lord and draw others to Him with their lives? 

You determine that.

Life Without Discipline: Can God Use You?

The Discipline Series: Life Without Discipline - #10 Wasted Time and Energy

If this is your first read in the Discipline Series, you don't know the brief story on how this came to be. In a Tuesday night life class (that's what I call bible study), my pastor gave us 12 indicators that let us know we may be living a life without discipline. (Read the intro to this series.) The message wouldn't leave me alone because God has been speaking to me in my personal time with Him about discipline and walking in purpose and pushing past laziness and doing what He says regardless of how I feel or what's going on around me. And He told me to share with you in this blog series. The indicators that have been discussed in the series so far are Carnal Thinking/Desires, We Defend Our Wrong Actions, Our Health Suffers, We Make Financial Mistakes, We Are Overlooked For Advancement, We Perform Poorly, We Develop Laziness, We're Reckless In Our Speech, and We're Always Late.

Today, we'll cover We Waste Time and Energy.

I don't mind talking about myself because as I've mentioned pretty much throughout this entire series, this list of indicators hit me FIRST! As my pastor was teaching, I immediately saw areas where I was strong in discipline and areas where I was weak. And I'm sure that's true for ALL of us. We can all improve somewhere. And this area, this wasted time and energy area, is for me.

I explained in the Our Health Suffers installment that when I work out in the mornings, my ENTIRE day is on track. I'm more disciplined in completing tasks throughout the day and setting order in my schedule so I can maximize my productivity. But don't you know if there is a day when I don't work out in the morning, I'm not as disciplined with my schedule or with completing tasks? And it doesn't have to be that way; I SEE myself ALLOWING it to be that way when it happens! It's like I'm taking a day off or something. Just this past week, when I didn't work out one day in the morning, I found myself dragging while doing things around the house. I had to preach to myself to snap out of that foolishness and do what I would do on a day that I did work out.  Just CRAZY!

Let me paint a picture for you (as I laugh at myself).
  1. I know the benefit of taking my work clothes out for the week. It's a discipline that has saved me time, energy and sanity over the years. I'm ridiculously slow in the mornings, so I need routines that encourage my efficiency. This one is HUGE for me. It's a shame that I'm not consistent with it though. And why wouldn't I be when I know how much it's benefited me before? Why do I fight myself with "feeling like" getting the clothes out when I know that not getting them out will give me a headache later? Why do I allow myself to waste time and energy in the mornings when I'm hustling and scuffling trying to figure out what I'm going to wear? It's like knowing the  million dollars I need is under the pillow right next to me, but refusing to lift the pillow to get it. CRAZY!
  2. I know the benefit of packing my lunch at night so it can be ready for me to quickly grab from the refrigerator in the morning. Again, I'm slow in the mornings, so this is another discipline that encourages my efficiency. And it's a shame that I'm not consistent with this one either. Why wouldn't I be when I know how much it's benefited me before? Why do I allow myself to waste time and energy in the mornings when I'm either trying to decide what I want to take for lunch? Why do I waste time and energy packing up the lunch and washing the spoons and bowls and whatever else I used? It's like knowing that going behind Curtain 1 would save my life, but I go behind Curtain 2 to my death instead. CRAZY!
  3. I understand the necessity of getting out of bed no later than that 2nd snooze. Again, I say, I am SLOW in the mornings, so setting a couple snoozes to awaken my mind is a discipline that has proven to be quite effective for me. If I'm not up and moving by a certain time, I cause myself unnecessary stress because I have to rush. So, why do I sometimes lie in bed past that second snooze, knowing it hasn't ever benefited me before? Why do I allow myself to waste time and precious, precious energy THAT early in the morning by hustling to be ready by a certain time? Why would I, the one who is a stickler for timeliness, cause myself to possibly be late? It's like knowing the house is on fire and literally burning to the ground, but I walk into the blaze anyway. 
I could go on, but I think we get the picture. We waste time and energy when we're not disciplined. And I shared some small examples, but we can lack discipline in some big ways and waste major time and energy. And in those areas where we KNOW we just need to do what we need to do, why don't we just do them?

Let me hear from you in the comments below. What is an area that you lack discipline and you KNOW it's wasting your time and energy. Why don't you just do what you need to do?

Life Without Discipline: #11 We Ruin Our Testimony/Witness

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Discipline Series: Life Without Discipline - #9 I'm Late!

