Don't Waste It!

The pain got worse, as all my gym friends surrounded me on the ground, and I heard one of them whisper to the other, “Oooh, it’s…”  I could only imagine that my ankle wasn’t looking so hot and was possibly ballooning to double it’s size. Sure enough, that ankle had surpassed “cankle” status and was now heading straight for elephantiasis standards. Off to urgent care I went, for examination and x-rays. The diagnosis, a severe sprain. This meant crutches and of course R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). My mind was reeling as I thought of all I had to do that day. The worst part was, I didn’t fall doing anything spectacular, like sky diving, gymnastics or wrestling an alligator. Nope, I had properly messed up my ankle simply walking.

In only three hours I was scheduled to head out to lead worship for a women’s retreat. Not any women’s retreat, a retreat with 1,200 women, where Kay Arthur would be the speaker.  I’m not real big on name dropping and throwing numbers around, but umm…this retreat was a bit of a big deal, and I was now relegated to pain, crutches and a foot that needed to be elevated. Hmm…those three things and standing to lead worship don’t mix. 

WHAT ON EARTH WAS GOD’S PLAN?!

My sweet husband tried his best to help me as I quite literally was falling apart. I sat crying so hard my husband popped his head in worriedly asking, “Are you ok?” I answered back, “NO!” Making it clear that I was, in fact, not OK, but there was nothing he could do except let me cry. It was a painful cry but also a confused cry, “Lord what does this mean? You know I have to go to this retreat! You know I have to stand and lead worship, and You know how much I LOVE leading worship at this retreat! What are You doing?!” 

I had two choices, I could power through, go to the retreat, or I could cancel. I had good reason to. But I didn’t want to make a decision based on my human wisdom; I wanted to know what God wanted me to do. It would be nice to stay home and keep my foot up all weekend, but I REALLY wanted to go to this retreat; it’s been my JOY to be part of it for many years. However, maybe God had another plan, maybe it would be another worship leader’s chance to have the joy of leading…?  I called the retreat directors and said, “Okay, friends, here’s the deal. My foot is royally messed up! I will literally have to sit with my foot up on a chair and a few pillows, or I can’t come. I want to come, but I get that it’s odd aesthetically, and I am up for whatever you guys want to do.” After five minutes of deliberation, they let me know that they wanted me there. With new resolve and a chauffeured ride by my husband, I was off!  Thankfully, my 16-year-old daughter was already planning to sing with me that weekend, so I had my own personal roadie to carry all my gear for me. We enjoyed the weekend immensely; one of the highlights was getting to see just how big my foot could swell up and what sort of colors it would turn from bruising!

I can now speak from experience and say that leading worship from a chair, with one socked and braced foot up on a pile of pillows is pretty humbling. It’s really hard to look cool in that position. This injury taught me two things: humility and dependence. I’m typically a "do it yourself" type of person. I don’t like depending on other people, and I am proud of the fact that I don’t generally need much help from others. But God had a lesson for me to learn. My entire weekend was filled with needing the help of others and humbling myself enough to let people come to my aid. Something as simple as carrying a glass of water was an impossible chore!  

MORE IMPORTANT THAN DEPENDING ON OTHERS FOR HELP, GOD BLESSED ME WITH SOME FORCED REST TIME EVEN AFTER THE RETREAT WAS OVER. 

I was able to stay in bed, foot elevated and the Bible in my lap. I had recently told God I wanted to become a student of His word, and not a reader only (James 2). The three words I felt God speak to me during that time was: “Don’t Waste It!” I was able to pretty quickly see this inconvenient injury as an opportunity to be that student I wanted to be. Now that I am back on my feet and limping my way back to a 100% recovery, I am thankful for the opportunity to be humbled and dependent. Sometimes, God has to get my attention in some ridiculously obvious ways. I wonder, what are the ways God may be trying to get your attention today?  Keep your eyes open looking for Him; it may help you not lose your footing like I did. But just in case you end up hitting the deck like I did, give me a call, I’ve got some crutches you can borrow. 

James 1:22-25: “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only deceiving yourself. For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in the mirror, for he observes himself, goes away and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in all he does.”

 

Originally featured on calvarychapel.com under the title "When God has Another Plan"

How Youth Ministry is like Farming

Almost a year ago there was a need for a new youth worship leader, and therefore I was thrust into a whole new world. I thought, “I’ve led worship for years. This’ll be easy!” Famous last words. 

I COMMITTED TO A YEAR OF SERVING IN YOUTH, LEADING WORSHIP AND LEADING A SMALL GROUP FOR THE JUNIOR & SENIOR GIRLS. 

I was so stoked at first, excited to make some much needed changes and see the students grow in not only their music abilities, but in their hearts for the Lord. And then things got real. I realized that leading worship for women’s retreats, church services and special events was filled with pats on the back and praise for a job well done. Youth worship had none of that. I remember thinking, “This is harder than leading worship in jail! At least the incarcerated are happy to see me!” 

Something happened that I wasn’t expecting. Something that takes great humiliation to admit. It didn’t happen right away, but it was slow and sneaky. As I was winding up cords and turning off lights all by myself after service, I thought, “Nobody even notices what I’m doing. Nobody appreciates this; youth ministry is a thankless job!” While that may be true at times, I let this momentary discontentment in my heart grow like a cancer, and I lost sight of what I had set out to do. It changed from an opportunity to a burden, from a blessing to a chore. This tumor of doubt grew to a point that it started effecting the way I responded to the Lord and those I had set out to serve. 

YOUTH MINISTRY IS LIKE A PICTURE OF ORGANIC FARMING.

I’m not really an all organic, non GMO, raw milk drinking mama...but bear with me as I paint this picture. In order for a plant to thrive, the soil needs to be tilled; the seed needs to be planted, watered, warmed by the sun, and weeds need to be tamed. And at just the right time, that plant will flourish. When serving young people, sometimes you till, sometimes you plant, water, warm or tame weeds, and none of that is wasted. All of it leads to a healthy, nourished and fully mature plant that will bear beautiful fruit. 

