Friday, December 11, 2015

The Underdog Lie

We've all experienced it. Maybe you were one of the last picked for gym class, or one of the few not invited to a birthday party. Those childhood hurts of being left out or unwanted can often stick with us into adulthood. If not dealt with properly, feelings of unworthiness can lead us down destructive paths in life. If we allow ourselves to listen to the lies of the enemy, our choices in life will reflect that.

I've seen it time and time again in prison ministry. Children are raised to believe they don't matter, or that they are losers, and they turn to substance abuse to numb the pain. They have an underdog mentality and fully believe they will never amount to anything. But... there is good news.
Jesus came to earth to rescue all underdogs. Each one of us, especially those who feel forgotten, is not forgotten by Him...He came to earth for every single person. No one is too far gone for His love and forgiveness. None of us is without sin or without the need of His grace in our life. And no one has out-sinned the love and grace of our heavenly Father. (Last para. excerpted from The Christmas Underdogs.)
Product Details

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Sunrise and Sunset

I was flipping the page on my calendar this morning to September, when I paused to “say goodbye” to the beautiful August photo; a stately lighthouse perched on the edge of a rocky shore flanked by a gorgeous sunset. The scripture attached was, “The Lord hath done great things for us.”(Psalm 126:3)

Staring at the beauty of the parting rays of sunlight, I asked myself how I knew the photo was of a sunset and not a sunrise. What is the difference between the two?

As I contemplated this, I mused that a sunrise is brighter and a sunset more soft. A sunrise is usually concentrated in one area, and a sunset is often spread more across the horizon. Sunrises are typically stark yellow, while sunsets can run the gamut of a color palette.

To me it’s as if the Lord is communicating:  Sunrise! Look up! Let the Son rise in your heart! Give Him praise! Roll up your sleeves and embrace the day!

Sunsets, on the other hand, speak:  Let our hearts fill with humble gratitude as we give thanks for the gift of this day; the myriad colors representing the many blessings we received both great and small. Its breathtaking beauty should cause us to lift our hands to the heavens and praise Him.

As I reflect on August and the short but powerful verse attached, I agree: the Lord has done great things for us. Even in the daily take-it-for-granted happenings of each day (such as promising sunrises and reflective sunsets), if we pause and remember the small stuff, we can see that yes, God HAS done great things for us. He has given us the gift of another day of life, love, and laughter. Did we live it fully? Did we give praise and thanks to God for His many gifts?

As we turn the page of the calendar, let us not forget the giver of the gifts – for He alone is worthy.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

First Things First

I cherish arising early while darkness still covers my little area of the country. The house is serenely quiet, enabling me to spend focused time with the Lord. As my nostrils fill with the heady aroma of freshly made coffee and I gather my study items at the kitchen table, I often say a quick prayer for discernment and understanding.

Most mornings I read several daily devotionals along with a chapter in the Bible. I look up the referenced Bible verses from the devotionals, including the verses before and after, to better understand the context of the message. Sometimes this simple act takes me on amazing rabbit trails where God graciously speaks to me concerning a current trial in my life. I love being reminded that, “He’s got this,” as the Lord lifts the burden I’ve mistakenly placed on myself. I give thanks that He is still on the throne – still in control. Spending this time alone with the Lord and putting on my spiritual armor (especially necessary in these challenging times we live in) helps keep me at peace.

But I have to admit; sometimes staying focused each morning is a struggle. Sitting still and keeping my mind from wandering can be challenging—I have to continually rein it in. Otherwise, it can be impossible to discern His still small voice. Before reading my first devotional, “to-do” lists a mile long can easily be scribbled down. And it doesn’t help that I’m considered to be a “senior” by many standards. My aging brain knows if I don’t capture thoughts as they enter in, forget it. They are history.

This mental struggle used to create frustration and conflict. And then I had a lightbulb moment. I actually...prayed about it. (Yeah, heavy, I know.) Sometimes the simplest answer is literally staring you right in the face.

And God’s response to that prayer? For me to compromise just a little. By keeping a small tablet barely within reach I can quickly jot down the list of to-do items as they crowd in, but I keep my Bible and journal directly in front of me to capture “God thoughts” or “divine messages.” For me this system works. I’m able to keep the main thing the main thing, retaining my priority of staying focused on the Lord.

