Monthly Archives: January 2017

3 affirmations for when we are not who we know we should be

Often, things are not as they seem. Take a quick glimpse at the photo.

boa-in-tree

Now look at it closer. Do you see it?

While on a trip for a service project in Mexico, I ended up in the sleepy fishing town of Yelapa with some of the college students with Southwestern Advantage. I got separated, and as I walked down a path on the mountainside, I found something I wasn’t looking for! A boa constrictor! While it initially looked like a part of the tree, it was no branch. That “branch” was moving… and not with the wind! It was somewhat camouflaged in the confines of the leaves and branches. Again, not always as it seems.

We are like that too.
     We say one thing and do another
     We have secrets
     We have facades and put up smokescreens
     We live with demons from our past and develop them in our present
     We let excuses justify our actions and behavior
     Our words sting like a thousand bees
Our sins catch up with us

We are often not as we seem. That large snake was in the tree above my head. Instead of panic, I took a picture and watched it for a few minutes. I was in its home, not the other way around (note: if it was in my home, I would burn the place down and move… far away). Here are three affirmations you can use to build your positive self-talk when you come to the realization you are being someone you are not or someone you don’t want to be.

Affirmation #1: I was created to be better than this.
Yes you were! We all were. God gave us life. That life has a purpose. We all have a calling. We all have God-given talents and gifts. When we live with secrets, make excuses, or let our sin control our lives, we are walking away from our purpose and that calling.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus,
so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

– Ephesians 2:10

Affirmation #2: The reason for me being like this is because _________________ .
This affirmation is the part where you admit to yourself (and God) what the issue or problem is. Be honest with yourself and fill in the blank with whatever is troubling you. You may even want to admit this to someone else for accountability purposes. It’s easier to forgive yourself when others can forgive you as well. Also know, God always forgives, no matter how bad you think what you did was, his unending grace will be there.

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up
in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares for you.
– 1 Peter 5:6-7

Affirmation #3: I will change my ways.
An affirmation is really only words of support you tell yourself. It means nothing if not acted upon. Make sure you are not blowing smoke up your own smokestack. If you say it, do it. If it bothers you, change the behavior. This is easier said than done… but, you have to make an attempt in or to make something happen. If you’re afraid to take the shot, there’s no chance of winning, is there?

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!
-2 Corinthians 4:17

The snake photo example I used above has as a dual meaning. Just as the serpent was deceitful in the Garden of Eden, we deceive ourselves when we are not the person we really are or were made to be. It’s when sin takes over our lives we need to realize we were made to be better than that, figure out what the root cause of our problem was so as to steer clear in the future, and how we will change from here on out to be a better person – for ourselves and others.

Trey Campbell, treycampbell1010@gmail.com
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No longer a slave to my ball of glass

It’s with me.  Every day it is with me. It is my constant companion. Most days I can navigate through life just fine, without it getting in the way. Other days, I am crushed under the weight of it.

God gave me a clear image of what I look like carrying it around.
coffee

Like most reflective moments in my life, it started with a cup of coffee:

In the cool breeze of the morning I held my coffee cup, warm in my hands, and contemplated my day. The weight of the cup in my hand, like the weight of the world I too often carry on my shoulders.  That’s when the Lord revealed to me the fragile ball of glass I carry through life. There are days the ball of glass is but a marble that I can place in my pocket, and for a brief moment, almost forget it is there.  Yet, other days it feels more like a giant crystal globe, that if dropped would shatter into a million pieces.  It is on these days that I wonder if my friends, my husband, my children, my coworkers can see my cautious steps.glass-globe

This ball of glass has a name: FEAR.

My fear waxes and wanes like the moon, and like the moon, it is always there – revealing the things I try desperately to hide. After all, I am a person of faith and there is no room for fear in faith! Right?

Wrong.

I read about the disciples and I see evidence of marbles of fear rolling around in crashing waves and baskets of loaves and fish.

I know people love to quote how often scripture says not to fear, but for those of us who carry it around every day, this misplaced truth becomes crippling. Don’t misunderstand me. It is truth. Just misplaced. When you say “do not fear” to someone like me, I am looking for the off button! I walk away not feeling up to par because I can’t just kick fear to the curb!

I am learning how to push through it. Last year I took my first road trip without my family. A friend and I packed up and traveled to the SheSpeaks conference in North Carolina. This may not seem like a big deal to most, but I was overcoming my greatest fear: the car. I lost my mother in a car wreck when I was 14, and there is never a moment I am not aware of the awesome responsible of driving.