Know anyone who's always late? Yeah, I do too.

People who are always late are VERY disciplined. They're disciplined in caring about themselves and their schedule. They are serious about THEIR time. They make VERY sure that they take care of everything on their end before they get to whatever it is they're scheduled for. They're disciplined in getting ready later than they should. They're disciplined in taking their time with no regard for their commitment to be wherever it is they're supposed to be. They're disciplined in staying behind to watch that last bit of a show or to do that last thing they were doing because, "It'll just be a few minutes. They'll be alright."

All. About. Them.  They are disciplined! (in the wrong direction)

Now, those who know me well know that I'm a stickler for time. I can't STAND being late, and I can't stand when others are late. I make it my business to be where I need to be at least 15 minutes before I'm scheduled to be there, and I don't play about that 'thang! I can hear my friend, Aiesha, in my head now when she shows up to an event that we scheduled to attend together. "I knew you was gon' be here, girl. You always on time."

I wish that were true, Esh. I'm not always on time these days. And this blog is hard for me to hear as I'm writing it because the Lord got on to me when Pastor introduced this indicator in life class (what I call bible study) that night. I'm listening to the lesson, and the Lord is justa talking saying, "How can you be on time to every place but work? What is it about work that keeps you from preparing ahead and planning like you do to be everywhere else?"  And then we had to have one of our heart-to-hearts that went on for a few days. I hated it, but it was necessary because I have been draaaaagging to work for the past month and a half. He straight called me out on it.

I had to look at why I was on time for literally EVERYTHING else and find the commonalities. I realized, hands down, that every time I'm on time for dance rehearsal, a meeting that I call with the dance school staff, a dinner or lunch date with someone, a concert, a play, a hair appointment or a host of other things, I'm on time because I want to be there. There's something about those scheduled things that matter to me; those things are important to me. And especially if I'm meeting someone. I expect them to be on time because my time is important, and I believe their time is just as important as mine, so I make it my business to be on time to show them that I value them.

I can remember being invited to a church last year to see a national recording gospel artist. She was the "main event" for a 3-day workshop. The service that night was scheduled to begin at 7, so of course, one of my mentees and I were there at 6:40. The service began on time with prayer and praise and worship, and it was evident that after about 3 songs, the praise and worship team was adding songs to their "list" on the spot. Their body language was saying it all. It was obvious that they were uncomfortable. All of the people who were serving that night--the ushers, the musicians, the pastor and his wife--were uneasy, and they could tell that we could see that they were uncomfortable. They had already said, at the top of the service, that the artist would be up after the praise team, so that's what we were looking for.


The praise team is still singing. The singers' eyes are watching the door. The pastor is walking here and walking there talking to ushers and apparently getting word on where the artist was. People are getting uneasy in their seats because we're wondering why the artist isn't at least sitting out in the congregation, even if she's not ready to sing just yet. Then, a couple of representatives from the artist's entourage, that were already in place at the church anticipating her arrival, got up to introduce her and speak about who she is and all she's done. We could see that they were stalling too. I could feel their pain as the drew up stories to tell and songs to sing to keep us somewhat engaged as they covered for their leader.

Finally, someone got up and said that the artist's drive was taking longer than they expected. Everything in me knew, and probably everyone else sitting there knew that there was NO WAY the drive was taking that long from where she was said to be driving from. No way. She and whoever was escorting her didn't leave in enough time to arrive on time, and that was just that. The truth was in the air. It left a tension in the room that went from anxious, respectful expectancy to a sort of distrust. It was like, "We want to be able to receive from you, but you don't even care enough about giving to us to make us a priority. You don't even care to be on time to share with us."


When she arrived, there was a loose apology, but it was more of a haughty explanation of "the life" she lives and how sometimes being late happens. The air in the room shifted again. We wanted to be excited that she'd finally made it. We wanted to receive what she had, but because it was about 8:15ish at the time that she opened her mouth to sing her first note, we weren't as excited as we probably would've been had she shown some respect for our time and for the honor we had for her as the "giver" of the evening. We were definitely offended. We didn't matter to her. We were someone else on her schedule, and it showed. She was late. She wasn't ready. I learned after she started singing that she was to sing and to "preach" that night. My hope was somewhat restored, but then, it was evident that she was ill prepared for both. That night felt like a waste.

