Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Surrendering to a Life of Love and Encouragement

As I sat in church, I glanced across the aisle and saw Jeannette sitting with her family. As usual her countenance was cheerful and friendly.Although I have known her for years we have never been close friends. Even so, I have known Jeannette to be a woman of noble character, a woman after God’s own heart.

Every time I see her, my mind flashes back to a time when I asked her to critique one of my Christian talks. She was someone whose life reflected the love of God so I valued her input.
In her usual loving, kind and respectful way, she let me know that she could not offer her critique. As someone who had traveled with the Dale Carnegie Organization years earlier she had applied the principle of encouragement to her life. She was not comfortable being a critic even if it was solicited.

She seemed so sincere but I wondered if my message was lousy and she wasn’t comfortable telling me. As we continued to talk I realized it wasn’t about me. She truly could not offer a critique that would discourage anyone.

God’s Word says, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Colossians 4:6)

Years later, I can’t recall hearing Jeannette speak an unkind word to anyone or about anyone. Although the Dale Carnegie Organization is a reputable organization I know that it is not this company’s principles that have caused Jeannette to live her life set apart as an encourager.

As a follower of Christ, Jeannette’s life reflects the love and grace the Lord pours into a life whose heart is fully committed to Him. The Lord changes our lives from the inside out when we surrender our life into the Lord’s hands.

In 1907 Adelaide Pollard pinned the words to the old hymn, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord”. The words from the first verse, “Thou art the Potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after Thy will, While I an waiting, yielded and still,” resonated in my mind.

Jeannette’s beauty was a reflection of the Lord’s love flowing from a woman yielded to the Lord. Her words of love and encouragement revealed what was in her heart.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

" How To Live In This World But Not Of This World"

“Let the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer.” (Psalms 19:14 KJV) This was one the first verses I remember memorizing as a child which has stayed with me throughout my life. It has been and truly continues to be my heart cry to the Lord.

For year, the Lord has blessed me by bringing this verse to my mind almost everyday of my life when I first wake up. I suppose the Lord knew that this would be a struggle for me and by His loving kindness and mercy, He has planted this verse not only in my mind but also in my heart.

Once my feet hit the floor, this heart cry to please the Lord with my words and thoughts is continually challenged all day long. No matter how much I truly mean what I prayed, I am faced almost instantly with the challenge of every thought I have and every word I speak.

Life would be so much easier if I could retreat and live apart in a monastery where I could be insulated from the world and set apart with the Lord. If I could spend all my time praying, reading the Word of God and enjoying the beauty of the Lord’s creation in quietness and solitude then perhaps, my words and my meditations would be continually acceptable to the Lord. Perhaps the things of this world that are defiled and impure would not touch my mind and influence the words that flow from my heart and mouth.

Yet isolation from the world is not the Lord’s plan for our lives. Jesus prayed to the Heavenly Father, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. (John 17:15-18 NIV)

He has called us to live in the world. A world full of imperfect people who are daily finding their own way through life as we know it here on earth. Opportunities arise all day long to be influenced by the world in which we live.  When we are in the world we are exposed to the things which do not please the Lord. These things can negatively impact our minds and potentially affect the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts.

He has called us to a challenge greater than we can achieve on our own efforts; to live in this world yet not be of this world. Jesus said, "Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.” (Matthew 5:12-14 The Message) In other words, we are called to be different. If we talk and act like those who do not know the Lord and are without hope, they will not be able to tell us apart from the world. So, how do we live in this world yet not be of this world?

Five Keys on " How To Live In This World But Not Of This World"

1) Keep a Heavenly Perspective. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:1-2 NIV)

2) Guard what goes into your mind “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:8 NKJV)

3) Surrender your life and renew your mind in Christ Jesus.  “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. (Romans 1:1-2 NLT)

4) Realize you are a new creation in Christ Jesus. “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NLT)

5) Take Heart for the Lord’s Mercies are New Every Morning. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"There but by the Grace of God Go I"

“There but by the grace of God go I”, how often that phrase is spoken yet I wonder how many times it’s said without really considering God’s grace in our lives.

Just like many popular phrases spoken in our culture, “There but by the grace of God go I” seems to slip out of our mouths so easily when we see a person whose life is in pain or sin.  It’s as if we’re saying, “Whew! I’m glad that’s not me!” We face the temptation to judge another not realizing that truly, “There but by the grace of God go I.”

As I look at my own life in comparison to those born and living in more challenging circumstances can I assume I am blessed because the Lord loves me more? Am I more deserving of a life free from pain because of any righteousness of my own? Was I able to conjure up righteousness making me more deserving of God’s grace?