Once at SheSpeaks, I had to overcome my second greatest fear: the safety of my children. I fear leaving my children motherless. During worship on the first night we sang “No Longer Slaves.”  I timidly sang “I’m no longer a slave to fear” and a conversation with God began to take place.

“Who am I kidding Lord? I’m terrified!”

You are not a slave.

“I’m always afraid Lord! What is wrong with me?”

You are not a slave.

“Lord…How do I let go of this?”

You… are… not… a… SLAVE. Sweet child, you are not a slave to it. Yes, it is with you always, keeping you near to me, but you are not a SLAVE to it! It does NOT own you because I OWN you!

I began to weep. He was not concerned with the fact I was afraid. He was concerned with what I was going to do with it! I was not a slave to fear! If I was, I would have stayed home and never got in the car! This truth turned my timid song into a bold song.

In the new book Fear Fighting (awakening courage to OVERCOME your fears), Kelly Balariefear-fighting-by-kelly-balarie explains this shift in mindset as Chasing BRAVE!

“It is not so much that I don’t have to be struggling as it is just that I have to get after Jesus and bring Him INTO my struggle with me. Doing this-it is called chasing brave.”

– Kellly Balarie

That’s what I was doing at SheSpeaks – CHASING BRAVE.  That’s what I want to do every day!

Chase Brave!

One of my favorite features in Kelly Balarie’s book is found at the end of every chapter. There is a small section titled “Something to chew on.”  Kelly doesn’t just say to me as her reader “Don’t Fear!” She gives me practical and empowering guidance on how to become free from the bondage of fear.

I don’t expect to be fearless, but I do expect to fear less and less everyday by inviting Jesus into my struggle.

I can stare fear down and know I am NOT a slave to it! I am chasing brave and that small marble of glass in my pocket will one day be just a speck of sand. 

For more information on Fear Fighting, go to www.fearfightingbook.com or www.purposefulfaith.com.

Erica Pearson, ericalovesbooks@gmail.com
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3 life lessons to add to your tool box

Over the holidays, I had the amazing experience to have my parents visit for 10 entire days! Since leaving the Middle Tennessee area nearly 25 years ago, my parents rarely come to us. We go to them. In fact, we go to them on holidays and during the summer because, well… they live on the beach. The main reason they do make the seven-plus hour trip to see us is not for their first-born son, but rather because we have cute daughters. I guess that’s why they only come up when there is a play Madison (my oldest daughter) is in…

But this Christmas was different! My parents came up with a car full of tools and doors. That may sound a bit unusual. But my father, being an architect, drew up a plan for an open-design closet as an addition to our master bedroom. (This explains the contents of the vehicle anyway).

Spending time with my dad building something from scratch turned out to be an amazing experience. It also tests my patience. Building something can be a trying experience when not skilled. But it brought back memories from when I was a kid and we remodeled a basement together. While we learned lots of things through the process, there are several things I thought about throughout the building process.

Here’s a brief summary.

  1. Have the right toolstools
    This is important. Without the right tools, any project is immediately in jeopardy of not being completed or done right. In our case, we decided to purchase a router to set the hinges into the door and jambs. Although my dad was able to perfectly chisel a space for the hinge, this took more time and effort than it was worth.Just like we found out having the right tools was important to the success of our project – the same is true for anything we wish to accomplish with our lives. Life mirrors our building project (or vice versa). If you have a project, use the right tools.Never stop adding to your “tool box.” In order to keep building yourself, you must keep developing yourself. Learn all you can, because you never know when that information will prove fruitful.
  2. Disarray is temporarybuilding-mess
    While we were building the closet, my world was complete chaos. My bedroom was cleared out and turned upside down with tools, nails, and screws of all sizes scattered in random piles out of its packaging, sawdust and sanding dust was everywhere. My garage was also head-to-toe full of supplies, saws, tools, and more dust. I’m wise enough to know there is a means to an end… but I can’t help but be a little OCD when it comes to keeping a clean work environment. I must have taken a layer off the bedroom’s linoleum floor from sweeping so much.What I learned and saw in both principle and action is how the discomposure of the work areas were all but temporary. I knew it would all be cleaned up, but was anxious to get to the part where we would be cleaning up – meaning we would also have a complete project.Our lives get messy just like a construction work zone. But that’s what they make cleaning supplies for. When we are in the midst of a mess, we feel trapped or out-of-sorts. We feel disillusioned, as our norm becomes abnormal. Once the project was complete, the abnormal transformed into the new norm – and it was better than before! It was done. The disarray of the day had become composed of a construction mess that over time brought a greater order to the space.Sometimes, you have to put up with discomfort to get to a comfortable state. There is always a means to an end.
  3. Time spent with loved ones is well spentmake-the-time
    My favorite part of the week was the time spent with my dad. Living in a different state, it’s easy to get used to living your own life. You sometimes forget the most important things in life are the people who invested in you to make you the person you are today. Any time spent with those you love is an investment that pays dividends. For me, this was a great way to both invest and be invested in.This is the greatest of the three points. Don’t take for granted those you love or those you respect. Make time to spend with them for your benefit and theirs.