God created our amazing mind and He wants us to use it wisely. He also created us as spirit beings. He longs to fellowship with us throughout the day. We can do both, and have peace amidst the storm, as long as we remember to put Him first.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

God Moments

While sitting at the hairdressers this week and waiting for my turn, I picked up a  magazine to thumb through. Just then, I overheard the customer ahead of me say to my hairdresser that her husband was involved in prison ministry. She lamented on how few of the inmates receive visits or correspondence from anyone, including from their own family members.

"I was shocked!" She exclaimed. "I can't imagine being stuck in prison, but to not hear anything from the outside world would be an added layer of devastation."

When my hairdresser went to the back room to get a product, I took the opportunity to introduce myself to the customer and share that I, too, was involved in prison ministry. I commended her husband for reaching out to those behind bars and shared how strong the need was for volunteers to visit and write. I then suggested she and her husband might be interested in reading "Stories of Faith and Courage from Prison."

After sharing with her a little about my background in prison ministry and in writing, I told her I co-wrote the 365 day devotional book with a guy who worked for Prison Fellowship Int'l.

"There is a list of prison ministries in the back of the book, too," I added. "You and your husband might find those useful, along with reading true stories from the perspective of the inmates, volunteers, prison chaplains, wardens, family members, and others."

The customer was thrilled and asked if I had any copies. I keep a few of each of my books in the car, just for "God moments" like this. I love the way our amazing Lord connects us with total strangers who have like-minded hearts.

Later that day I reflected on meeting that woman. Hmmm...I usually don't arrive 10 minutes early for my hair appointment; two minutes maybe, but ten minutes, no. And, I am usually engrossed in what I'm reading and don't pay attention to the chit-chat around me...I was just about to open that magazine at the hair dressers and start reading....

Then suddenly, I recalled my quiet time from earlier in the morning.
"Help me to see You at work around me," I had prayed. "I don't want to miss an opportunity to be a blessing to others."

I don't always remember to pray for ministry moments, but after that brief encounter this week, I've been pumped up to stay alert to the mysterious ways our God works around us. How many times have I missed being a blessing to someone by being wrapped up in my own world?

Lord, give me eyes to see who I can help today.

"I will bless you . . . and you will be a blessing to others.” (Genesis 12:2 NLT)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Press On to the Goal

Just a few weeks ago many of us set goals for the New Year. Some of us set financial goals to get a handle on our spending and maybe even get out of debt. Others made physical goals to lose some weight and improve their health. And I’m sure there were some, like myself, who set personal achievement goals for the year, as well.

Every January I prayerfully contemplate my writing goals for the new year. For book proposals, I first prayerfully create a one sheet synopsis of the theme of the book God is laying on my heart, followed by a rough outline, and culminating with an in-depth proposal, all in hopes of landing a book contract.

Some people set extraordinary goals and accomplish them. This week, like many in the United States, I witnessed two amazing achievements:  The first was the Ohio State Buckeyes winning the national college football championship. They were never expected to be number one. The OSU football team was considered the underdogs all through the season, right up until the very end; yet, they miraculously ended up being the champs.

The other extraordinary achievement was done at Yosemite’s El Capitan. It played host to two very dedicated men for 17 days, as they bloodied their fingertips and inched their way up the massive rock, scaling all 3,000 feet of it to the very top. Several years of painstaking preparation culminated in this amazing triumph.

But during the arduous months (and years) of those dedicated football players and rock climbers practicing and planning their strategies, there were no cheerleaders along the way picking them up. Time after time they were exhausted and longed to quit. No one took over their daily hours of practices for them – they, alone, had to stick with it and force themselves to persevere when they desperately wanted time off. Those “behind the scenes” moments full of physical pain and setbacks, where they pushed themselves beyond what they thought they were capable of, was what eventually enabled them to be successful and reach their goal.

After witnessing both those amazing sets of achievements in one week, I was even more motivated to stick to my own personal goals. Their dedication reminded me that working toward a goal and finally achieving it not only blesses us, but blesses and encourages those around us to strive to reach their goals, too. And sometimes we forget there is a bigger picture involved. We forget that our actions can prompt others to step up to the plate. (The opposite is true, as well. Our lack of commitment can lead others astray.) It is important to remember that our perseverance, and taking the necessary steps toward our dream, is what it takes to win the trophy.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)
Content Copyright Connie Cameron; All rights reserved
Site by Eagle Designs