If you've ever sat and waited for your food too long, you didn't like it. If you've waited on someone for too long when you had somewhere to be, you didn't like it. When you set a time for something that's important to you and people don't honor it, you don't like it. And don't be scheduled to have a date with a significant other and they show up late! Just write their death wish now! You're ready to go COMPLETELY off because you believe that person doesn't think you're important. Why, then, do "the late thing" to others? I'll just tell you. We don't care about "those things" enough. "Those things" are not as important to us as we are to ourselves. At the end of the day, no matter how we try to justify it, we're late because we're selfish. It's about us. And boy, I wish I wasn't able to say that it's true, but it most certainly is in my sad little case.

School has been rough for me this year. I've even said that this has been the worst year of my 10 years of teaching. I've wanted to quit just about every day. There have been days that  I couldn't stand to see even my best class coming. I loathed walking into my classroom. I couldn't even stand the sight of the building. THAT bad! On mornings that I was up early to either study and/or work out, I would take my time and leave home at the very last minute. I would just find things to do at home so I wouldn't get to work too early. On mornings that I didn't get up to study or work out, I would sleep until the last minute. Most days, I wouldn't have clothes already picked out, so I would have to decide what to wear in the morning, and that took time. Just a mess!

I got to a place where work wasn't important to me anymore. My focus wasn't on my students. I was focusing on everything else that was going on at school that frustrated me. I forgot for a minute that education is what God called me to and what He literally BUSTED doors open for, for me. Education is where I'm called to "work", and my current school is my mission field. I forgot that, and I began to treat "my work" carelessly. It didn't matter that when I got there, I taught my behind off. God said that my attitude was wrong from the jump when I wasn't disciplined in preparing myself to be there on time. So we had to deal with the root, and that would have to be a whole 'notha blog, but in short, my passion had to be restored, and my focus renewed, and lateness was the indicator that let me know that something was wrong. Thank GOD for the word He sent through my pastor!

I was late to work because I was, as we say these days, "in my feelings". I didn't care that I would walk into faculty meetings late because I was finishing MY breakfast. I didn't care that I was walking in 5 minutes before class because I had to stop at the post office to mail MY things. Selfish, and all about me, and an undisciplined mess!

If you're constantly late, why is it? Habitual, regulatory, this-is-me-everyday lateness says we're not disciplined, and can we just fess up to it and deal with it? Look at the common trends to see why you're late and fix it. You're saying to others that you don't respect their time. You're saying that you don't value them or you don't value the organization or the event. And it could be, like in my case, that you've lost focus of what's important.

And no matter who you are, you're not ALWAYS late. There are things you're on time for because you WANT TO BE on time for them. What are those things? Why are you on time for those? Do the inventory and take that discipline into other areas.

The Discipline Series - #10 Wasted Time and Energy

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Discipline Series: Life Without Discipline - # 8 Reckless Speech

One sure way to know that we're lacking spiritual discipline is if our speech becomes reckless: We say things that hurt others and that break the heart of God.

A disciplined tongue is one that pleases God. A tongue that is not disciplined and has the tendency to "slip" is not pleasing to Him. When we don't allow the Holy spirit to tame our tongues, we tell on ourselves. We tell that God is not the Lord of EVERYTHING that concerns us. If He's going to be Lord of our lives, He's got to be Lord of who we're connected to, what we do, where we go, and WHAT WE SAY. What we say and do either represents Him well and draws others to Him, or misrepresents Him and pushes others away. And woe unto the man or woman who pushes people AWAY from Christ with their misrepresentation of Him! Lord, let not that blood be on our hands! Our lives are an example one way or the other: they're either good examples or poor ones. Let's work on being good examples with our speech.

What Does God Say About What We Say?
A lot! Scripture upon scripture tells us to be careful with what we allow to come out of our mouths. Let's examine a few.
  1. "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires."   - James 1:19-20 (NIV)
Surely we've all done some things in anger that weren't pleasing to God and that were probably hurtful to others, which is why we're urged to be slow to anger. But what about the things we've SAID in anger? LORD! This is why we're told to be slow to speak too! Can you imagine how it must break God's heart when we're quick to anger AND we're quick to speak in that anger? It's like a double whammy! I can think back to times before I really allowed the Lord to have control of me. I would get angry and cuss words would "slip" out, and at the very moment I spoke the words, I would feel like running and hiding under a rock because I knew I'd hurt the heart of God. I felt like the scum of the Earth! And even though I wasn't saying those words to anyone directly, I said them even still, and God heard them. I was convicted in my spirit because I knew my tongue wasn't under His control, and BOY, did He deal with me on that!