How hilarious it would be, if with every seed a farmer planted, he announced, “I’m planting a seed! Just planted another one! Oh look, now I’m WATERING a seed! Aaaaaand I just pulled a weed, yay, me!” Sounds silly, right, but it’s the same as me wishing that someone would come up and congratulate me on a job well done. I was saddened by how deep I had let that bitterness sink in and only by acknowledging it before the Lord was I refilled with that passion I started with, but now reborn with a new excitement! I get to be part of the growing process, what a privilege! 

HAVE YOU BEEN IN A PLACE WHERE YOU WERE SO EXCITED TO START A NEW MINISTRY OR CHURCH OR SMALL GROUP?

It was SO clear in your mind how things should go, until they didn’t, and then things got blurry and boring and burdensome. In the words of Ice Cube, “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.” Don’t lose the vision just because it didn’t come to fruition as fast as you wanted it to. Zechariah 4:10 says, “Don’t despise the small beginnings.” Be faithful in whatever you have been called to do, knowing that the timing of the fruit isn’t up to you, but God!  Do your part then sit and watch Him work!  

 

Originally featured on calvarychapel.com under teh title "BeFaithful In Your Calling"

The In Between Season

We all go through seasons in our lives. It can sometimes feel like everything around us is flourishing much like springtime, or that we are losing all our hard earned work, resembling the trees dropping their leaves in the fall. Sometimes we just cruise and bask in easy days like summer, and other days, you can feel cold and barren like the frozen days of winter. If you wait long enough in any season, it’s bound to change. If I’m being transparent, which I always try to be, I think I’m somewhere in the "in between." 

HAVE YOU BEEN THERE? 

That "in between" season can be the hardest as the glimmer from what is fading, and the hope of what’s coming is still too far ahead to see. There are times when God plants purpose in our hearts, and we are filled with such passion that we pour everything into achieving that purpose. The drive to reach it is so thick you could almost reach out and grab it! I love those times!

In 2011, I had a beautiful springtime moment when I won the Star Fish contest and got to play the main stage for Fishfest, a huge Christian Music festival in front of 12,000 people! My call time was sandwiched between David Crowder Band and Third Day. I cried happy tears as I listened to David Crowder sing “He Loves Us” from backstage and smiled when Mac Powell said, “Hey, good job,” to me as I walked on stage. I remember taking pause in that moment and thinking, “This may be the only chance I have to sing in front of this many people,” and so I took it all in.

Following that moment have been many amazing moments getting to see people worship Jesus along with me. I have seen God fulfill the deep purpose He placed in me over and over again. But I feel a stirring in my heart. Like the scent of jasmine on the evening breeze, a new purpose is calling me, but I’m not sure what it is quite yet. To be honest, it’s a bit uncomfortable. It feels like that hot, muggy air that comes at the end of summer right before the crispness of fall. 

So, what should you do when you feel the seasons changing, and you’re kind of stuck in the "in between," waiting for your new purpose?

Well, have you ever seen roses that have feen fully pruned and cut back? They look sort of ugly when they are trimmed down to branches, and aren’t much to look at. But the deeper the pruning, the bigger the bloom.

WHEN WE ARE FEELING STUCK, WE ARE ACTUALLY BEING PREPARED. 

If you’re in a season like me, where you are feeling like those scraggly, old rose bushes that have been pruned mercilessly, just wait a little longer. But don’t be dormant; a rose bush isn’t dead. It’s being fortified, nourished and is just waiting to flourish when the time comes.

God says in Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland!” 

You see, the "in between" season is God’s chance to feed, fortify and fill you with all you will need to bloom. He will be revealing the new purpose He has for you bit by bit. So, if you are in the space between seasons, remember along with me that this time is never wasted. Seek God, and wait expectantly for the new vision He has for your future!

 

Originally featured on Calvarychapel.com under the title "The Feeling of In Between"

Now, be honest...

 

I was driving alone in the car, and I was thankful for the solitude. The silence was like an old friend I hadn’t seen in a long time, and I yearned to just visit with for awhile. As I drove up Warner Boulevard, my head was spinning with the way things weren’t working out, and my heart was broken that God hadn’t seen fit to do things the way I wanted Him to. I stopped at a red light and just began speaking (a.k.a. praying) to my best friend, Jesus. “I am mad! I’m mad that you aren’t doing things the way I thought you would. I’m angry that you aren’t changing things and making everything OK and allowing this difficulty to continue! This isn’t the way things are supposed to go!” I have to be honest and say that I didn’t have a kind tone; I wasn’t even really being reverent. I was just being honest. 

I want to pause and ask you a question…having read my prayer above, did you say to yourself “Whoa Shannon! Looks like you forgot your place! I can’t believe you would pray like that!”  Now let me ask if you have ever felt those raw, honest, angry thoughts deep inside your heart? I know we all have, even King David himself did! In Psalm 22 we see David crying out, “God where on earth are you?! Why aren’t you helping me?!” Of course, that’s the Shannon version, he used an even more desperate term, forsaken, which means to abandon or desert. Did David really believe God had forgotten all about him, abandoned him even? I don’t think he really BELIEVED he was forgotten, as much as he FELT forgotten, but only for a moment. 

HAVE YOU BEEN THERE?  

The beautiful thing about coming to Jesus with our heavy hearts is the fact that He is eager to lift that burden and remove the blinders from our eyes to cause us to see! Before the anguished words from our lips reach His heart, He is already lavishing us with hope. You can see David’s struggle throughout Psalm 22 to grab onto that hope with everything he has. He jumps back and forth between proclaiming God’s holiness to detailing the ways people persecute him and how strapped of strength he is. Oh, how thankful I am to have the Bible that reminds us that the people who came before us were JUST like us! They wavered in their hope and needed restoration, and doggone it, they just needed to vent sometimes! 

As I continued my drive up Warner, speaking honestly and openly, God’s hope began to wash over me. I began to see that though His way may take longer in my eyes, the deep healing, depth of character and hope that is cultivated has no comparison. I am thankful for a God who allows us to come to Him in whatever state we may be in. He can see past our moodiness, through our irreverent tone, deep into the heart that is longing for a reminder that He sees us, understands us; and that His future plan for us, our families and even our teenage children is beautiful. Let me encourage you to go to Jesus honestly today, pour out your heart and wait for the softening that can only come from your loving, Heavenly Father.

