By Niki Packer
Last week’s Called and Confident blog about dreaming by Debbie Legg was very motivating to me. What would I do if I could only do one thing? What dream has God put in my heart? These questions excite me and make me want to talk and dream with God.
However, there is a theme that God has been repeating to me the last few weeks as it relates to dreaming big in God’s kingdom. It's something that doesn’t really excite me. It’s something that scares me and keeps me from dreaming. It’s a word I dread. The forbidden S-word. Sacrifice.
Sacrifice plays in big role in fulfilling dreams. In order to accomplish something, we have to give up something else. If we want to buy something, we give up money. If we want to vacation, we cut costs in other areas. If we want to go to college, we give up years of "regular" life and income. And if we want to see dreams come to fruition, there are countless things we'll have to give up along the way.
But maybe a better word for sacrifice in God's Kingdom would be EXCHANGE. I am giving up something, but what I'm receiving is way better.
In 2007 God gave me a dream for a Sunday night children’s program similar to a mini-VBS. We've now been doing the J-team ministry for 12 years and while it is fulfilling, it also means there’s a lot of work and sacrifices involved. Sundays are very long days for many of us while J-team is in session. There is much we have to exchange in order to plant Kingdom seeds in the children of our community. But the blessings are so much better than what we're giving up!
Invariably, the things that I think I want are never as good as what Jesus knows will fulfill me. When I trust Him, even in the sacrifices, the exchange rate I get is definitely in my favor! God never asks us to give up something just because He wants to see us suffer. He doesn't delight in watching us sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice. But He does love for us to trust Him enough that what we give up will never be better than what He gives us.
So the next time the Lord asks you to sacrifice something, try trusting Him that the exchange will be to your benefit and the blessings far greater than the sacrifices.
By Debbie Legg
“Essentialism isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.”
In one of my favorite books, Essentialism, Greg McKeown teaches how to find the right things, including your Point of Highest Contribution, and structure your life so you can do it.
I believe Jesus revealed his Point of Highest Contribution (PHC) when He announced Himself in the synagogue in Luke 4:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Isaiah 61:1-2a)
Reading through the gospels shows me everything He did fit into these categories.
Nothing He did was a waste of time. Everything had purpose, and impact. Even His distractions, like stopping to address the bleeding woman while on the way to Jairus’ house, were perfectly timed divine appointments.
Jesus got the right things, and only the right things, done.
I’m learning to as well. My right things include responsibilities as a wife, mom, daughter, volunteer, and general doer of all things household. After much prayer and learning, I’ve discovered that my Point of Highest Contribution, outside of my daily life, is as a writer. I’ve been using the principles in Essentialism to cut out nonessentials and distractions so I have maximum time to write.
Let’s dream a minute.
What is your Point of Highest Contribution?
If you could do one thing and one thing only, what would it be?
Take some time and let your spirit and soul ponder this. Immediately discard any thought that starts with “yeah, but...” It’s not about what’s practical or realistic.
Would you start a homeless shelter? A daycare? Feed the hungry or clothe the needy? Would you provide logistical help to existing organizations? Plant trees or flowers? Cook meals? Work to free and heal victims of human trafficking?
If you could do this, and only this, what would your life look like?
What if everyone found their own individual Points of Highest Contribution and did that, and only that? Everyone would be happy and fulfilled, and the world would be an exponentially better place…
by Amy Kemp
Called and Confident Lessons from Babes
Psalm 8:2: "Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs that drown out enemy talk and silence atheist babble." (THE MESSAGE)
My 19-year-old daughter brought this scripture to my attention recently. She sent a simple text message that read, "Mom, explain Psalm 8:2 to me." I didn't recognize the verse as one that I might know by memory, and I waited until my devotion time to dive in. I read the above and paused.
After some thought, I shared the following with my daughter Belle:
“Sadly, there is so much I can't explain. Not because I don't read the meaning in the passage, because I do see incredible meaning here. But there is just something that happens when a woman births a baby and holds that baby in her arms. It is without words. So, some of my understanding from this verse I can't share with you because words will do no good. Once you hold a baby (your baby), you'll know.
Mostly, what I was thinking is that we are "too big for our britches." As we grow and mature, we add words to our vocabulary and our acts of service get bigger and bolder. We might not be out to impress God or man, but the nature of maturing is that we can do more and say more, so we do. However, the most innocent (the youngest among us) can communicate needs. Infants cry. Toddlers, when they learn even the simplest of language, sing. And, the scriptures say that this sort of communication, even at this stage of life, is enough to drown out enemy talk. Why? Because we represent God's handiwork.