I remember being in quiet time with God one day and He told me that if I ever get to a point in anger that I want to cuss, I can pretty much bank that my spirit was starving. And it was always true. Any time I was on the verge of not just cuss words, but ridiculous, out-of-Godly character anger or frustration, I could look at myself and see that I hadn't been in the Lord's face, spending quality time with Him and allowing His Spirit to feed mine. That day, He told me that if I was feeding my spirit, those words would be buried so deep that they COULDN'T surface because whatever I feed more is what's gon' dominate. If I were feeding my spirit, I would be so slow to anger and so slow to speak that nothing foolish would come out.  I talk more about this in Do You Love Jesus But Still Cuss A Little?

     2. "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." - Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)

And I know this to be true. I see it in my classroom all the time! There are times when I give directives in my teacher tone, but there are times I give them in my "momma" tone.  And there's a distinct difference. If I tell a student to do something in my teacher tone, it's gentle. My students know that tone well. I use it 90% of the time. It keeps peace in the room and lets them know I love them. It's an inviting tone that assures them that they can come to me and that I'll be there with open arms. But there are moments when they ackin' plum fools and I have to speak to them in "momma" tone. It's louder. It's frank. It's sometimes sarcastic and it means business...RIGHT NOW business! This works when I'm speaking to the class as a whole because it's usually to quiet them down or to get them to do something that I've had to say one-too-many times.(Twice. If I've had to say it a second time, that's too much.) When I use "momma" tone with just one student, however, it doesn't always work as nicely. There are times when that tone appears combative. A child may think I'm picking on them or that I don't like them and in most cases, it just riles them up and makes them come right back at me with the same tone. Oh, I've seen it time and time again! I've been teaching so long that I can discern when and with whom "momma" tone works, but I wasn't always able to do that and my "harsh words" stirred up anger.

When we allow the Lord to take control of our speech and discipline our tongues, we know that harsh words stir up anger, so we choose gentle words instead. I've learned that I can say to a child in teacher tone, the EXACT same thing I would've said in "momma" tone, and it gets me much better, and much quicker results. When I pull that child to the side and whisper bluntly between my teeth instead of raising my voice (LOL! I am laughing at mySELF!), I get results. When I yell, especially in front of even one other student, I get combat.

Think about your personal life. Have you said some harsh words to someone that unnecessarily stirred up anger?  Have you had an opportunity in another situation to be harsh, but you were gentle instead and saw the matter resolved more peacefully? God's word doesn't lie! If we allow His word to discipline our tongues, reckless speech won't have a "say" with us.
     3. "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."
          - Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

Talking about people. Putting others down. Putting yourself down. NO unwholesome talk. NONE! From our mouths should come only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit them.

She's having a hard time believing in herself. Say words that build her up so it can benefit her. He was just caught up in a word war as his classmates made fun of him for 5 minutes straight. Encourage him with some "life words" that will benefit him. They're doing something that irks your nerves. Don't talk to your friends about it; pray for them. Let your prayer talk reach God's heart so He can act on it and it can benefit them.

This type of tongue is the type that pleases God, one that is disciplined in His word and speaks as He would have it speak.

Lastly, I'll leave you with this one.

"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water." - James 3:9-12

Will your speech draw others to Christ, or will it push them away?

Life Without Discipline - #9 I'm Late!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Discipline Series: Life Without Discipline - #7 We Develop Laziness (Slothfulness)

I have a neighbor with whom I talk pretty often. We talk about our lives and work and our families and a little bit of everything else, so I'd venture to say that we know each other well enough, and have shared enough to call each other friends. I appreciate who she is in my life.

