Thursday, October 16, 2014

Overcoming Hindrances: Kicking Obstacles to the Curb!

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan 


One Step Forward - Two Steps Back

Have you ever had a dream in which you
were trying to run but couldn't
 move, or what about trying to call someone but couldn't dial the number? Frustrating, right? What is even more frustrating, though, is feeling like
this is real life. One step forward - two steps back is a dance I am very familiar with right now. I have
actually found myself saying aloud, "Why can't I make progress?" It seems as if invisible road blocks have been placed in my path to keep me from moving forward. Can you relate to this? 

Pray Against Hindrances

Over the past week, after a series of strange, frustrating and sometimes dangerous events, I very clearly heard God tell me to "pray against hindrances". Before I had hardly any time to let this sink in, I had to deal with a very upsetting situation. In the midst of letting myself become too emotionally involved and being tempted to stoop to a level that I would quickly regret, I heard those words again - "pray against hindrances". I quickly realized that this situation was not a random occurrence, but a purposeful hindrance placed in my path to steal my focus. 

What's Holding You Back? 

Hindrances come in many forms. Some are obvious and some are more subtle. The situation I referred to was subtle. It wasn't blatantly keeping me from physically doing my job, but instead occupied my mind to the point that I could not concentrate on anything else because I was so upset. Hindrances can be physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual. We must learn to discern our encumbrances so that we can cast them aside.

"Therefore, having so vast a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, and throwing off everything that hinders us and especially the sin that so easily entangles us, let us keep running with endurance the race set before us." Hebrews 12:1

I challenge you to be more astute to what might be preventing you from moving forward. Maybe you are allowing gossip to consume your mind, worry to effect your health or making poor decisions that are effecting your job. Perhaps the hindrance is not something you are doing but something that is being done to you and you are allowing it to have power in your life. 

Breakthrough is Coming!

God does not want you remaining stale - he desires that you have victory! I encourage you to pray and ask God to open your eyes to anything that is holding you back from running the race that he has set before you. I'd love to hear your feedback! Has God revealed an obstruction? How are you dealing with it?  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Could your hopelessness be part of God's plan?

Image Curtesy by Stuart Miles/
I was inspired to write during a recent Sunday morning sermon, as my pastor spoke on Luke 24:13 - 'The Walk to Emmaus'. If you are familiar with the passage, you know that it is a story of two men who are taking a journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus and unknowingly have a conversation with Christ along the way. The two men leave Jerusalem confused and hopeless concerning Christ's death, but arrive enlightened with newfound hope and understanding after Christ reveals to them the truth of His death and resurrection. The message of this story is typically the same, spun from different voices, however one particular verse kept jumping out at me that brought a whole new light to the passage. 

"And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened." v. 21

More specifically on my mind, is the second part of the verse which reads, "And it is now the third day since it happened". Seemingly insignificant, these words would be easy to scroll over without a second thought. However, every single word in the Bible is significant and of importance and this short phrase is not excluded . In fact, I have noticed that the phrases that don't seem to make sense in the passage sometimes have the most awesome part to play in the story! I feel this way about these words. They have haunted me since I read them. I can see the two men, heads hanging, utterly devastated. Enter Jesus
So why do these words have such significance? It is common in Jewish culture to believe the soul of the dead hovers over the body for three days, making resurrection possible. However, after those three days are over, it is believed that the soul departs. These men had most likely been desiring or expecting Christ to rise within those three days and once the those three days were gone - so was their hope. Now here they are, totally and completely lost. Their spirits are crushed and any reveries of a king, sitting on a throne, bringing them deliverance from their physical oppressor are lost. 

Be patient with me, however, as I say that I believe their state of devastation was right where Christ needed them to be.  Up until this part of the story, His plan had been molded into their plan, in a form that made sense to them and was possible without divine intervention. Their hopelessness is good and is a much needed means to an end, an end that will benefit them tremendously. They were so intent on believing they knew how things should play out, that they never would have been able to see they were missing the forest for trees - if He hadn't set those trees on fire - so to speak. I can see Christ patiently waiting until the moment their human hopes were out of the way, so that he could step in. Perhaps he even walked by them - invisibly - until that precise moment that they hit pure hopelessness, then BAM! he appeared, ready to do His thing.

You see, sometimes God has to peel apart our fingers and loosen the grip of the hope to which we cling, so that He can then replace it with Him - allowing us to see that what we have been holding to, so strongly, is false. And would you blame providence for this? For the momentary breaking of one's heart, ideals and plans, in order to show us what He has is real. Not better, but real...true. 

Christ does not offer better hope, He is hope. 

So, as I reflect on these two men, I see the importance of complete reliance on Christ. Had they not had to set aside their assumptions and focused on Him, they wouldn't have ever known that true salvation was coming for them - not just a physical deliverance from bondage, but an eternal salvation for their souls!  They found a hope that day that isn't based on circumstances. It goes beyond that. Beyond pain, confusion and frustration. These men, and their famous journey, are a beautiful picture of how our crushed dreams and lost hope aren't necessarily an end, but the beginning of a journey that holds more than we could ever dream of for ourselves. 