 

Originally published on Calvary Chapel.com under the title "Are You Praying With Honesty"

Excavation Rules

 


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I’m writing this from Tiberius, Israel! I was invited to lead worship for a church tour here and it’s been amazing! As you can imagine, we are seeing lots of old ruins and new excavation sites. I learned that they never fully excavate an area, they always leave some for the next generations. This made me think about my own family and the “excavations” that take place as we grow. Philippians 2:12-13 says that we should “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” I think of it as an uncovering of truth and treasure as we realize God’s will for our lives. It can be exciting, but it can also be painful.


Being a mother of two teenagers, I have a front row seat as I watch my daughters grow up. I’ve watched them stand strong and I’ve watched them fall hard. I wish i could make my kids walk the way they are “supposed” to. Funny that I think I know what they’re supposed to do, when I have no idea. Remember the Scripture, it doesn’t read “It is their Mommy who works in them”, no, it’s says it is GOD who works in them. Of course I’m here to be a voice of wisdom to assist in making good choices, and a place of comfort when the wrong choice is made from time to time.


Much like the excavators work hard when it is their time to uncover ancient treasure, our following generations will be digging and discovering their own treasures, and the plans that God has for their life.

If I try to dig too much and do the work for my kids, then they won’t learn to dig for themselves. They won’t learn the hard lessons that come from making mistakes and learning what being deeply forgiven is like.


There’s a part of me that wants them to live perfect lives, but I’m learning that the difficult seasons and the bad choices I’ve made in my life have excavated deep beauty in my life. The depth of forgiveness and gift of wisdom that has been uncovered could never be replaced.


I can’t do the work for my kids, even though as their mom my heart aches to help them. I have to leave some excavations to them and celebrate when they uncover something greater than I ever hoped for them. To expect my kids to have this kind of growth and wisdom without doing any of the hard work is unreasonable. You know what they say, a little hard work never hurt anyone.

Him & Me

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18 years + 10 months + 12 days = him & me

 

We were so very young, so very in love, and so very naive.

 

God gives us our lives in bite size pieces, just enough for us humans to handle, if He gave us the whole story at the beginning, we’d most likely run away screaming.

 

The adventure we’re on is almost unexplainable and SO VERY worth it.  Things that seem impossible become possible, love that disappears reappears and two humans who couldn’t be any more different are able to stand and fight with a common purpose.

 

We get to be a miracle and I’m so very honored.

Who Are You?

We all had a starting point in life. I was born into a Christian home with a pastor for a father. My parents have been married about four decades. My family ate dinner around the table almost every night, did Bible devotions and went to church every Sunday. This was my beginning. We all have one, and it’s easy to get where we started all mixed up with our identity.

Being raised in a Christian home doesn’t make me a Christian, and beyond that, being raised in a Christian home doesn’t define who I am. It helped shape me, train me, and I am absolutely privileged to have grown up in the home I did. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized that my beginning was rare, almost movie like. That many of my friends came from homes where they were quite the opposite.

The crazy thing is…our identity is the same. 

NO MATTER WHAT OUR BEGINNING WAS, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US WAS MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD.

God says so in His Word at the very start, so we wouldn’t wonder. Genesis 1:27 says, “He made mankind in His image, making them male and female.” Further in His Word it says, “While we were still sinners, [before we called ourselves His] Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8). What do we make of this? I see two things to make a big deal about: 1) God made us and 2) He died for us! This means, you guys, that He loved us, EVEN before we chose to follow Him! 

THIS IS WHERE OUR IDENTITY IS! IT’S NOT IN HOW WE WERE RAISED; IT’S IN WHO WE ARE! AND WE ARE GOD’S! 

This is where our identity is! It's not in how we were raised; it's in who we are! And we are God's!

Yes, my name is Shannon. I am married. I have two kids and a dog. I lead worship, and I burp a lot (don’t be jealous). But none of these things make me who I am. 

WHO AM I? I AM MADE BY GOD. I AM LOVED, CHERISHED AND TREASURED.

I was bought at the highest price that could ever be paid. I have made many mistakes in my life, yet Jesus will still look down on me, pick me out of a crowd and say, “Yep, that one is mine, and isn’t she lovely?!” And He does the same for you! Yes, YOU! I don’t need to know who you are to know you are loved extravagantly by God! You are a human aren’t you? (If not, I’m not sure how to proceed, hmmm). Our identity is in Christ, and no bad beginning, bad ending or horrible stuff in between can change that! You were created by God, in the image of God, and He looks at you with nothing but love in His eyes!  Even if you haven’t taken notice of Him yet and realized that He has an abundant life planned out for you, know this: There is no identity thief that can steal a life that is hidden in Christ! No person, no hardship, no demons, no sickness, no broken relationship, no mistake, not even death can take away God’s love for you! (Romans 8:38-39 the Shannon version). 

Open Conversation

Back in the old days, I would write letters to my friends.  I used fancy pens, sprayed the notebook paper with perfume, decorated it with hearts and poured out my heart on those pages.  Most likely cute boys were the overwhelming topic.  It was an accomplishment if I had to struggle to fold the pages over because I had gone on writing page, after page, after page.  I still love writing letters, but if I write more than a paragraph, my rusty old hands cramp up due to lack of writing anything on paper anymore.  The hard part about snail mail correspondence was that you had to wait for the recipient to write back, and sometimes it seemed to take forever!  But these days...our precious hands can rest while our thumbs do all the work, because nowadays, we text! 

 

In texting, we can get immediate responses to our messages! I do have the rare friends who don’t get back to me for days, but the majority of my friends and I have an open conversation all day long.  Messages don’t start with “My Dearest Bethany”.  The text’s opening consist of something like

“so, wanna hang today...”

“by the way that color looked great on you!”

”...also, you’re my favorite”

In an open conversation, you just pick up where you left off!  You don’t have to say hi or bye, you just start texting.  

 

This is the exact same type of conversation God wants to have with you!  You talk, He listens...or He talks, you listen.  You don’t have to worry about him ignoring your message, He has said that if you talk to Him, He will listen!  (Jeremiah 33:3)

Isn’t it annoying when people don’t answer your messages?  As I pondered this open communication with God, I wondered...how many times I had ignored one of his messages?  Ouch! 