Trey Campbell, treycampbell1010@gmail.com
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Tombstones and Stepping Stones

After New Year’s, my Facebook was flooded with posts of people kissing 2016 goodbye. I pictured people celebrating with shovels instead of noisemakers, and ending the year trying to bury it six feet under. burying-days

I began to search Scripture, because I knew that it tells us to number our days (Psalm 90:12). The attitudes I was reading toward 2016 felt more like “burying days,” not “numbering days.” While searching, I recalled a conversation I had years earlier.

I was teaching middle school and led a weekly Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) meeting in my classroom. (The irony of this role in my life is a great story for another day). This opportunity allowed me to be mentored by the FCA staff, who would come to the school and pray with me and extend encouragement.

The day the conversation occurred, I had received a phone call, that quite honestly, rocked my faith. I knew my mentor was coming to visit, and I was frustrated when a familiar face did not walk through the door. A new mentor had been assigned to me. I needed a friend and I didn’t feel like opening up to a complete stranger. Thankfully I did, because if I had not, I would have missed a divine appointment. You see, God had sent me someone who had lived through the exact circumstances that were currently devastating me!

step-stonesAs I spoke of hurt, she spoke of hope. As I spoke of death, she spoke of life. I could not see how God could possibly use this kind of hurt for good, but she could because she was a survivor. She shared with me a vision God gave her of Tombstones and Stepping Stones.  One I would like to share with you now.

As we journey through life we experience highs and lows. God gave her a vision of how His people were responding to the low times. She saw before her, people burying hurts and marking them with tombstones. A graveside is a place where people go to mourn. He showed her how His people were not moving forward because they kept returning to this graveyard of broken dreams and mourning.

He then revealed to her how he wants to turn our tombstones into stepping stones. The hard places are where we learn to step up and step out further into our true identities as believers. In The Bumps Are What You Climb On, Warren Wiersbe says, “God doesn’t promise to remove the stones from the path, but He does promise to make them stepping-stones and not stumbling blocks. He promises to help us climb higher because of the difficulties in life!”

If we try to bury the hard years and never think of them again, we never allow ourselves to develop the wisdom we need for the future. (see Psalms 90:12)

In Jenny Simmons’ refreshingly honest memoir The Road to Becoming she shares her journey through the death of a dream. In it she writes:

“The Christian faith is one masterful story of life emerging from the grave. We are a resurrection people who audaciously believe the ultimate end of our story is life – not death. Because of this, we are free to mourn and bury as people of hope and not desperation. And this is good news since quite a bit of life is spent burying – plans, dreams, relationships, jobs…”

Don’t mark 2016 with a tombstone. Graves are empty shells for the believers.  While this life might be spent burying, remember that God is NOT in the mortuary business. He is in the resurrection business!

You have way more promise and hope in your story! He wants to take every single heartbreak, misstep, wrong turn, and broken dream  you have created a tombstone for and recreate it into a beautiful stepping stone that you can proudly walk upon knowing with every step He is guiding your journey!

There is not a single part of your journey ever wasted. How can I know this for sure? Because Psalms 56:8 says, “You yourself have recorded my wanderings. Put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your records.”

Oh my dear reader, He is not holding records to use against you. He loves you so much that He cares about everything that happens in your life, especially the parts that bring you pain. Your tears are in a bottle.

Don’t walk away from 2016 without reflecting on how far He has brought you. Number those hurtful days, don’t bury them.

Give him everything and allow Him to craft a stepping stone that will lead you forward into greatness.

Erica Pearson, ericalovesbooks@gmail.com
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