Before giving their hearts and lives to the Lord, many people question why a good and loving God would allow the pain and suffering we see in our world. My husband like many struggled with how the Lord could let a child be born in a remote village in parts of the world where there is no mention of Jesus’ name. He questioned how it was fair in light of Jesus saying, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes unto the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

My friend questioned why a good and loving God would take her child at a young age? Another friend questioned where was God when he lost his job and everything he owned as his family was left to suffer. Another friend cried to God when their dreams were shattered as their child was sentenced to prison. The heart breaks which come into lives because of sexual abuse, divorce, miscarriage, infertility, wayward children, broken relationships, physical pain and the death of a love one can often cause us to ask, “Where is God?’ This is a question that has been asked for thousands of years through the generations. Another question often asked is, “how could a good and loving God allow such pain and suffering?’

We cannot always understand why there is pain in suffering in our world but we know that we will face it through out our lives.  None of us are exempt from pain and suffering. Although God is a God of grace, He tells us, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33). We see this not only in the lives of those who are suffering personally but also in our world. "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places" (Matthew 24:7).

At the end of John 16:33 the Lord completes the verse,  “ but I have overcome the world.” God is in control even when it seems that He is not. We may not always understand but we can know that the Lord is a good and just God who will do what is right even when we don’t understand.

He promises us that He will be with us when we go through the difficulties in our lives. “I am with you wherever you will go. I will never leave you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6). “ I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).

In closing, when we see pain and suffering, do we just speak, “There but by the grace of God go I” as we go about our lives? Do we see ourselves as deserving of God’s grace because we think He loves us more than the person suffering or lost in sin? The Lord tells us, “There are none who do good, no not one.” (Romans 3:12)

Woven throughout the Word of God is a message of God’s love and God’s grace. He tells us, “I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:1).

Those of us who have recognized the Lord’s loving kindness and grace in our lives are given the privilege and responsibility of loving those who are still without hope. Will we judge or will we love as Christ loves us? Out of the overflow of the Lord’s mercy, love, and grace we are called to reach out to others. We are the answer to many prayers. God wants us to join Him in reaching a world that is without hope.

Ginger O'Neill

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

There's an Enemy in the Camp

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (nlt) Those words became very real to me almost two decades ago when an enemy entered the camp.

For years I imagined the enemy displaying himself in the life of a person overtaken by hatred, anger, cursing and an outward display of vile behavior. However, this was not the way the enemy entered.

Clothed with charm, disguised in beauty she stepped into our lives. With words of affirmation carefully chosen she began to orchestrate the circumstances to her favor at all cost. People were merely pawns as in a chess game. Oh, she played the game so well!

Division came into the camp as she stood innocently like a shinning star. Many were awe struck by her charm. Many were fearful of her cunning skill as a master manipulator.

Disguised as a genuine and caring person, she was very aware of who was able to discern her true character. Behind closed doors, she let the wall of deceit down and openly exposed the ugliness. Once outside the doors she once again, clothed herself in the garments of charm and deceit.

Relationships were broken, lives were impacted, and joy was taken. I had never been so aware of a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Able to escape without loosing blood of my own, I moved on in life with a lesson that I hoped to never repeat.

This past year, an enemy once again came into the camp. This one was very similar in character but did not profess to know the Lord as Savior. Whew! That was actually a relief.

As she entered our camp with the same charm and beauty as I had observed years earlier, my discernment began to warn me. As smoothly as she entered she began to slide into place and position herself in order to start the game of chess.

With words that spoke contrary to what my discernment told me her plans were, she inched her way in one step at a time. Without surprise I watched it all play out the way my discernment had warned me it would. Within a few months things began to change.

Once again, through the manipulation of one person, division came into the camp. Relationships were broken, lives were impacted and joy was taken.

As I have had time to reflect on both of these situations and recognize the enemy’s hand working through a person, I consider myself fortunate that I was able to escape without great personal scathing in both circumstances. Although I realize that I was more fortunate than others.

With that said, I have learned a few valuable lessons from these experiences.

First and foremost I have realized the need to be prepared at all times. “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (nlt) I cannot let my guard down. The Lord has already won the final battle but every day the enemy is looking for opportunities to take away my joy, to destroy relationships and destroy the life I have been given.

Second I have become ever aware that the audience of whom I serve is the Lord Jesus. “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ”. (nasb)

When my life is pleasing to Him then I will make decisions in my life that I will protect me from living a life of deceit to others. I have realized more than ever how much I desire to be a person of genuine character, pleasing to the Lord. I never want to give the enemy permission to use my life to destroy others.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

This Hurts Me More Than It Hurts You

Although I grew up in a very loving and protective home, as I got older I realized that I had my own thoughts and ideas.  I wanted to be independent and step out from the protection of my mom and dad. I wanted to be independent from God too and make my own choices. Yet I wanted the assurance that my parents and God were waiting if I needed them.

The Lord could have created each of us without freewill but in His wisdom He chose to give us the freedom to choose how we will live our lives.

Just as I challenged my parents, our daughter Christina challenged her dad and me also. I remember she once told me, “Mom, I know you love me and don’t want me to get hurt but I have to learn my own way”. That broke my heart because I knew she did not fully understand the pain she would face in making wrong decisions.

As parents we want to shield and protect our children from harm yet at the same time we want them to grow up and learn to live fruitful and independent lives.

