Ready.

Screenshot 2014-09-12 10.19.04When does it begin?

That feeling we’re never quite ready.

That feeling that screams we’re never quite _____ enough.

Not smart enough. Not experienced enough. Not organized enough.

In one of my all-time favorite sermons from Pastor Steven Furtick, called “Cancel the Audition” we are reminded that if we are followers of Christ – Jesus has already chosen us. We are ready for whatever he has called us to do. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…” “But I am too young…” says the voice of insecurity in Jeremiah. And the Lord says, “Do not say I’m too young. Go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.” (Paraphrased from Jeremiah 1:4-10)

Pastor Steven preached that to us in 2012 – and I’m still fighting back those feelings of not being quite ready. I AM ready. Just saying it out loud gives me courage.

This day – let’s choose together to be ready. Not ready with a question mark. But ready with a period. It’s crazy how much difference the punctuation can make.

Say it with me, brave friends. “I am ready.”

(This post is inspired by an inspired group of blogging ladies my lovely left coast sister helped me connect to. Find out more about Five Minute Friday here.)

I made a mistake…

Powerful words, aren’t they?

“I made a mistake.”

“You may be right.”

“I’m sorry.”

I’m so grateful God is patient with me. One of my favorite verses is 1 Timothy 1:16 – “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”

And that may sound strange. Because by the world’s standards, I’m doing a pretty decent job. No felonies. No firings. So how can I consider myself the “worst of sinners” like Paul did when he was talking to his young disciple? But when in your life you keep doing things or thinking things that you know are not God’s best for you – judging, grumbling, griping, choosing to remain detached when I know I should engage.. when you keep doing these things and you know he still loves you… when you keep failing and he’s still there for you… you sense God’s mercy in a whole new way.

Yesterday, a woman burst through the doors of our church breathlessly seeking assistance with an empty gas tank. From experience, I know the thing we ask for is not necessarily the thing we need. And 99.9% of the time, someone else would have handled the question following the outreach guidelines I helped set up as we partner with agencies but offer no cash or other direct emergency services.

But this day, the lobby was full of other people with needs. And this woman was looking right at me. And I must have panicked or something because the first thing I did was meet the need she said she had. We stopped others who overheard from giving her cash – because we don’t want to create a security risk for our friends at the front desk. But she said she was in a hurry, late to pick up her daughter from school in a nearby town. So I prayed with the woman. I invited her to church. And I gave her a Walmart gift card.

Isn’t it funny how when we’re faced with someone’s immediate need we want to help? But then sometimes even when we do we’re left not with a feeling of joy, but somehow a feeling of sadness and discomfort? Oswald Chambers scolds us for this behavior calling us “amateur providences.”

I made a mistake. This woman didn’t need cash. She needed a relationship. And I don’t even remember her name. I’m grateful that Jesus does know her name. And I’ll continue lifting her up to him. Because I know he’s the only one who can supply her real needs.

And in case you’re wondering what happened next?

The woman (who I hope comes back so I can ask her to church again) must have alerted her entire family and friends to be a part of free Walmart gift card day. Two more people came. And then a fourth. All with similar stories.

We shut down the drive-through. We want to be about relationships. Not handouts. If you have an immediate physical need, we have friends who can help – Crisis Assistance Ministry, Matthews Help Center, Second Harvest Food Bank, and more. And if you want a relationship with Jesus – who is the only one who can ever supply all your needs – our doors are always open.

Thank you, Jesus for your patience with me. I know the truth, and I still mess up all the time. Thank you for daily lifting me out of the pit I’ve created for myself and calling me blessed, loved, and adored. Help me to be more like you today. Help me to BE the kind of grace you daily give to me. Amen.

“The Best Yes”

Crazy excited for my friend Lysa TerKeurst’s new book release TODAY. It’s called “THE BEST YES” and I know it’s going to bless so many. Plus, when you purchase the book, not only are you getting amazing content, you’re blessing children in a beautiful way. Check out the video, and then head over to “The Best Yes” for more. You can also join us tonight (if tickets are still available) at Lysa’s webcast at Elevation Blakeney, or online from the comfort of your own couch. See you there!

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The Best Yes – Thank You from Proverbs 31 Ministries on Vimeo.

Crustless Mini Quiches

Tonia Bendickson:

Following the blessings of LOVE Week, the Elevation Worship LIVE Recording and Student Takeover, we’re trying to get back to some healthier food in our house. (too much takeout for the past few weeks) Here’s a favorite in our home. Thanks to Melissa at smellslikebrownies.com

Originally posted on Smells Like Brownies:

I’ve been a bit discombobulated lately. I’ve been cooking and baking and taking all these pictures—but my own dinky camera was out of commission and my laptop was out of commission, and let’s just say that when my routines are disturbed sometimes I become a bit befuddled.

But! Today is Secret Recipe Club reveal day! So I’m gathering my wits to share a super simple and healthy breakfast recipe with you: crustless mini quiches. (If quiche is crustless, does actually that mean it’s a frittata or an omelet? No idea.)

This month my assigned blogger was Laura Rees. While her tastes and mine diverge pretty significantly (er…I am a vegetarian who doesn’t eat fruit…so I do kind of fall into a specific niche of eaters), her take on mini quiche struck me as interesting. I set out to make a vegetarian version that I could bring to brunches with…

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You are so brave.

Our church has this beautiful song I love called “Mighty Warrior.”

It reminds us that our God is fighting for us. That he is victorious. That HIS name is power.

I want to remind you today that you are so brave. That in Christ, you too are a mighty warrior.

Today, I’m reminding myself I’m brave. Because a friend of mine needs our help.