 

I want to have a constant conversation with God every single day.  I don’t ever want it to stop!  He has things to tell me, and I for sure have things to tell Him!  I’m afraid it’s probably a one sided conversation more often than not.  But wow, you guys!  God WAITS to hear from us!  And I imagine that when I finally do tune my ear to hear Him he has SOOO much to tell me & I’m pretty sure I’ve missed a few messages.  

 

If you’ve missed a few messages or haven’t heard from God lately, maybe it’s time to start that conversation up again.  Start with something like  

“...so, wanna hang today?”  

Inherently Valued

I was stoked to be able to remind the women of Refuge HB how treasured, valued and loved they are by God!  If you need a reminder, here's the link to go listen!  

http://refugefamily.org/sermons/inherently-valued/

Sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite

You don't exactly plan to be living in luxury on a mission trip, but you do hope to at least get a good night's sleep. Our hopes were dashed a little in the middle of our mission trip to Vietnam. There's no nice way to put it; the hotel we checked into was nasty. Our complimentary toothbrush packet was already open. A glass sat next to the sink with water still in it from the last customer, and there was no soap to wash the filth of the room off our hands. We could deal with that, but we were more concerned about spiders in our bed. So before we turned in for the night, we pulled the sheet back and checked to be sure we wouldn't be bitten as we slept.

IT WAS DEFINITELY DIRTY, BUT BUG FREE...OR SO WE THOUGHT.

Around five o'clock in the morning, my husband felt something crawling on his face and slapped it away. I assured him it was probably just a tiny spider. But his high functioning OCD and germophobia didn't find that assumption acceptable; he had to find out what had been hanging out on him. Our worst fears were realized when he turned on his iPhone flashlight to reveal a bed bug crawling where he had been laying along with evidence that one had bitten me and been squashed in the night. Eeeew!! I shot up, and we began disrobing and telling our kids to do the same. The decision was made to leave every article of clothing that had touched that bed behind so as not to take those bugs home! These are the moments that my husband's germaphobic ways come in real handy since nothing else had touched the bed and our suitcases had already been locked up tight. Right about now, you're probably thinking "Wow, what a gross story. How on earth does that apply to my life, other than standing a little farther away when I talk to you?" Follow along with me.

Bedbugs are resilient and relentless and nearly impossible to get rid of. If we hadn't taken measures to be sure that they didn't come with us, we could've unwittingly migrated those Vietnamese bedbugs into their new home in California, in our beds! They would've been prolific at multiplying, and we would've had to burn our mattress. Okay, maybe burning is a little extreme, but we'd definitely need to invest in a new bed. I'm sure glad we spotted them!

THOSE BEDBUGS REMIND ME OF THE LITTLE BITS OF SIN THAT I PICK UP ALONG MY WALK WITH JESUS.

Sometimes, without even noticing, something latches onto me and won't let go. It multiplies and permeates every area of my life, and before I know it, I'm infested with poor judgement, leading to poor choices, leading to straight-up more and more sin. Getting rid of sin is thankfully easier than getting rid of bedbugs, but they both need to die. The Bible says that as soon as I decide to let Jesus be the director of my life, I am no longer chained to my old way of living, my old mistakes. I am NEW, and none of that old stuff is meant to stay.

Sin is sneaky. Sometimes, without even noticing, we pick up something nasty, and it just takes over. For me, it usually takes over by changing the way I am with the people around me, usually my family. I get snappy and rude, and I just want to be alone and watch Netflix, and by watching Netflix, I mean watching an entire season on Netflix. Netflix doesn't ask questions; Netflix understands. I'm pretty sure if you looked up "Netflix" in the dictionary it may have an alternate definition of "a complete waste of time." They only give you 10 seconds between episodes to see if you'd actually like to do something useful with your time. I mean, can we even make an educated decision in 10 minutes? Well played, Netflix, well played. Isolation feels good when I'm riddled with sin because I don't have to tell anyone how I'm REALLY doing.

Maybe it manifests in you differently.

ONE SIN ALWAYS LEADS TO ANOTHER IF WE DON'T GET RID OF IT BEFORE IT TAKES OVER.

I'm not sure what God's reason was for making bedbugs. I like to believe that He didn't, and that some mad scientist made them as a prank. Same with cockroaches...but that's a whole other story, actually one that applies to the same mission trip. However, I am amazed that God can use this disgusting little creature to remind me to keep my life clean, to get rid of anything that isn't meant to be there. To not let sin hangout and not get so comfortable with it that I am lulled right to sleep, clueless of the infestation project that is in full swing around me. So, let's all keep checking up on our lives, making sure nothing has crept in that doesn't belong in our new hearts and lives!

Sound of Surviving

I was talking to a friend last night about a time in my life when I had no hope, when I had walked away from God and pushed hard to keep Him out of my life. But when you choose to run from God, it's exhausting and it's a hopeless feeling I never ever want to feel again. Once I stopped running, it didn't take long for Him to swoop me up in His sweet, undeserved grace and sweep me off my feet with His deep love.

 

I remember an acquaintance telling me years ago that I should be careful about sharing my story, that I would lose the respect of many. I was so discouraged until I realized that every single one of our stories matters, because they are all stories of survival in one way or another.

 

Choosing to be transparent and share your life with others shows nothing but bravery!

“they told me I’d never get to tell my story, too many bullet holes, it would take a miracle...but my story is only now beginning, don’t try to write my ending, no one gets to sing MY song!” -Nichole Nordeman

Nichole Nordeman has long been one of my favorite songwriters and this song right here brings tears to my eyes.  Take a  minute to watch this lyric video, I hope it encourages you as much as it encouraged me! 

Every life has value

My family and I recently returned from a medical mission trip to Haiti. We met a special person who changed our lives. His name was Edison. He was eight months old but so malnourished and sick that he weighed only 14 pounds, the average size of a four-month-old. His nine-year-old brother, Esky, brought him to our medical clinic in Croix de Bouquets, Haiti, on a Sunday afternoon.

Words don’t come easy when you try to fathom the childhood his brother has lost, having to care for his baby brother, and the heartache he felt as he told the doctors that his baby sister had recently died. The volunteer medical team examined baby Edison and found that he was riddled with disease. Among them were syphilis and HIV. He had been born with these diseases, which had caused his mother to be mentally incapable to care for him, as her body was succumbing to their damaging effects. Our hearts were broken as we wished we could have done more. All we could offer was water to hydrate him, hugs and prayers.