Today, as a young mother, Christina has a little boy of her own who is living up to the reputation of a true two year old. He has begun to realize that he is an independent soul and has the ability to make his own decisions. He teeters between the two most common words of a two year old, “Mommy” and “No”. In one moment he is aware of his need for his “Mommy” and in the next he is trying out his independent nature with his newfound love of the word, “No”.

We would all like to think that we have reached a place of maturity where we only make wise decisions. But just like my two-year-old grandson, we try our independence.  We seem to shout; “No” until we are afraid or hurt then we look for safety again.  Just as he cries, “Mommy” we also cry out asking the Lord to help us.

Over and over the Lord has been very patient and merciful with me and I thank Him for being a shield around about me. "Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him”. Proverbs 30:5 NIV

There comes a time when we expect our children to grow up; our Heavenly Father desires that for us too. He is our protector and our shield but He is also our Heavenly Father. “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:10,11 NIV

Some of our parents told us as they disciplined us, “ This hurts me more than it hurts you”. As a child we thought, “Yeah, right”. But then when we had children of our own we began to understand. Some of us have even said the same thing to our children. We see the danger and love them enough to intervene.

Our Heavenly Father is grieved when we exert our freewill and make choices in our lives that pull us away from His protection and the purpose for which He created us. In His great love He will allow us to wander but eventually in His loving kindness He will intervene in our lives. If we listen, we could possibly hear our Heavenly Father saying, “This hurts Me more than it hurts you”.

When the loving Hand of God reaches down to touch us, we can resist or we can realize that His wisdom is far greater than our own. He knows that our enemy has come to destroy our lives but He loves us enough to step in and interrupt our lives.  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”. John 10:10 NASB

We do live in an imperfect world but our Heavenly Father has not left us alone to face our enemy or walk blindly through this life without His help. He has left His Word the Bible  “Thy Word is Lamp unto my feet and Light unto my path” Psalm 119: 105 KJV. As we spend time reading His Word He will teach us and guide us.

If we want to be able to cry out “Abba Father” in times of trouble we must be willing to follow His plan and His Word with all our heart. We can’t change our own heart but He can change our hearts. Many people say, “Follow your own heart” but that is not what God’s Word tells us. He tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5,6 NLT.

When the Lord in His loving kindness begins to discipline us we can resist or we can recognize that it is the strong arm of the Lord intervening in our lives for our own good.

Ginger O'Neill

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Shield and Protection

One thing I could count on growing up in my home, as a child was a sense of security. Even as a very small child I knew that my dad was my protector.

I recall walking down the street with him and being very aware and confident that Daddy was watching out for my safety. He was observant of every person we passed and exuded the message with his body to passers-by, “ don’t mess with her, she’s mine”.  He was vigilant in observing everything surrounding us. His keen sense of sight, hearing and smell were always on high alert, it seemed that nothing missed his notice.

Never once in my life did I have to worry when I went to sleep if the doors were locked or our home was secure. Daddy was my protector and I knew that he would make sure we slept securely and safely.

He ran interference blocking every intrusion that could possibly bring harm to not only me but also to my mom and two sisters. One memory that stands out to me was sitting at the dining room table enjoying Sunday lunch after church. As we sat there eating, talking, and enjoying our time together the conversation shifted to a young man in town who had already graduated from high school. With three teenager daughters now in his house Daddy was ever mindful of young men who had wrong intentions. This young man was definitely the type. So as we talked over our family lunch, Daddy told us in no uncertain terms, “ Yes, and he will never come to our house”. We knew Daddy well enough to know he had already taken action before it became a problem. With the fear of what Daddy had done we all quickly asked, “ Why? What have you done?” His answer was short, simple and to the point, “I told him that he better not ever show up at our door”. We were so embarrassed as young girls get at that age. We all cried out, “ But Daddy, he’s never even called here” and Daddy replied, “Yes, and he won’t either”.  Years later as I recall that memory I feel so loved by my Dad and find so much comfort in knowing that he loved me enough to protect me.

Was he able to block all harm that came my way? No, he gave me a safe home to grow up in and was vigilant as a father to watch out for my safety and protect me as best he could. To which I will always be grateful.

I was fortunate to have a dad who watched out for my safety.  Many children do not grow up with a sense of security and safety. However, none of us grows up free from all harm and pain. God’s Word makes it very clear.  “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour”. I Peter 5:8 NLT.  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”. John 10:10 NASB

My dad had learned through his own life experiences that we live in imperfect world. He wanted to shield me from all pain. As parents we all want to shield our children from pain.

This is such a perfect picture of our loving Heavenly Father. There have been times when I stepped out from the covering of the Lord’s protection in disobedience or through foolish decisions. But in the Lord’s loving kindness, patience and mercy He has covered, protected and been a shield around about me. "Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him”. Proverbs 30:5 NIV I can almost hear my Heavenly Father saying, "Don't mess with her, she is mine".

Monday, April 12, 2010

Stop Complaining and Start Living

Recently I was trying to encourage my friend and found myself writing what should have been taken as rude although it was sent with love. I told her in my cold email, “Stop complaining and start living”.