Infants are close to God. Immediately before their birth (up to the second before exiting the birth canal), God is hand-crafting them in their mother's womb. His fingerprints are all over the skin of a newborn! How innocent and perfect! THAT. . .that moment, that cry coming from that baby. . .that is the most powerful, wonderful, God-honoring sound. It speaks to God's power and perfection. How did that baby know that at just the right moment he or she should take a breath of air? Because God whispered, "This is your time." From the depths of that infant (yes, their mouths but also their souls), God's authority is manifested.”
After I fired those words off to her, I marveled. You see, at 47 years of age, I'm somewhere between fully raising my own children into adulthood and becoming a grandma, with the honor of watching my children raise their own. The days of infants, right now, seem far behind me, but maybe not too far into my future.
I do have a son who, though not biologically mine, is mine nonetheless. He and his wife have three children. The youngest of which is my name sake, Charlie Sue. (Sue is my middle name as well.) Charlie Sue is 11 months old, and though she lives too many miles away from me, I've had the privilege of holding her as an infant (at only six weeks old) and listening to her gurgles. Now, this many months later, I've seen her mama and daddy call for her across the room, and I've watched as she wobbled to her hands and knees, trying valiantly to figure out how to crawl. I've seen her respond to those who call out to her. She hasn't mastered navigation yet, but she tries. Oh, does she try.
As a called and confident woman, here are a couple of take-aways from all of this. First, don't get too big for your britches. Keep your language and your acts of service simple. Take cues from toddlers and infants. Even their noises and shouts drown out atheist babble.
Second, look for the One who loves you and is calling to you. Find your way to Him; army crawl if you have to, but get to Him. Just like a babe learning to crawl and then walk and then run, remember the voice calling to you is the voice of the One who loves you. He will never leave you. You can have confidence in Him. He is calling you. Rest assured, He sees you trying to find your legs beneath you, and He is smiling with arms wide open.
There's just so much to learn from babes, isn't there?
by Clella Camp
The greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them." John 15:13 No greater love has any man than he will lay down his life for his friend. Do you have a friend like that? Are you that kind of friend? Laying down your life for a friend does not necessarily mean dying for them. What are you willing to give up for them?
Time is one item we don’t give enough of to our friends. I intend to call, but I get busy. I want to listen but right now I have some place to go. I know you are hurting, but I don’t want to get involved. I want to be a helper, but I don’t want to do that job. My excuses for not being the friend I should be are many and varied and rather weak most of the time.
Friends are those people who know all about you and love you anyway Friends hear what you say and know it is not what you mean. Friends show up three weeks after the funeral with plans for something to do together. Friends send you a card in the mail (not an e-mail) for no reason.
Friends laugh at your old jokes and know you cry when you are happy. Friends tell you they like your new hairstyle even when it is unbecoming. Friends tell you they miss you when you are gone.Friends share your love for Jesus.
Friends pray with you and for you. Friends never tell your secrets to other friends. Friends know you are afraid of the dark. Friends show up at the strangest times. Friends are God’s answer to loneliness. Friends do not intimidate you and don’t even try to. If a person is blessed with friends, he is truly blessed.
Friendship has different levels. An acquaintance is a friend that I know, find pleasant, and visit with them when I meet them in the Walmart. Do I love them, of course, but not as I love my friend that I play golf with or have a lunch date with.
These golf and lunch friends are ones I share cute stories about my grandchildren, funny things that have happened recently and all the latest news of town. I love these friends, but not as I love my close friends.
My close friends are the few people in this world who know all about me and love me anyway. These friends know I have faults, know I am not always the Christian woman I appear to be, nor the wife and mother that I desire to be, but they have seen me fall and get up. We are blessed if we have some of these kinds of friends. And when we reach old age and these friends are the ones who remain, we realize what true friendship really means. And I love these friends, but not as I love my best friend, Jesus. Here is a friend who surpasses all my other friends. Because of Jesus, I know how to love my earthly friends.
Consider how He loved us and how you love today? I pray we all might love like Jesus.
by Becky Payne
When I was 17, I was driving the family minivan a short distance from home when the accelerator stuck for the third time in a few months. The other two times I had been able to get it unstuck; however this time was different, I wasn’t able to stop the vehicle. I was terrified thinking I was going to die. Through the grace of God, I was able, while standing on the brake with all my weight, to get the car to turn it into the church parking lot next to my house. I didn't know what else to do, so I drove around in circles honking and waving trying to get the attention of my family.
My parents happened to be on the phone with each other, (Mom at the house and Dad at the church), while I was honking and waving like a crazy person. My mom thought I was being silly but my dad realized that I was in trouble as he saw smoke starting to billow from the engine. He quickly hung up the phone and ran out to the parking lot to save me.
Without a thought to his own life and more concern for my safety and well-being, he opened the car door while running alongside me. He jumped in the car, and somehow was able to get the car to do what I was unable to do.