EDISON WAS THE TOPIC OF MANY CONVERSATIONS DURING OUR SHORT TIME IN HAITI.

I learned more about HIV and AIDS than I’ve ever known, and I was overwhelmed. I believe with everything in me that God creates every human being with a specific purpose, and that every single one of us has an inherent value simply because God created us and breathed life into us. That value is permanent! It can’t be added to or taken away from. So, I knew God had a purpose for Edison; that God knew the number of his days, and that every one of those days mattered.

OH, HOW I WISHED THAT WE COULD EXTEND THE NUMBER OF THOSE DAYS BECAUSE THEY SEEMED SO VERY PAINFULLY SHORT. BUT GOD NEVER STARTS A STORY WITHOUT FINISHING IT.

On our way home, 10 out of our team of 30 people missed our connecting flight. We embraced the unexpected adventure after the annoyance of the lack of efficiency of the customs procedures (don’t get me started). This is where the story gets really cool. After pleading with the restaurant staff to stay open late, so we could use our vouchers for our comped meal, they agreed, and we were all grateful to finally eat some dinner.

A couple walked up to us and began sharing about how they had missed their flight as well. I recognized them from the airport in Haiti. We exchanged small talk, and as they explained more of what they were in Haiti for, we found out some incredible news. You ready for this? They run a clinic in Croix de Bouquets where they specifically treat HIV and AIDS patients for FREE! We all gasped and rubbed the goosebumps that were raising on all of our arms. My 15-year-old daughter looked at us and said with certainty, “This is why we’re here. This is why we missed our flight!” Tiny baby Edison’s life was important enough to God that He brought so many people together for His rescue operation. Those who were left behind at the airport became those who got to watch it all unfold from front row seats.

I HAVE SEEN AGAIN AND AGAIN THE WAY THAT GOD CHOOSES TO USE US TO ACCOMPLISH HIS PURPOSES.

What may seem like a coincidence to some is actually an obvious work of God. Had we been on that flight home to L.A., we wouldn’t have been in that hotel lobby sitting next to people who run a clinic for HIV / AIDS. Every minuscule bit of our trip was orchestrated intentionally to place us exactly where we needed to be at exactly the right time! Isn’t that amazing! God wants to do the same for you. If God works so hard to rescue a baby with a less than desirable outlook, don’t you think He wants to rescue you? He does, my friend. My prayer for you is that you will know that you are loved, treasured and valued above what you could ever imagine. God is trying to get your attention. He wants to rescue you today. Will you let Him?

 

Since the trip, Edison has been receiving treatments, and his brother Esky has been given help as well.  You can help Edison & Esky by clicking here !  

One day I was a Fire Breathing Dragon

It was a difficult conversation. Don’t you hate those? I thought I was right; they thought they were right, which resulted in a heated war of the words. Unfortunately, the exchange escalated, and all of a sudden, I transformed into some sort of fire-breathing dragon bent on destroying any words that might come against me. I thought I was good. I thought I was sensible and wise and kind. But, when it was over, as I stepped back to see the damage that remained after my fiery defense, there was no mistaking it. My pride had won.

THERE’S ALWAYS A BIT OF A WAR WITHIN US DURING THOSE UNAVOIDABLE CONFLICTS IN LIFE.

I find that I have a deep desire to be understood, yet the other person longs for the same. So, what I’m forgetting is to try to understand. See, if I am letting God direct my words and my actions, I will seek to understand while I am being understood. Have I confused you yet? Work with me here…my pride had taken hold of my heart and mind and told me, “You do whatever you have to do to MAKE them understand that you are right!”, while the voice of the Holy Spirit, getting softer and softer, was whispering, “Be quiet and try to listen and understand what THEY are saying.”

What did I learn from this? Well, first of all, I was acutely reminded that residing in me is the incredibly awful ability to tear someone apart with my words.

I LOOKED BACK WITH DEEP REGRET AT WORDS I COULDN’T TAKE BACK.

You may be wondering, “Well, what if I really am right, and they aren’t trying to understand?” As always, God is a step ahead of us! Remember in chapter 14 of Exodus, when Pharaoh agreed to let the Israelites out of captivity? Well, not too long after they were let go, Pharaoh was like, “Wait a minute! Why would I let all that free labor walk out of here? Let’s go get them back!” Pharaoh and his men went after the Israelites, and as they saw their enemy approaching, the Israelites freaked out! I mean, they were so scared, they regretted being freed from slavery! That is major freak-out material right there! Can I just say how thankful I am that God didn’t call me to be a Moses. What a whining group of people. (We wouldn't have whined any less, I’m sure.)

Moses told the people, whom God had put into his care, “Chill out! Just stand there and watch God take these creeps down!” This is, of course, the Shannon version. But in all seriousness, God, through Moses, comforted His people by reminding them that HE is the one who fights the battles in front of us. The Israelites didn’t need to defend themselves, because they had God on their side. Over and over, throughout the wilderness time of the Israelites, we see God come through for them, feed them and rescue them. He meets their every need, and He indeed fulfilled His promise.

What does this mean for us? It means that we will all fight battles figuratively, and sometimes even literally.

WE HAVE A CHOICE TO MAKE.

We can choose to let God fight for us, or we can choose to morph into a really ugly, fire-breathing dragon. I wouldn’t recommend the latter. From now on, I know what I will choose. I will choose to let God come rescue me. Not necessarily rescue me from the person I am “fighting” with, but I need Him to rescue me from my deep, fleshly desire to MAKE myself be understood. The truth is, God gets me, He understands me, and He knows what my motives are. His opinion is the one I care about the most.

And here’s the coolest part…are you ready for this? When I put my efforts into honoring God first, I will, in turn, honor others. He has promised in Ezekiel 36:26 to give me a new heart and a new Spirit. He vows to take away the rough edges and place in me a heart that wants to honor Him. That breathes new life into me, which I can breathe out towards others. It also takes away that fire that I had previously wanted to breathe out. 