I had listened as she poured her heart out to me about her new life.  I couldn’t believe that she thought she had problems. She and her husband had recently moved when he started a new job. The move had been a financial blessing to them and her once struggling marriage was greatly improved. She had time and freedom to pursue some of her own dreams and goals in ministry. As she shared about being bored with too much time on her hands, I couldn’t believe she was miserable with her new freedom. I thought, “Girl, what are you complaining about? Can’t you see this is a blessing? You now have time to pursue your dreams?” Before I knew it, I was opening my mouth to give unsolicited advice. Then just to make the point I followed up in an email, “Stop complaining and start living.”

Although I was wrong, my heart truly was in the right place toward her. I had listened for years as she had expressed her desire for more time and freedom to pursue her dreams and now she had it. I was just wrong to give her my unsolicited thoughts so bluntly.

A couple of weeks later she called me, which is amazing and told me that my words had really spoken to her. To be honest, I didn’t recall what I had said to her until she reminded me. I listened as she repeated them back to me and realized these were the same words that the Lord had been speaking to my heart.

Perhaps it was His will for me to share with my friend too. Perhaps it was not, but when she repeated those same words back to me, I was suddenly very aware that I had been ignoring the still quiet voice of God as He had whispered to me, “Stop complaining and start living”.

When you are an imperfect perfectionist like me, it is so easy to make excuses. But in His love and patience, God is showing me how to “stop complaining and start living”

1. Give praise to the Lord with a grateful heart. Tell Him how much you appreciate Him and the good things in your life. Be very specific like the old hymn, “Count your many blessings; name them one by one”.

2. Give praise to others in your life. Tell them how much you appreciate and value them. At first specific praise can seem phony when you are out of practice but with lots of practice you will begin to get more comfortable.

3. Guard your thoughts. Every word spoken and every action we choose first started in our mind. Avoid negative conversation and choose to spend time with people who build others up rather than tear others down. This may mean walking away when friends, family or coworkers are complaining or gossiping. It may also mean turning off the television.

4. Learn to forgive. Jesus paid the price for each of our sin. If the Lord can forgive you and me then we should chose to forgive our selves and others when we fail. Holding on to un-forgiveness will only hinder us in living our life pleasing to the Lord and also ourselves.

5. Feed your soul. Spend time daily in prayer alone with the Lord and reading the Bible. Begin to read books that inspire and motivate you to live with passion and purpose. Listen to the testimonies of God’s faithfulness in the lives of others. Listen to stories that encourage and motivate.

6. Take time each day to do something that brings you personal fulfillment. If you are limited in your time, start small and make gains in a big way one step at a time through consistently running the race in the direction to reach your goals.

7. Take time to play and enjoy life. Let the fun begin. Learn to laugh again if you have lost laughter. Spend time listening to children laugh on a playground. Let the silly out and don’t always be so serious.

8. Take care of your physical body. As we exercise, eat right, drink plenty of water and get rest we will have the energy to live the life we are called to live. Remember, our body is the temple of God. Stop criticizing the handiwork of the Lord. The Master Designer thinks you are awesome.

It is in the balance of life that we can reach our dreams and still have time to smell the roses along the way.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wisdom of the Ages

Recently I was blessed to spend an afternoon with my mom, two aunts and one of my uncles. This opportunity reminded me how incredible it is to spend time with them and hopefully learn from their wisdom. I realized how much love and respect they deserve and how fortunate I am to have them in my life.

I’ve heard that if you were a mean young person you will just grow up to be a mean old person. But if you were a sweet and kind young person then you will grow up to be a sweet and kind old person. I am so thankful and blessed that my family is the later.
It seems that society is deteriorating and so many people are impatient, unkind and inconsiderate of others. Yet, when I spend time with my elderly family, I am challenged to be more like them.

One thing I’ve observed is they have their priorities in order. They live their lives committed to God first, family second, and other relationships third. Other things such as career, ambitions, entertainment and the pursuit of wealth are secondary to their personal relationships with God and others.

As they have lived out their lives in love and obedience to the Lord they have walked a life worthy of praise and admiration. The purity in their lives is evident. They speak with respect, kindness and love. Their words edify, affirm, and build others up. Their words remind me of the Bible verse  “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” Proverbs 25:11.

They how shown me how important it is to keep my priorities in order. They value their family relationships and encourage the young people to love one another and stay connected. They take interest and encourage each of their siblings, children, and extended family members. What joy it brings me to know that they each value me and are truly interested in my life.

They pour their love into the lives of others. When people are hurting they are there to help, encourage, serve and even grieve with them. They are also there to rejoice and celebrate with their family and friends during times of great joy.  Often their love has been poured out on others and me around the table. My southern family could put Paula Dean or for that matter any cook out of business if they so desired.

In today’s fast faced paced world, my generation and the generations following are much more self -centered than what I observe in my elders. As I listen to them and watch their lives I can see that my elders have faced many of the same life challenges and struggles that are so common to each of us. Yet, I observe that they are much more forgiving, generous, and patient with others.