Just recently, we talked over dinner, and she was sharing a pretty heavy cry of her heart that has become a regular part of our conversations. She desires to start a clothing and jewelry business and she also wants to create a non-profit organization to help people who have loss their jobs by way of lay off or unscrupulous termination get back to work. I always enjoy listening to her talk about her ideas because the passion she has for both endeavors is quite invigorating! It excites ME! I get excited when she's excited because I'm a passionate visionary myself. I know how she eats, sleeps, and breathes these ideas. I've been there (and am there). I know she can hardly work when she's at work because her thoughts are consumed with bringing her vision to life. She talked excitedly for about an hour at dinner, and for that entire hour, I was with her. Like I said, it's our routine to talk that 'thang through and through. But just like I did when she talked to me for a few months about the daycare plan (an AMAZING plan unlike anything that already exists), I began to ask her the tough questions; I can only talk for so long. After we've talked about it for as long as we have (months), and we KNOW the Lord has given a clear plan to bring it to life, why aren't we moving on the plan?

I asked her what she'd researched for the jewelry and clothing business. She told me she'd found a few more people to follow on Facebook and Instagram to get ideas. And I knew she'd hate my follow up, but I said it anyway. I said, "But the Lord already gave you the idea. Why do you keep looking at theirs?"

I asked if she'd given up on getting started, and she said she hadn't, but I told her it seemed like she had because I didn't see her doing anything to get going. And then, it came. The onslaught of excuses.
I'm just getting everything lined up right now. As soon as I get a day off when I can just be still and I don't have to run after Tank (her 2-year-old) and find ways to keep him out of my way, I can finally lay some ground work."

She didn't stop there. She went on with other reasons why she hadn't started yet. And just like the passion I've heard and the details of the "plans" for her vision, I've heard the excuses too. I've heard ALL of the reasons why she can't get started, even when I'm offering to help her since I know a thing or two about getting the wheels in motion. I've heard the ideas for months, and I've heard the excuses for months.

Because I care for her and want to see her do what the Lord has given her to do, I HAVE TO tell her the truth. I want her to be obedient to the Lord and experience His provision. There's NOTHING like watching Him provide EVERYTHING that's needed for us to do what He tells us to do. Absolutely NOTHING! I want her to experience His favor. I want her to see how He will cause people to rise up out of nowhere and from everywhere all at the same time to put their hands to work to make that vision come to pass. I want her to see how money will show up when she least expects it in the most amazing and unheard of, miraculous ways! And in those moments when she gets scared because of how big the vision is, I want her to understand that it's not even really her job to see it through. It's her job to submit to the Lord, get directions from Him and just do what He says do. He'll see it through to its big end. He always does!

She won't move though.

Her excuses have said to me, and they have said to God that she's lazy. Straight up. At the end of the day, no matter how she tries to skirt around it, she has developed laziness (slothfulness). She's not disciplined enough to take the vision the Lord has given her and make it come to life.

Of course, she came back with the same thing she always comes with. She said, for the millionth time, "Iantha, you're single. You work and all, but when you come home, you don't have to cook and see about anybody else. It's just you. You have the time to do what you do."

And like I tell her every time she comes at me with that, I said, "Look at all of those mothers and wives you follow on Instagram and Facebook. You're always telling me how you need to get like them and just flip the schedule in your home so you can be more productive. You've even said yourself that if you discipline yourself, you can get it done. You told me that you know you watch too much TV at night and especially on Saturdays. You told me you get up early in the mornings sometimes and that you could use that time, but you don't. And how much time are you spending looking at them on Instagram and Facebook? They're doing what they need to do and you're watching them instead of doing what you need to do. Come ooooon... These are things that you already know."

The truth is this. We're all tired when we come home from work, but there's something about a vision from God that quickens a tired body. There's something about knowing that what we have to do is bigger than us that makes a tired body forget about itself to focus on the needs of others. There's something about a man or woman, single or married, that MAKES time to do what the Lord has given them to do, regardless of what's going on in their lives. They discipline their minds. They discipline their schedules. They turn off the waste-of-time TV. They wake up early. They go to bed late. They shut out distractions. They get it done!

Laziness (slothfulness) SCREAMS life without discipline. Someone without discipline will exhibit laziness and lack of drive. And one moment of laziness, if allowed to persist, becomes weeks of laziness. And then months... And then...

In thinking about this installment of the discipline series, one scripture just kept ringing in my head. It wouldn't leave me alone. It's one that the Lord drops in my spirit every time I need to remind myself to push. Every time I need to remember that what He gave me to do is for others and that it's for something bigger than me, this scripture comes to mind.