 

Life Lessons From The Worried Woman

My husband and I were all settled in our seats as our plane was boarding for a flight to Houston. Believe it or not, we had won a trip including flights, accommodations and tickets to the Super Bowl! We aren’t even sports fans, but, I mean, c’mon, it’s the Super Bowl, oh, and it was my birthday. God always gives the best gifts!

A WOMAN CAME DOWN THE MIDDLE AISLE WITH A WORRIED LOOK ON HER FACE.

It didn’t seem like anything was actually wrong, she just seemed like one of those people who always has a worried look on their face, know what I mean? You know that constant look of striving and worry?

So, the “Worried Woman” asked a gentleman if he wouldn’t mind moving back a row, so her husband could sit across the aisle from her. The man obliged without question. “Oh thank you so much!”, said the worry-faced woman, “I really appreciate that!” I grinned at this lovely gesture of human kindness that seems to be lacking these days. Then, a soft-spoken woman who was sitting in the middle of the row (now next to “Worried Woman’s” husband) piped up and said, “Oh, my husband is right there next to you. Would you be able to sit on that side together, so that my husband and I can sit together over here together?” “Worried Woman” seemed caught off guard and paused to think. Her worried face turned into an inconvenienced face and she said, “Oh no, I don’t want to sit in the middle.” I was struck at the way she had just been offered kindness but wasn’t willing to become uncomfortable in order to offer the same kindness to someone else.

Before you get all “I would never do that” on me, I am one step ahead of you, because I did the same thing. I shook my head and thought of a few things I wanted to say but kept them to myself. I quickly realized though…I can’t judge “Worried Woman,” because I’m a lot like her (insert nervous grimacing faced emoji here). OK folks, it’s confession time…If I’m bringing home donuts for my kids, I make sure I get my favorite one out of the box BEFORE I get home because kids are vultures. I want the closest parking spot when I go to the grocery store because walking is work, and groceries are heavy. I want the cushiest chair in my favorite coffee shop because…well did I mention it was the cushiest? And doggonit, I just want to watch Food Network, not the action packed movies my husband wants to watch…it also bears mentioning that I don’t want to share the french fries on my plate with him either! My point is, I am just as selfish as the woman on my flight was!

IN ORDER FOR US TO BE UNSELFISH, WE HAVE TO OVERRIDE OUR HUMAN DESIRE TO BE CATERED TO.

It’s not natural for us to want to serve others and make sure their needs are met before ours.

God’s Word says, “Consider others as more important than yourselves.” It’s tricky, but not impossible. I’ve found that the things that don’t come naturally to me aren’t impossible, they just take more practice. Usually when we practice something, we become better at it, right? It’s the same when cultivating an unnatural character of unselfishness.

IF WE MAKE AN EFFORT TO PUT OTHERS FIRST, WE’LL GET BETTER AT IT.

For example, let someone go in front of you in line at your favorite coffee shop, or maybe even drive right past that front parking spot so that someone else can enjoy a shorter walk. What?! But groceries are heavy! I know, I know, but just try it out. I think you may just find that you get better at it the more you do it. Not to mention when we put God in front of us and decide to honor Him and obey Him, He always gives us the will and the way. We can all learn a lesson from the woman with the permanent worried look on her face. Life is stressful when you’re always looking to see how you can get ahead.You can never rest when you’re striving to always come in first. So let’s all try letting others be more important for awhile. That includes me. I’ll even bring home my favorite donut for my kids to try before I devour it. What about you…you in?

Have a Mary Christmas!

Christmas trees, presents and parties, oh my! How’s that Christmas season treatin’ ya so far? Is it just me, or do people get meaner while driving their cars around this time of the year? All of a sudden, it’s as if everyone is saying within the confines of their car, “Get out of my way! I have WAY too much to do, and YOU are slowing me down!” Granted, there is a lot to think about during this season, and especially us as women can become so busy that we forget what we are really meant to be all about! I’ve never been a “yes” person. Do you know any “yes” people? Sure, they can be on that committee, yes they can throw that party, of course, they can make that meal and lead that small group and drive the carpool, yes, yes, yes. Yet before long, they are bogged down and burned out.

 

But where in the middle of all of that busyness is the “yes” for time with Jesus?

God’s calling on our lives doesn’t change just because there are festivities to attend, presents to buy and houses to be decorated. He still calls us to sit at His feet, rest in His presence and give Him our full attention. I think about Mary and Martha. Jesus was IN THEIR HOUSE, and all Martha could do was work, work, work and judge Mary because she wasn’t doing anything but sitting and listening to Jesus…how DARE she! She even goes so far as to say, “Jeeesuuus…Mary isn’t heeeeeelping me!” Okay, maybe she didn’t say it in a whiney voice, but that’s the way I hear it in my head, so work with me, friends.

I imagine that Jesus’ voice back to her was calm, sure and perhaps longing. “Oh Martha…how could I ask Mary to stop doing what her heart is compelling her to do? She is content; she is enraptured; she is at rest.” I’m sure Jesus longed for Martha to do the same.

My Mom has always been an example to me of a woman who rests at Jesus’ feet every single morning.

I’m sure she had to fight for this time when we were all kids, but her intent and practice of reading God’s love letter every single day has become her norm. These days if I show up to her house early, I can find her wrapped up in her cozy robe with her tea and her Bible open at the kitchen table. Her dedication to God’s Word is something I strive for, and I am thankful for her example. My Mom is the women’s director at our church, so she is at the helm of planning all the women’s events and leads a great team of helpers. Around this time of year, things start to get really busy for her. One year around the holidays, I remember her talking about all she had to do that day, and she didn’t know how she would fit it all in. She said she started to get busy before reading her Bible and then realized, “I have too much to do to NOT read my Bible.” She needed her time at Jesus’ feet, to rest in Him, hear from Him and receive strength to tackle that to-do list. When Martha complained to Jesus about Mary’s lack of concern for all that needed to be done, His response to her was:

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10: 41-42, NIV).

What does your to-do list look like today?

If it looks anything like mine, I’m sure it is chock-full of tasks. Can I encourage you to do something? Go to your to-do list, knock the top item down a notch and write at the top “Be a Mary.” Choose the better thing. Choose time with Jesus before you do any other items on your list today. God wants your attention, not your work. He is, after all, the reason Christmas began in the first place. Give Him your time today, rest in His presence and allow Him to pour into you all you need to get through the busyness of this season. Even and especially the patience with all those crazy parking lots and freeways! Have a very Merry Christmas, my friends!