I first find myself thinking it is wisdom that comes with age. But does a person’s character change with age? I think not. I don’t think that a person will just wake up one day and be a much more loving, forgiving and caring individual. It’s not the maturing brought about by age, but rather it is the maturing brought on by the power of God in their lives.

Perhaps that is the difference. My elders have experienced many challenges, heartaches, and joys and through each of these life experiences they have determined to follow after the Lord no matter the cost.

So often the younger generation dismisses the challenges that the elderly have faced because they make it look so easy. But to the contrary, it is never easy to loose a love one whether it is a sibling, parent, spouse or child. It is never easy to struggle financially. It is never easy when someone you believed in betrays a trust.

I find myself asking, “Will I forgive others as readily as my mother? Will I give to others and go without like my aunt has? Will I trust the Lord when life seems unfair?” To answer my question is to follow the example my elders have modeled for me. The answer to such wisdom is not with age but in a decision to follow the Lord no matter the cost.

The reward will be a life of peace and a life spent pleasing to the Lord. To be a woman such as the woman in Proverbs 31: 28, “ Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her”. I aspire to be that woman. I do see that woman in my own mother and it is my desire to be that woman too.

I desire to be a woman after the Lord’s heart. “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30.

In the end I want to hear the Lord God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Finding the Treasures in Suffering

One of the hardest things for me is to watch someone I love suffer. Years ago, my beautiful sister Crystal fought a terrible battle with cancer. It was such a painful time in our family as we watched her suffer and could not prevent the pain.

Not only did I pray for Crystal but I also prayed for my family. I pleaded with the Lord to have mercy on her and on our family. I asked him to take this cup of suffering from Crystal and heal her. He chose to heal her on the other side of eternity.

In the days that followed, I saw the pain in my parent’s eyes as their youngest child slipped from our lives. I watched Crystal’s young son as he tried to make sense of life without the most important person in his life. Feeling lost and alone he closed himself off and all I could do was love and pray for him.  My sister Diane suffered deeply as she faced the death of yet another love one. Diane and Crystal had already lost so much early in life when their birth mother had been tragically killed. I knew Diane felt alone, hurt and angry. Hurting myself, I begged the Lord to give me strength to minister to my family.

We had no idea that we would face the same giant four years later when cancer attacked Daddy. Once again, I prayed for mercy and asked the Lord to intervene and heal him. He chose to heal him on the other side of eternity.

This time I watched my precious mother as she faced the pain of life without Daddy for the first time in over fifty years.

Sometimes life doesn’t make sense. We don’t always understand why the Lord allows pain to come into our lives and into the lives of our love ones. What I have learned is that the Lord never allows us to go through our pain alone. Not only is He with us during our greatest needs but He also sends help through others.

When Daddy was sick, the Lord brought Nancy, a new friend and prayer partner into my life.  Our mutual friend, Sue recognized that Nancy and I shared the same faith in Jesus. She knew that both of our dads had cancer so she thought we could help each other. She had no idea how the Lord was using her.

Nancy and I began a deep friendship as we called each other. We prayed, cried, read scripture to one another and poured our hearts out to the Lord together through the telephone When Nancy’s strength was gone, the Lord used me to strengthen her. When my strength was gone, Nancy was there for me.

Just before Thanksgiving Nancy called to tell me that her dad had passed on and was now with the Lord. We rejoiced that he was with the Lord and thanked the Lord that his suffering had ended. Yet, I knew that Nancy and her Mom were still in pain. As I planned to attend the wake I realized that I didn’t even know what Nancy looked like. She said, “Ginger, you’ll know me when you see me. I’m tall, thin and blond.” As I walked into the wake, I spotted a petite brunette and instantly knew she was Nancy. I walked up to her and said, “Nancy”. We embraced, laughed and cried.  It was only two months later that Nancy was there for me when my dad stepped in the loving arms of Jesus.

Although, still to this day Sue has never accepted the Lord, she was instrumental in bringing Nancy and I together during a time when we needed a friend and prayer partner who would understand our pain. Not only did the Lord comfort us with his Holy Spirit, He understood we needed a friend to walk along beside us during a time of great suffering.

The Lord has not promised us a life without pain and suffering. However He has promised to never leave us or forsake us.

As we go through each day, the trivial challenges can seem larger than they really are until our life is interrupted with a pain of deep suffering. It’s during these times we readjust our priorities and realize what is truly important. It is during these times we allow the Holy Spirit to shine His light on our journey of pain. Then we can discover within the silver lining of pain and suffering nuggets of Truth and treasures we would never have known had we not traveled this path.

Ginger O'Neill

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God

No one likes to be criticized, judged or rejected. The Lord has put within each of us a need for acceptance. Everyone wants to be loved and valued.

This is not hard to understand when you are the one who feels judged, criticized or ostracized. The injustice rises up in us and we often react in our human frailty. Our personalities can influence how we react.

There are three ways to handle criticism, judgment and rejection from others.