"A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest--and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man." - Proverbs 6:10 (NIV)

I remember when the Lord TAUGHT ME that verse some years ago and gave me a visual that I'll never forget. He gave me the picture of an armed and extremely muscular man holding me down. Every time I tried to move, I couldn't. None of my squirms were even worth a try with him. And he stayed there. He was assigned to keep a tight grip on me. The Lord was showing me that every time I'm lazy and refuse to discipline myself to be about His business, poverty would lock me down just like that. And poverty in this verse does not just refer to lack of monetary provision. It refers to poverty in the mind, in advancement, in well being... Everything about us can experience a wave of poverty when we aren't purposefully productive. And we wonder why we don't feel like we're where we need to be or have what we think we should have. When we don't move in what we KNOW the Lord is telling us to do, we experience lack. I'm a witness!

Get moving on what the Lord has given you to do!

I told her, like I always tell her, to remember that there are souls waiting for what she has. By this point in the conversation, every time, she's admitting to just being lazy. She says it, and shakes her head, and puts her face in her hands, and talks to herself about herself. She confesses that she doesn't want to let God down. She tells me that she doesn't want people to miss out on what they need. She tells me that she doesn't want the Lord to pass her assignment on to someone else. And I always tell her the hard truth. I say, "Keep playing around being lazy, and He will. You'll see somebody downtown erecting a building with the name of the business he gave YOU in lights."

We always hug when all is said and done. We always move on to some other conversation. We always end on a high note. I just pray we won't always walk this same path. I pray the day soon comes when she takes the first step into His plan for her.

(She approves this message. *wink*)

Life Without Discipline - # 8 Reckless Speech

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Discipline Series: Life Without Discipline - What Are You Doing With Your Tools and Your Time?

Before reading today's installment of The Discipline Series, if you haven't already, read yesterday's installment; today is a continuation of yesterday. It will be helpful to understand what was discussed yesterday so you can better understand the reading today. Plus, there's a little assignment for you to complete that you'll need for today.

Think back to my 8th grade dance class. Do you remember me explaining what good dancers they were and how good they were as a group? Do you remember me saying how they acknowledged how good they were when they saw themselves on video? And do you remember me detailing how they refused to showcase their good dancing as part of our school's Christmas program this year? I remember days in class when we were preparing for the program that they would  give me EXTREMELY poor performance, little to no effort, just so we could move past that portion of the class and on to something else. They refused to use their skill because they were more concerned about themselves and their feelings and their fear of embarrassment. They didn't care anything about contributing to the success of the program or the enjoyment of those who would watch. They forgot their whole purpose for being a part of the dance class and their reason for learning all that they had learned. Their purpose was to perform, but they sat down on it.

Now think back to the man with 5 talents, the man with 2 talents, and the man with 1 talent. The man with 5 talents and the man with 2 talents took what they had and invested it in others. They didn't sit on their gifts. Their Master gave them tools to dig into the lives of others and then He left them for a time to let them do their work. When He returned, He expected to see many lives affected by the men's work, and He did! He was well pleased! He told them both,"Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things."

The man with the 1 talent was given the same expectation: to use his tool to dig into the lives of others. He did no work. When the Master returned, He was not pleased. He said to the man, "You wicked, lazy servant!" He went on further to say, "Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents."

This is what God does with us. He creates us and He gives us purpose, and when we give our lives to Him, He shows us exactly what that purpose is. He gives us talents (tools) and assigns us to a specific work where we are to dig into the lives of specific people. He gives some of us 6 talents, some 4, some 3 or however many He sees fit, according to our ability. And while we're here, as long as we have life, He expects us to work. He doesn't expect us to sit idle with our tools in our hands. When He returns, and He WILL return, He's going to ask us, just as He did the men from the parable, what we did with our tools and our time. That's His main concern. He gave us tools and He gave us time. What work did we do with our tools to dig into the lives of others?

Will He be pleased when He returns to ask you what you've done with your tools and your time?
Maybe you didn't understand that you were here for purpose. Maybe you didn't know that your gifts were tools or that you were even supposed to be using your gifts to dig into the lives of other people. You can get to work now. It's not too late!

And maybe you did know that you are here for purpose, but you haven't been doing much "digging". Your performance has been poor. You haven't been working up to your full potential. You've been sitting on your gift(s)...your talent(s)...your tool(s), and like the man with 1 talent, you KNOW what the Master expects of you upon His return, but you still don't work. I urge you to get to work! You don't want to hear "lazy and wicked servant" from the Master. And you don't want Him to take the tool(s) He gave you and give it/them to someone else who He knows will put it/them to work. Or even worse...