 

 

 

Shannon's articles are published monthly on calvarychapel.com.  This article was originally published there. 

Cats With Clothes On

Have you ever put clothing on a cat? In my super important research for this article I found it necessary to search YouTube with the words “putting clothes on cats.” I encourage you to do the same, as it will definitely brighten your day. When I was younger, we had a cat named Mr. Fraidy, so named because he was afraid of everything. Get it? He was a “fraidy cat.” I know, my family is a clever bunch. As a source of fun and enjoyment, we would cut the toes out of a stretched-out sock and slip it onto Mr. Fraidy. He would get up and try to walk but would ultimately end up looking like some sort of drunken sailor or just give up all together and lay down in defeat. Oddly enough, this picture of my poor, old cat came to mind when I was doing a devotion about our burdens.

BURDEN BY DEFINITION MEANS “A HEAVY LOAD”

We all carry them from time to time, and sometimes, they are put on us (like little Mr. Fraidy, God rest his feline soul). We do our best to walk around and make life work in spite of this heavy weight. If you are anything like me, you stuff the burdens down, trying to hide them until one day it’s just too much, and you can’t fight the desire to give up anymore. But, we are able to be free of the burdens just as quick and easy as Mr. Fraidy was. When he complained enough (i.e. meowed as loud and angrily as he could), we would reluctantly remove the sock, and he would scamper off to hide underneath a bed or behind the couch. Similarly, when we are loaded down with worries and cares, all we need to do is ask God to take them from us.

When I was watching those silly “cat with clothes on” videos, I began to wonder what God thinks when He sees me struggling to carry my own burdens. Does he chuckle sometimes at the silliness of it all? How foolish I am to think that I can handle the weight on my own, when all I need to do is say, “OK, God, this is too much; I need you to take it.” In His kindness, He instantly removes the burden and gets rid of it.

God is clear in His words that the MOMENT we come to Him and ask for His help, He steps in immediately to rescue us. He says:

 "COME TO ME, ALL YOU WHO ARE WEARY AND BURDENED, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST.”

This is a clear invitation to come and be released from the unnecessary weight you’re carrying. God has time for you, my friend! He has time to spend removing your burdens, no matter the weight and no matter how many you have been lugging around. His goal is your freedom! How can you walk encumbered by the worries, cares and stresses of life? The answer is you can’t, and you weren’t meant to. Don’t be like those cats with clothes on. Meow (er, I mean call) to God, and He will come to your rescue and set you free from that weight!

In all seriousness, my friends, what burdens are you carrying today? It doesn’t matter how small it may seem; it is keeping you from walking in the freedom God has already given you. How Jesus longs to come for you and remove that heaviness. He wants you to be able to walk lightly today. Will you let Him?

Dreams Undeveloped

Vivian Maier was born in New York City. She lived a relatively long life before passing away at the age of 83. Up until 2007 she was known as little more than a peculiar woman who worked as a nanny and always wore a camera around her neck. A box of negatives that belonged to her was purchased at an auction by a man named John Maloof. When he began going through all of the negatives and subsequent boxes of hers that he purchased, he found that she was an incredibly talented photographer. Yet, she had hundreds of rolls of undeveloped film and negatives. Don’t you wonder why? Perhaps she had no idea how talented she really was, maybe she took photos simply for the joy of capturing scenes of everyday people living everyday lives.

IT MAKES ME WONDER...WHAT SORT OF DREAMS AND TALENTS HAVE YOU LEFT UNDEVELOPED?

I am a dreamer, and I firmly believe that God places dreams in every single one of us. The "size" of your dream is of little importance; what matters most is what you do with that dream. God places the dream in us and will give us all we need to achieve that dream. The only uncertain thing between the birth of the dream and the dream coming to fruition is our choice to do the work it’ll take or to remain sedentary.

Why wouldn't we want to jump with both feet into a big dream that God has placed in us? Fear. Fear that we won't be able to accomplish the dream. But God’s Word promises to give us everything we need for life and godliness, because He has called us, and He has promises He’s made that He intends to fulfill (2 Peter 1:3-4). I think of it like an airport runway at night. It is lit up like a huge Christmas tree so there is no mistaking where the plane should land. That is how God will lead us if we ask for His guidance and His leading.

DO YOU EVER FEAR THAT PEOPLE WON'T LIKE YOUR DREAMS AND THEREFORE WON'T CHEER YOU ON ALONG THE WAY?

This is a hard one, and I totally get it! As a musician, my talents and gifts from God are usually used in front of people. Some people like my gifts, and some don’t. There is no shortage of people who are unafraid to put their not so nice opinions on the “prayer request” section of a bulletin and shove it in the offering box. Sadly the naysayers are usually louder than the cheering squad. I learned a long time ago that you can’t please everyone, and guess what, that’s OK! Even Jesus, who saved the entire world from hell was despised and rejected by even His closest friends (Isaiah 53:3). My point is we are not out to please people; we are out to achieve whatever it is God has set out in front of us. That is our responsibility. Galatians 1:10 (NLT) says, “I'm not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ's servant.” The fact that God celebrates our little and not so little victories should spur us on to realize the dream He has planted in us.

I wonder if you have any dreams that have been left undeveloped, much like Vivian Maier’s negatives and film rolls. By the way, since her passing, Vivian Maier’s work has become quite popular and well known. How sad that it wasn’t until she passed away that her work was released to the world. Remember I said it’s not about the size of your dream; it’s about what you do with it. If you can’t think of any dreams, you haven’t thought hard enough. And don’t forget that God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above anything you could ever think to ask for! (Ephesians 3:20)

Quiet Time in a Garbage Dump

 dropped the kids off at school in the nick of time, as usual. Looking at the clock, I realized I had a hour-and-a-half to spare before my 9:30 appointment. My choices were a great workout or some time with Jesus, so I opted for a beautiful morning reading my Bible on the beach. I could just imagine the clear, blue waters crashing on the shore and could almost feel the warm sand between my toes. I quickly found a parking spot, as I coasted past the surfers just leaving and those just getting started. I couldn’t wait to get my toes in the sand and see Catalina Island off in the distance. I grabbed my Bible and put my keys in my jean pocket, as I began walking along the path to the beach.