Some people are ready for a fight when they are criticized, judged, or feel left out. They go into attack mode. The anger rises up with explosive words that can never be taken back. Sometimes their anger can be so extreme they vent their rage with physical violence against property or even another person.

A second way people react when hurt by others is to flee and run away from the pain. Some people run to something that will make them feel good temporarily. Perhaps that is why we live in a world with so many addictions to food, drugs and alcohol. Other people try to soothe their pain with material possessions. Although we know that these are only temporary fixes, we often run to them. Sometimes we aren’t running to a quick fix but rather we are just running away from the pain. We seclude ourselves to nurse our wounds and suffer in our injustice. In other words, we run away and internalize our anger and hurt.

The advertising and marketing industries as well as the pharmaceutical companies have prospered greatly as a result of these choices of fight or flight.

What then can we do? How can we avoid situations that cause us to be angry? The truth is we can’t. We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people. The Lord tells us, “ Be angry and sin not”. Rather than fight or flight there is a third and better choice.

When we are hurt, rejected or disrespected we have the third choice: faith. Not faith in ourselves to have self-control over our anger or faith in the replacements that give us a temporary relief to soothe our pain. But faith in God who promises to be our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

He will always be there for us when we are hurt, disappointed or angry. He promises to never leave us or forsake us.

Rather than running away and hiding in our anger or running to a replacement, have faith in the Lord God, our refuge. When we are angry and about to explode in words or actions we can trust the Lord to be our strength. He will uphold us with His righteous right hand.

As we choose faith in the Lord, He will give us the ability to forgive others just as He has forgiven us. He will also give us the wisdom we need in each situation. He has promised to turn our mourning into dancing and weeping into laughing. He has promised to show us the path of life: In His presence is fullness of joy.

Monday, February 22, 2010

How to Live the Life God Created You to Live

Have you ever wondered what life would look like if you lived the dreams and passion within you? Years ago, I attended a conference and the speaker said, “ Imagine dying, going to heaven and watching a video of your life. Not the actual life you lived but the life you were created to live. What if you watched and saw an amazing person and thought, Lord let me go back and try again”.

Each of us is given one life to live and someday we will stand before the Lord and give an account to Him. We will not be given a do over. Our time is now.

Within each of us, our creator has placed a unique combination of talents, gifts, personality traits, and abilities to fulfill His purpose for our life. What we do with them is up to us.

I’ve heard it said, “If you can dream it, you can live it.” Has the Lord put a passion inside of you that does not go away? Do you find yourself revisiting this dream in your mind? When you take steps toward this passion, do you find you are revitalized and excited? Maybe you can’t see the details clearly but you know that this the life the Lord planned for you. So how do you live this life?

First, thank the Lord for entrusting you to fulfill His purpose. When we thank Him, we are also acknowledging to ourselves that the passion stirring within us is from Him.

Second, start living this call immediately. God’s Word encourages us not to despise the day of small beginnings. Each step in the right direction strengthens and prepares us for the next step.

Third, stay connected to the Lord through prayer and time in His Holy Word the Bible. It is vital that we stay connected to the Lord so we can hear His Holy Spirit teaching us the way. Dr. Henry Blackaby says, “Watch and see where God is at work and join Him”. He will not lead you away from His purpose.  Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and Light unto my path”.

Fourth, stop making excuses. Each person has unique life circumstances that present the challenges of life. We may not be able to side step responsibilities in our life but we can continue to persevere toward the call the Lord has placed in our lives. Most of the time it is not the unique challenges in our lives but rather it is the obstacles we place in our lives.

Fifth, remove the obstacles within. If you struggle with perfectionism then acknowledge that to the Lord and ask Him to help you not to procrastinate because of your perfectionism. If you are unorganized, seek help in organization and ask the Lord to help you with self- discipline. If you cannot say no to things that are robbing your time and energy, make a decision to pray before you make any commitments.

Six, persevere and don’t’ give up. Philippians 4:13-14 says, “but one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to wind the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”.

Seven, the day will come when you stand before the Lord and hear, “Well done good and faithful servant’.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

You Make a Difference

   In our fast paced world, how often do we miss an opportunity to let someone know how much we love them or how they have been a positive influence in our lives.
As I look back over my life there have always been people who have lifted me up, encouraged me, and shown unconditional love. My dear friend, Carol Kent says that we often have people in our lives that are our “stretcher bearers”. They are the ones who carry us to Jesus when we are wounded and unable to take the next step.
      Often the influencers in our lives are the faithful who demonstrate the love of Christ consistently even through the difficult times of their lives. How blessed I have been to have so many godly influencers in my life. People who have no fame, wealth, great worldly accomplishments, and many of them have suffered great lose. However, they are consistent in their Christian walk with the Lord.
      I have lost contact with many of my influencers but love for them is still as strong as it was the day they stepped into my life and made a positive impact. Some of them have gone to be with the Lord Jesus in Heaven.
      As I reflect on the influencers in my life, I see how the Lord has used each one of them as a unique thread that weaves through the tapestry of my life. Some of the most beautiful colors that have helped shape me into the woman I am today. These dear friends are a beautiful and fragrant bouquet of flowers of every kind and color.
      Opportunities to let them know the treasure they have been in my life may have passed for many of them. However, for those whom I can still let them know, I resolve to seize the opportunity while I can.
      Each day and each moment, I have the opportunity to be a positive influence on the lives of others. My heart’s desire is to be one of the threads that weaves through someone’s life and makes a positive difference.  My heart’s desire is to be the fragrance of Christ in the bouquet of someone else’s life. 