The scriptures actually go on to say that  the Master said of the man, "And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Don't let this be you. Nurture your gifts and become disciplined and intentional in using them to "dig into" the lives of others. This is how we build God's kingdom; you're expected to play a part in it. There are people waiting to hear about who God is and how they can know Him through a relationship with Jesus Christ, and YOU are expected to use YOUR tools to reach them. There are people your tools will reach that mine never will, and vice versa. Don't cause people to miss out on an opportunity to know God because you're sleeping on the job.

Complete the Assignment
Take a look at your list from yesterday's assignment. You're going to look at each of your natural gifts (tools), and beside each one, you're going to tell how you can use it (work) to dig into the lives of other people to teach them about who God is and how they can know him through a relationship with Jesus Christ. You can write down what you're already doing if you're already doing something, but I want to challenge you to think of another way you can use that tool.

Iantha's Example
God was VERY strategic in giving me tools that I could use all together in one place. Because He knew before He even formed me in my mother's womb that He was going to create me to be the director of Praise Movement School of Dance, he gave me EVERYTHING I needed to do whatever He wanted done through the ministry. He wanted me to dig into the lives of girls and teach them how to know Him through a relationship with Jesus Christ, and I LITERALLY use EVERY tool He's placed in me to do that.

dancing - I dance to songs that teach people about the love of God through Jesus Christ. I create a visual representation of the song so viewers can see the message. Many times, it has a more lasting impression than merely hearing the words of the song.

choreography - I create pieces that teach people about the love of God through Jesus Christ. The pieces are visual representations that allow viewers to see the message in the song.

singing - Ha! I sing to teach. I can make my Praise Movement dancers and my students from school remember ANYTHING by creating a song to help them. They remember scripture this way; they remember choreography this way; they remember anything I want them to remember this way.

writing - I write to teach. This blog is an example of me getting a direct command from the Lord because He wanted me to say something. Even if only one person reads it, I know that person is getting what s/he needs because the Lord told me to do it. He gives me the ability to write clearly and break His word down so people can understand. I also write lessons for the dancers when we are studying to minister a song.

budgeting and planning - Our summer dance camp and fall dance tour are our biggest annual ministry tools. We serve hundreds of girls each year between the two. The planning that goes into each is REAL, but because this is a tool that the Lord gave me, it gets done with joyful ease. The same with budgeting for each. I'm a money manager because that's a tool He gave me. I make sure every minute is planned for purposeful instruction and that every dime is being used toward that instruction. I use planning and budgeting to make sure girls everywhere can know who God is through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

We Develop Laziness (Slothfulness)

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Discipline Series: Life Without Discipline - Ever Been Overlooked (#5) Because of Poor Performance (#6)? PART 1

If this is your first read in the Discipline Series, you don't know the brief story on how this came to be. In a Tuesday night life class (that's what I call bible study), my pastor gave us 12 indicators that let us know we may be living a life without discipline. (Read the intro to this series.) The message wouldn't leave me alone because God has been speaking to me in my personal time with Him about discipline and walking in purpose and pushing past laziness and doing what He says regardless of how I feel or what's going on around me. And He told me to share with you in this blog series. The first indicator was Carnal Thinking/Desires. The second was We Defend Our Wrong Actions. The third was Our Health Suffers, and the fourth was We Make Financial Mistakes.

Today, I want to ask: Have you ever been overlooked for opportunities or advancement (indicator #5) because of your lack of discipline and/or poor performance (indicator #6)?

It may be hard to admit, but the truth is people get overlooked all the time for promotions, opportunities, advancement and their "big shot" because they lack discipline, which usually shows up with poor performance. Let me use my middle school dance classes as an example.

When my students were preparing to perform in the school's Christmas program this year, I was working them pretty hard in class every day. Each grade level (6th, 7th, and 8th) was set to perform one song each; they each had one shot to make a statement. The 6th graders were ready to go! All year they've been my hardest workers. They WANT TO shine in EVERYTHING they do in dance class. The 7th graders really liked their song for the Christmas program because it was a fun one. For once, I didn't have much static from them. But those 8th graders, the ones who are too mature to care, "fought" the Christmas program from the day I introduced their song until the day of the performance. The boys thought the choreography was too girly. The girls thought the combinations were too difficult. The music was too slow. The transitions were confusing. "And we'll be dancing barefoot?" they asked. Every complaint under the sun! It was a trying time with them. There were a few students, though, who knew that no matter what the choreography was like or how slow the music was or if they had on shoes or not, they had to make the grade, and they weren't about to let one performance mess that up. They worked hard EVERY class session, they didn't complain, they asked for help when they needed it, and they even asked for extra rehearsals. They weren't the best dancers, by far, but they gave 110%.