SUDDENLY, AN UNEXPECTED SOUND PIERCED THE SILENCE.

A noisy air compressor was being used to work on someone’s home. I winced at the unwelcome sound but kept walking, hoping the waves would drown out the awful noise. I took a few more steps and looked up at the beach. In disappointment I dropped my hands to my sides as I looked up to see that the smog on the horizon was the worst I’d seen in a while. To make matters worse, the waves that I had been anxious to sit and watch were washing up an unusually enormous amount of garbage. “Great!” I thought “How am I supposed to have a decent time with Jesus in this noisy garbage dump?”

I was feeling slightly defeated, but with time ticking away, I figured I would make the best of it. Those pesky little kelp flies swarmed around my ankles as I walked past piles of seaweed on my way. Empty soda bottles, lip gloss containers, broken beach ball and an odd amount of airline regulation sized liquor bottles littered the beach (random, I know). I tried my hardest to empty my thoughts and let God speak to me as I sat in the midst of this trash heap. I closed my eyes and just sat, quietly. After a few minutes I heard it. All at once everything around me seemed to fall silent except the sound of the waves. I could hear them churning and crashing on the shore, just as they always do. I opened my eyes. I could see the sand swirling up in each one, forming a beautiful pattern across the face of the wave. I closed my eyes again, took a deep breath and just listened. The calming drone of the water brought comfort and peace. It suddenly felt like nothing else mattered—I was alone with my Creator, enjoying the creation He had made just for me to enjoy.

I WAS REMINDED THAT AMONGST ALL THE JUNK THAT HITS US FROM DAY TO DAY, THE LORD REMAINS THE SAME.

He is constant; He never changes. The waves have been crashing on shores around the world since the day the oceans were created. God has been present, dependable, faithful and powerful all the more. His Word says that if I tried to count the thoughts that God thinks about me, they would outnumber the sands of the sea. Looking at the grains being swirled around in the waves, my breath was taken away by the sheer amount of time God takes to think about little old me. He has promised to be faithful, and He is trustworthy to do just that. Just as I know that every time I drive to the beach, I will hear and see the water churning and the waves curling, and I can count on Him to remain the same. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will never leave me. He is always with me.

AREN’T ALL OF OUR LIVES LITTERED WITH AT LEAST A LITTLE BIT OF GARBAGE?

If we choose to focus only on the pieces of trash that reside in our lives—past, present and even future—we will miss the beautiful constancy of God. If we look, we will find the unexpected gifts that God has just waiting in the wings for us. So, even on a beach overshadowed by noise, smog and trash, God showed up. He always does.

“Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created.” (Psalm 119:90, NLT).

 

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Lies Are Loud

My Mom didn’t ask my little brother anything, but he looked up at her and said: “I didn’t take any chocolate chip cookies, Mom.” The telltale chocolate smears across his face told a different story. He sold himself out before she even noticed any cookies were missing. I can just imagine his little boy brain trying to throw mom off the trail of the missing cookies by just letting her know he was definitely not a suspect before she even began her investigation. But his little lie made it clear that there were indeed cookies missing, and the perpetrator was standing about waist high right in front of her.

LIES ARE LOUD AREN’T THEY?

When people feel guilty and are backed up in a corner, they shout out these lies in an attempt to take the finger that is pointing at them and turn it on any other easy target. Any Christian should know this first hand, because the enemy of our souls is the biggest liar of all and sometimes the loudest. The Bible actually says about Satan: “When he lies, he speaks in his native language, because he is the father of lies” (John 8:44). If he is the father of lies, than we can know that any lie we believe about ourselves has come completely from him. He has lies that he wants all of us to believe, because if we believe what he tells us about who we are and what God has for us, it makes it harder to believe the truth God speaks to us.

While lies may be different for men and women, some of them may sound like this: “You’re not beautiful, you are not loved, you are a bad mom/dad, you are a bad wife/husband, you’re fat, you're broken, you’re unwanted, you’re not a good provider, you don’t have anything to offer, you are alone.” Do any of those sound familiar to you? Have they been wedged into your heart so much that they are hard to ignore? While the enemy is the father of lies, some of these phrases may be delivered to us via our parents, former teachers, bullies or significant others. It matters little how they were spoken to us. What matters is how we have let them stick and define who we think we are because of them.

It is so much easier to recall the negative things that have been said to us. I’m sure you can think of something awful that was said to you, but if I told you to try to recall a compliment that was given to you, it might take a few more seconds for you to think of one. Lies are loud, and often times the truth is quiet. God whispers to us everyday: “I love you, you are beautiful, you are enough, you were made in My image, I have good plans for you, I am with you.” At the same time, the enemy is shouting at you, trying to draw you back to believing his lies. If the Devil can keep you wallowing in the sorrow that comes when you believe his lies, he can successfully keep you away from God. 

BUT GOD, WHO LOVES YOU SO MUCH, HAS PROVIDED YOU WITH A WEAPON AGAINST THE ENEMY’S ATTACKS…THE TRUTH!

For every lie the enemy speaks about you, there is a truth in God’s Word to counteract it. I encourage you to think of a specific lie that runs in your mind constantly, especially when you are weak. Take that lie, and look up the antonym for that word, then go search in the Bible for the truth that debunks that lie. Here are a few to get you started:

1. LIE: NOBODY LOVES YOU.

Truth: He loves us so much that even when we were against Him, Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8)

2. LIE: I AM ALONE.

 Truth: God tell us not to fear or be dismayed because He is with us, He will make us strong and even hold us. (Isaiah 41:10)

3. LIE: YOU HAVE NO FUTURE.

 Truth: God has BIG plans for us, plans that will be good and will lead us to a bright future and fill us with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

So you see, lies are loud, but the truth of God speaks louder! His truth has not and will never change. The way we feel about ourselves will ALWAYS be subjective to our surroundings and our circumstances, but God’s truth will always remain! No matter what the enemy may try to throw at you, let God’s Word speak for itself. God knows you, loves you, sees you and has plans for you that you wouldn’t even be able to imagine, even if He told you! (Habakkuk 1:5)