Last February, when a small team of us from Elevation went to visit East Africa to document the impact we’re making together through the generosity of our church – we met a young man named Francis Kome. He was born in the Nuba mountains region of Sudan. His people are being terrorized by a dictator who is criminal wanted by the UN for the genocide in Darfur. Today I’m asking you to consider helping my friend Francis and his people.

Francis faces real fear every day. Not just the fear of failure, or the fear that I’m not smart enough, not pretty enough, or not good enough. Those are my fears. His are that his family and everyone he knows will die. At any moment. And that is a daily threat. Yet he has such a strong faith, and he inspires me. And it is my brave wish today that we will stand in the gap for my friend Francis. That we will give what we can to help him go to university in Nairobi so he can bring hope and practical help to the people of Nuba.

You can read more of his story here on a You Caring site we’ve created for him.

When you give today, we’ll send you a gift from the people of the new nation of South Sudan.

Please pray for Francis and his people. For peace. For provision. For freedom. For continued bravery and strength in the face of fear. Pray that they are reminded today that our God is a mighty warrior who is always fighting for them.

Every Friday, Lisa-Jo Baker at lisa-jobaker.com provides a prompt for 5-Minute Friday. She explains it here. The idea is for anyone to write for five minutes on a word that Lisa-Jo posts at 1 minutes past midnight (Eastern Standard Time) every Friday. No preparation, no editing, no perfectionism. And then you post it on your blog, the only rule being that you visit the blog of the person who posted before you. Today I dedicate my five-minute Friday to everyone who’s ever let fear hold them back. The word is mighty.

Lisa-Jo has a beautiful new book coming out this Tuesday. It’s called Surprised by Motherhood. My friend @LysaTerKeurst says “Lisa-Jo inspires me to look for God in every moment of my own beautiful but imperfect motherhood journey.” – See more at: http://lisajobaker.com/surprised-by-motherhood/#sthash.cS0u5CnD.dpuf

What brings you hope?

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We are not alone. There are more than 7 Billion people on the planet with us right now.

There are people in our homes, next door to us, across the street. We cross paths with people every day on the way to work, to school, to buy groceries. So why is it we can be in a room full of people and feel so alone? Researchers say it’s not the quantity, but the quality of our relationships that matters. It turns out that loneliness may be more dangerous than obesity, and an even higher risk-factor for early death than smoking.

An AARP study of adults 45+ shows loneliness has doubled. 40% of adults in two surveys said they were lonely, up 20% from the 80’s.

It turns out we need to be known. “Our very health and well being depend on our ability to form and maintain satisfying social connections with one another,” says researcher and author of Loneliness, John T. Cacioppo.

Isolation, loneliness, and discouragement can cause us to lose hope. In her recent “Crash the Chatterbox” sermon, Holly Furtick referenced the story of Leah and pointed to 6 ways we can conquer discouragement in our lives. She talks about choosing to praise – even when we don’t feel like it.

Of course my favorite point in Holly’s sermon was to “look beyond.” Seeking out someone else who needs a lift is a great way to boost our own spirits. Luke 6:38 says “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

This weekend at Elevation Church, we’ll be announcing some of our new outreach initiatives. One of them is a focus on seniors. We believe we have an opportunity and responsibility to lift up and encourage our elderly neighbors. Together we’ll be working with our current outreach partners like Hands on Charlotte and new ones like Blessed Assurance to spark and nurture new relationships with older friends.

Together, we can help others find their hope – thereby renewing our own. Enjoy this extended version of Hillsong’s “With Everything” and let your hope, rise. Tell me what brings you hope – and let me know how I can pray for you.

Hillsong – With Everything from With Everything on Vimeo.

Why gratitude?

I often feel like I’m a fraud. Because “cultivating gratitude daily” (the current subtitle of this blog) is more like a dream than it is a reflection of my life and the reality of what I’m actually doing and feeling.

But then I recall the truths God has been teaching me through his servants: “our feelings lie and we get to boss them around” (via @JoyceMeyer) and because “some of this disappointment is neurotic… worse than trivial; it is simply the sour fruit of self-absorption…” (via @JohnOrtberg) and because I’ve come to believe that gratitude changes everything – “Perspective can always adopt gratitude *and gratitude always parents joy.*” (via @AnnVoskamp) I’m “staying at it.” (via @KenJCosta)

Thankfully, the more I fill my mind with the right human voices that tell me “Don’t Stop on 6” and “Cancel the Audition” and to “Pound the Ground” and the more I get into God’s word to know HIM he guides me to remember his truths about who I am in him.

I didn’t expect this to be a daily battle (even minute by minute battle). I thought somehow that when I accepted Christ, and when I really decided to devote my life to him that somehow the enemy IN me would shut up. But it doesn’t get easier to choose gratitude over self-pity and self-absorption. It’s just better.

I’ve been in the self-pity place. In the self-absorbed place. Where did that get me? Stuck. Paralyzed. Angry. Frustrated. Overwhelmed.

I choose gratitude because I know when I do, it’s a shot at the devil. I pick up my sword and I fight the battle. I sling another stone at that loser who keeps trying to keep me from doing what God’s called me to. I pray for my husband (even though this is not what I want or how I feel or what seems natural). I pray for my children (even though they’re ungrateful, and self-absorbed and say the rottenest things) and I remember this verse:

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners,

Christ Jesus might display his immense patience

as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

(1 Timothy 1:16 NIV)

Because without Jesus, I’m just like my children.

Ungrateful. Self-absorbed. Prone to saying all the wrong things.

But in Jesus, I am Beautiful. Loved. Lovely. Encouraging. Joyful. Peaceful. Patient. Kind.

And you are, too lovely friend. In Christ you are perfect. Thank you sweet friends for sharing this journey with me.