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Slow Down to See the Beauty

Do you ever let the cares of life crowd in on you and affect your attitude? So often we have beautiful things in our lives that we don’t see because we are focused on other things. We get caught in a rut and want to change yet we keep going down the wrong path of life. I guess its like when you get caught up in a poor eating habit. You get so sick of the junk food but keep eating it. Or when you form a habit that you hate but keep doing it. You want to cry out, “Help, let me off this Merry-Go-Round”!

You want to get on with your life and live with purpose, vitality, joy and hope. You want to live everyday focusing on the beauty in your life but you are caught in a rut. I was feeling a little burnt out and felt the demands of life crowding in on me. I knew it was affecting my attitude. I hated my poor attitude yet couldn’t seem to break the routine.

The Lord heard my cry for help and slowed me down. I found myself flat on my back recuperating after a fall. Fortunately the injuries were minimal but the time I was in bed I had a chance to rest, renew and refocus. By the way, I don’t recommend waiting for the Lord to get your attention this way.

I remembered what my sweet mother has always told me, “ You can’t control anyone but yourself.” As I slowed down, rested, and reflected on these words and my life I knew the strongholds were breaking.

As a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, my life’s desire is to bring a message of hope and encouragement to others and the guilt of my poor attitude had engulfed me. With renewed desire to live for Christ, I felt the chains that were holding me break.

I realized that part of my depression was the grief of missing our daughter.  We had poured so much into the life of our only child Christina and now she was all grown up living in Germany with her husband and baby son, She had always made us laugh with her quick wit and we missed her so much.

John and I planned a vacation to visit our children in Germany. Our hearts ached be with them. We were like two little children on Christmas morning filled the anticipation of seeing our children again. We had had the privilege of seeing the world though a little girl’s eyes. Now we had a little grandson and we blessed to be to see the world through a little boy’s eyes. We were also excited to see the Alps and John really wanted it to snow.

It was a pleasant change of scenery going to the winter wonderland of snow in the deep of winter and leaving our sunny home in Florida. As we spent time in the Alps I was so touched by the Lord’s beautiful creation.

As I watched my husband’s joy of spending time with our little grandson, it was more moving than any romance novel or movie I have ever experienced. As we observed the unconditional love that our daughter and son-in-law have for their little boy, it brought such joy to our hearts.

After returning home, refreshed, renewed and with lots of hugs and kisses from our children, I have realized that the Lord displays his beauty all around us. Sometimes we see His beauty in the majesty of a mountain top experience, the beauty of the sunset on the Gulf Coast of Florida, or in the smile of a child. Psalm 91:1 says, “The heavens declare the Glory of the Lord”


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Life's Tests

The last couple of days I have been put to a test… again. The modern convenience of technology allows us to glimpse into the lives of others. This modern age of technology can help us to share and connect. However, it also allows us to be tempted to step out of our lane when we see, hear, or read something that concerns us. This happened twice to me this week.

After reading something that concerned me I tried to dismiss it, didn’t pray, but went to bed with it on my mind. The next day, even after a good night’s rest, my concerns had not changed. Again, I had the opportunity to pray but I didn’t. Believing that I had an obligation to share my thoughts, I quickly put them in print and sent through the wonderful yet horrible World Wide Web. The minute I sent it off, I had this feeling in my stomach that I had definitely stepped out of my own lane. It wasn’t that I had written something awful. I had been very careful in my choice of words. But that was the problem. They were my words, not the wise words of the Lord. If I had prayed would my words have been different or would they have been received with more love and power? I will never know because I failed this test and reacted first, got out of my own lane and didn’t pray.

The Lord is a God of do-over. He brought the test to me again but written with different circumstances. My first thought was to wait, rest, and respond just like I did a few days ago on the first test. I chose to stay in my own lane, pray, and wait on the Lord. His wisdom is what I desire for my life as well as the lives of those whom He allows to come across my path.