Dad didn’t even think twice about what could happen to him. He just wanted to make sure I was safe. He expressed sacrificial love, and some may say he showed reckless love. He was willing to do whatever it took for me to be safe even if it meant that he was injured or worse in the process. As I remember this incident, I am reminded me of a popular worship song entitled "Reckless Love of God". Here are the words to the chorus and the bridge.
And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn't earn it, and I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah
There's no shadow You won't light up
Mountain You won't climb up
Coming after me
There's no wall You won't kick down
Lie You won't tear down
Coming after me
I am grateful for the reckless love my dad had for me back then, but even more I am eternally grateful for a God that loves me so much that He would sacrifice His place in heaven to suffer and die on earth so that I could spend eternity with Him. Thank you God for your reckless love for me.
By Niki Packer
Who are the most arrogant human beings on the planet? If you've ever spent time around middle school boys, I think you'll agree that they are arguably the most conceited group of people alive. At least in my household this is true. It cracks me up to listen to my son and his friends in the van after practices, comparing their great sports moments and telling each other about their awe-inspiring stats and plays.
But I’ll share a secret with you. Their arrogance comes from a lack of confidence. They don't yet know who they are or where they are going. They have a taste of independence, but not enough experience to back it up, so they find themselves displeased with this person in the mirror whom they barely recognize. Their arrogance is actually a cover-up for self-doubt.
And as adults we're the same. We also have the tendency to cover up self doubt when we are looking for identity outside of the Savior.
I was reminded recently that Moses was the most humble man on the face of the earth (Num. 12:3). This made me wonder where his humility came from and how I can foster that humility in my own life. Moses was raised in the palace of Egypt as the grandson of Pharaoh. But he was an adopted Hebrew, so he never quite fit in with the royal crowd. He had a speech problem, which likely caused him a lifetime of self-doubt. He killed a man in anger and vengeance. Are these the reasons for Moses' great humility? Did he think so poorly of himself that he was humble? I don't think so. "True humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less" (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life).
I believe Moses' humility came from confidence in his relationship with the Father. "The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend" (Ex 33:12). He had nothing to prove to the world because he was intimate with the One who had proven Himself faithful over and over.
We're all able to have the same humility that Moses had, and it comes from the confidence of being with the Father. When we KNOW our place and identity in our Savior, we can be fully confident, and that confidence breeds humility. Today I encourage you to spend time with your Father, asking Him how He sees you. I pray He gives you a beautiful picture from His eyes. I think it will bring you a confidence that will foster humility.
By Debbie Legg
I intended to write a screenplay, not a children’s book.
It was April 2015, and I was in the audience of the Women in Film panel at the Alhambra Theatre Film Festival.
Listening to these fantastic female writers/directors/actors talk about their passion for their work was inspiring me to…well…I wasn’t sure exactly which direction my inspiration was going.
Then something one of the panelists said triggered a recent memory. The author of a filmmaking blog challenged his readers to make the movie they could make this year. Even if it wasn’t the best. Even if they didn’t have enough money or resources. Just take a step, and the next one, and the next, and make the movie they could finish by the end of the year.
A small idea sparked. “I can’t make a movie this year, but I can see what it would take to turn that little rhyming Christmas poem I wrote a few years ago into a children’s book.” Even if the road led nowhere I figured I could at least answer that question.
The following week, after praying and listening, I searched “how to turn a poem into a children’s book.”
I chose to start my journey by sending the poem to The Writer’s Edge Manuscript Service.
They didn’t accept it for their catalog. Phooey. Well, on to the next step.
The next step was to search what it would take to self-publish. Amazon CreateSpace looked like the way to go for this particular book. But children’s books need pictures, so I needed an illustrator, and the money to pay him or her, and a timeline, and...
Step by step the journey continued. As I answered one question, several others popped up. Where to get. How to do. Ponder. Pray. Answer the next question. Make the next decision. Do the next thing.
Seven months later I was holding the first copy of What Would Christmas Be? My name was on the cover. My words spanned the inside. My collaboration with my talented illustrator adorned every beautiful page.
The sense of accomplishment was real, but the opportunities and opened doors have been unexpected. In fact, it was because of this book that Amy Kemp saw me as a woman with an out of the box ministry, and asked me to serve on the panel that became the Called and Confident team.
Is writing children’s books my passion? No. Is it something I enjoyed and plan to do again? Yes.
It doesn’t always have to be about “passion.” An interest, enjoyment, or a little natural curiosity can go a long way.
What do you enjoy doing? What kinds of activities interest you? How would you finish a sentence like, “What if I __________” or “I wonder __________.”
Answer the questions, plug it into a search engine, read the possibilities, then take the next step.
Who knows? You could even end up writing a screenplay.