Three days before the performance, I announced that only three 8th grade students would be performing in the Christmas program. The class was shocked and a bit confused at first; they couldn't believe I wasn't making them participate, but I REFUSED to have a halfway performance from them. When I named the three students, they were excited. They had worked hard for it. The rest of the class erupted with a different excitement because they were relieved that they didn't have to do anything. I could literally feel the tension subside in the room. But then, the KICKER!

When I announced that those 3 students would also be receiving 2 test grades for their performance and an exemption from the final choreography assessment (the biggest one of the semester), everyone wanted to all of a sudden get their act together and perform. But, of course, it was too late. And like a good teacher whose goal is to teach a lesson in EVERYTHING, I stood my ground and watched them eat their complaints and squirm with embarrassment, disgust (with themselves), and regret. wasn't that they couldn't do it. In fact, they had proven many times in the weeks of preparation that they could out dance the 6th and 7th graders and make the 8th grade song the audience's favorite. (I love friendly competition with them.) After seeing themselves on video, they even agreed that they looked amazing, but the "I don't care" and "I'm too cute to perform in front of all those people" attitudes killed them. (What did they think dance class was for?) The BEST dancers missed an opportunity to be the best because they couldn't get over themselves. They let all of their good talent go unnoticed, and the not-so-good dancers jumped in and "took their prize".

Who took your prize?

Jesus had something to say about a matter similar to my classroom example. In the following passage, Jesus was talking to His disciples, explaining to them that no man knows the day or the hour of the end of the age. He told them to not let that be their concern. Instead, He said, be busy about the work of the kingdom. He gave them this example:

14 "Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. 19 After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' 21 His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. come and share your master's happiness!' 22 The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.' 23 His Master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' 24 Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' 26 His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28 Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents." (Matthew 25, NIV)

Jesus used this story as a way to explain to His disciples and today's disciples (Christians) that they should be using what He gave them (gifts, talents and abilities) to bring others into the kingdom. Like the man who had 5 talents, for example... Let's imagine that his five talents were teaching, building and creating, singing, budgeting and planning, and writing. The Master was pleased when He returned because the man had used his teaching to break down the truth of God's word to others; he used his ability to build and create to design a facility for the homeless in the community where they could shower, eat, sleep and attend classes to help prepare them for life off the streets; he sang in the choir that held weekend concerts at the homeless facility, and many of the homeless were so moved by the choir that they wanted to join to learn the songs of the Lord; he used his budgeting and planning skills to create an organization that would financially support 20 less fortunate children every year to attend a week-long Christian sports camp where they could hear the gospel and learn God's word; and he used his writing to write books that encouraged others to live lives that please God.  The Master was so pleased! So many people came to know Jesus as a result of the man using what The Master gave him. He made a return on The Master's investment in him.

And the same for the man who had two talents. He did a lot with his two talents and people's hearts were drawn to Jesus because of it. But the one who had one talent did nothing. He was like so many of us who have skills and natural giftings and do nothing with them for the kingdom. He "sat on the gift", and the Master was not pleased. The man was told to put his talents to work, but he didn't and the Master called Him a lazy and wicked servant. He completely overlooked the man and gave his talent to the man who had 10 talents because he knew he'd do something with them.

Think On This...
Are you like the man with the one talent? Has the Lord overlooked you for "promotion" or advancement because of your poor performance? Has he given attention to someone else with your same giftings and skill set because you haven't proven that you can produce?

We will continue tomorrow with being overlooked because of poor performance, but you have an assignment. You will need this assignment when you come to the blog tomorrow.

On a sheet of paper or in the notes section on your phone, list the natural gifts you have. A natural gift is something you do well that, in most cases, you knew how to do without any training. Singing, for example, is one of those things that you're either born with, or you're not. That's an example of a natural gift. Most of us have multiple gifts. List as many as you can think of.

Iantha's List
twirling (batons)
budgeting and planning