Will this be the last test? No, but I praise the Lord for victory in this test and ask Him to intervene in all in all the circumstances I have failed Him.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Taking the Next Step of Faith

When I studied the personalities, it was very clear to me that I married an off the chart sanguine personality. John is out going, spontaneous, and enjoys life in the present. I’ve heard that opposites attract, and so it is with us. I am much more analytical and find myself reflecting on the past and planning for the future. These are not bad things if a person can also enjoy and live in the present.
Not only am I married to a sanguine personality but our daughter is also a sanguine. I have often said that John and Christina are the balloons with the helium and I am the string. They lift me out of my deep, analytical thoughts and I keep them balanced so they don’t get too carried away with the moment. We bring balance to one another. How amazing how the Lord uses each of our personalities to perfect and bring balance to one other.
It is important that we don’t run ahead of the Lord but it is equally important that we don’t’ delay when he calls us to take the next step.
It is very challenging for me to live in the present. I have often referred to myself as “an imperfect perfectionist”. This has caused me to procrastinate and delay changes that I know are important because I find myself building the perfect scenario rather than just taking the next step. I over analyze the situation.
In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones stood at the edge of the large gulf in the cave. In order to progress and reach the other side he had to take a “step of faith”. When he took the first step, the foundation appeared beneath his feet. He had the bridge he needed to walk to the other side.
When the apostle Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, he wanted to step out of the boat and walk to Jesus on the water. When Jesus told him to come, Peter believed the Lord and stepped out of the boat and began to walk on the water.  Unfortunately, just like so many of us, Peter panicked and took his eyes off the Lord. He looked at the circumstances around him and he began to sink.
As we spend time in the Lord’s presence He will bring balance to our lives.  He doesn’t want us to rush ahead of Him with the impulse of the moment or over analyze the situation. He doesn’t want us to lean on our own understanding. He has come that we might have life and have it more abundantly. When we spend time in His presence and in His Word we will hear Him as He directs us in His perfect plan and time.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hearing His Voice in the Fast Lane

This week has been challenging again as I experienced “Life in the fast lane”.  Finding time to “Be Still” is such a struggle for me.
I think if only I had more time, but if I had more time then I would be totally exhausted. It’s not my lack of time but how I use my time that makes the difference.
This past Sunday, our pastor “Triple dog dared the church to spend 40 days in the Lord’s Word and in prayer” Although I love to read the Lord’s Word and pray, it seemed to be a challenge more than ever. He warned us that we would come up against all kinds of difficulties, challenges, and perhaps hardships. I knew Pastor Jeff was right because our enemy does not want us to have victory; especially as a group of believers moving in the same direction.
Other than my computer dying and our heating and air dying, I have had an incredible week. John and I celebrated thirty-one years of marriage and all my basic needs were provided for and my family is well.
As I think of the pain and suffering in the world I realize that I am truly blessed and should shout with joy rather than mumble and grumble for my little inconveniences.
At the moment I have four couples that are friends of mine whose hearts are broken because their child is incarcerated. A dear friend just lost his beloved wife and mother of their children. Another friend is holding on to hope that her young daughter will survive leukemia. We all are watching in horror at the pain and suffering in Haiti.
With all these things in mind I am reminded by the Lord that my life is not my own. Pastor Jeff could not have foreseen the pain in Haiti and he does not know the pain in the lives of my friends and your friends. But he knows the Lord wants to equip each of us so we can be the representation of His Hope to those who are suffering.
With this in mind, I look forward to the time I can “Be Still” in the presence of the Lord and in His Word. I desire to hear His voice and hear how I can be a part of His plan.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Allowing Change While Staying in Your Lane

It’s interesting how you make a decision to stay in your own lane then the Lord begins to nudge you to change. Not necessarily change lanes totally but allow some changes to come in your life. Changes that cause us to grow us so we can be the person the Lord created us to be. I want to be open to changes that will draw me closer to the Lord and purify my life.

If nothing changes in our lives then we become stagnant. There is nothing more beautiful than a fresh flowing stream of water. The water if purified by the continuous flow of fresh water through it. As we spend time in the Lord’s presence, He will refresh us with His living water.

It all comes back to trusting the Lord and spending time with Him. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."

How can we find the balance of knowing when to change and when to hold firm and not change? It is only by spending time in the presence of the Lord. “Be Still and Know that I am God.”


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Living life in the right lane.

A couple of years ago, my sweet friend Ruby was praying. As Ruby prayed, she said, "Dear Lord, help me to stay in my own lane". Those words jumped out at me and I have found myself praying this same prayer now over and over.
In this busy fast paced world with so many options there is such a temptation to stray from the place the Lord has designed especially for me. Often I chose the good rather than the best. And yes, there are times I chose some things that aren’t even good for me.
Struggling to find time to fulfill all my commitments is something that is constantly a part of my life. I often find myself taking on responsibilities out of guilt, expectation, or default.
I want to live my life with purpose, intention and passion in the place the Lord has designed specifically for me. But how do I do this with so many responsibilities, commitments, and relationships that pull me in so many directions? How do I know what is God's will for my life and what is "my lane"?
The Lord is very clear that it is not His will that I strive and fill my life with unnecessary stress, anxiety, and over commitment. He gives me specific directions and promises if I obey his directions.
First, He tells me to "Be Still". That is tough one for me. I am constantly filling my life with one more thing to do. Yet, my soul longs to be still. Second, it's not just being still and wasting time in front of a television or computer but it is being still with the focus on the Lord. He says to "Be still and know that I am God".