"But as it is written, 'Things which an eye didn't see, and an ear didn't hear, which didn't enter into the heart of man, these God has prepared for those who love him.'" 1 Corinthians 2:9 World English Bible

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The First step

This blog post is a snippet from my book The Thankful Project. The content of this post is from a chapter that I have dedicated to learning gratitude in adversity. I hope you enjoy this tidbit! 

    You’ve probably heard the old adage, “The first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem.” Why is this? Simply put, if you do not know what you need then you won’t know what to ask for/work for, etc. However, If you are anything like me, you’re not fond of looking at your mess up close and personal like. You know, the stinky fish in the trash that’s smelling up your kitchen, i.e the pile of bills and debt sitting on your desk? Or what about the giant elephant in the room, i.e. the infidelity, depression, etc. ruining your life? Ignoring it’s existence will not make it go away. Let me repeat that. Listen carefully. Ignoring the thing that is ruining your life is not going to make it go away. Neither will griping about it, crying about it, having a pity party or worrying. What, Shara? I can’t worry my problems away? To all of us worry warts out there, that sounds like heresy. It’s true though and you know it, because you’ve been worrying for years and your house smells like stinky fish and every time you want to watch t.v. you find yourself yelling at Gladys to get out of the way! (That’s the elephant’s name...she’s been there so long you had to finally name her.)  I am making light of this, but I know that a lot of the time it is truly hard to think there is any positive emotion that will actually benefit our situations. We are partially right about this because truthfully apart from occasional circumstances in and of ourselves we are not capable of digging ourselves out of our own ruts.  Enter God.  Enter glorious, faithful, remarkably incredible God. He will show up anywhere the praise of His people beckons him, even if that means slap dab in the middle of a dilapidated mess!
     The first thing that Nehemiah did upon arrival in Judah was to take a midnight stroll around the city to inspect the destruction. He needed to know what he was dealing with so that he could make a plan. Plenty us of have had to come home after tornados, hurricanes, or tsunami’s and see the utter heartbreak of our town torn to pieces - add to that the hate of war - and you can imagine the anguish he felt. After surveying the mess, Nehemiah was better aware of the situation, which allowed him to make a solid plan!
      So, if you've found yourself in a sticky situation, it might be time survey the damage! Don't be afraid to face your disaster head on! Do it with the confidence that God has gone before you to lead the way towards rebuilding! Ask him for wisdom and guidance on the your next steps towards restoration! 

I hope you enjoyed this (slightly adapted for blog purposes) snippet of my book, "The Thankful Project"! Keep an eye out for the book in its entirety later this year! 

XO - Shara

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love Bites

I haven't blogged in a while. My husband and I are partnering with another couple and opening a restaurant…soon! So, that has been consuming a lot of my time and anytime that I have been committing to writing, has been for my book. But, I got to thinking about something today and felt inspired to write - so here goes! Forgive the short and sweet approach of this post!

Every genre and generation of music sings about it. From "love hurts", to "love bites", to "I'm gonna keep on loving you", love has been the topic of too many songs to count. Why? Because that is something that everyone can relate to. We have all felt love - even if it was/is reluctant or leery. We loved our parents or siblings when we were children, then friends has we got older and on to spouses or significant others. We love being loved, the feeling it gives us. We enjoy the companionship and intimacy that love grants us.  But if you're anything like me, you don't like to think about the negative aspects of loving someone.

A couple days ago I drove my parents to see my uncle, who is in the hospital recovering from surgery. My sister planned on going with us (she ended up not being able to) and I made the comment to her, "aww…the whole family all together for the day!" Only that wasn't true. One of us - my brother - is missing. Our family will never be whole again until eternity. You better believe the empty 5th seat would have been felt, even after 20 years. That's how it goes when someone you love dies. You feel the crushing pain for the rest of your life. Does it fade a bit? Perhaps…but it never dies. This post isn't about grief or losing a loved one, though. It's about love, period, and the sacrifice that you sign up for when you choose to love someone. You see, when we choose to love someone we are choosing all the hurt that love encompasses. Whether you're lied to, cheated on, or they die and leave you desperately lonely for their presence - we chose it when we chose them.

I started reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom a couple days ago, who by the way, along with her family, is the human epitome of love. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten and will carry on with their legacy. In the book, after Corrie is turned away by the man she loves, her father says to her "Do you know what hurts so very much? It's love." Wow. To have already pondered the pain of love, this quote caught my attention. I read it over and over.

"Do you know what hurts so very much? It's love."

That sums up this post in 2 short sentences.

Remember that when you chose to give your love to your children, spouse or best friend. At some point your heart will be broken, but that is alright. Garth Brooks says it best in his The Dance  - " I could've
missed the pain, but I'd had to miss the dance."

Dance on my friends.

XO - Shara

In keeping with the theme of Love and sacrifice, I would like to encourage you to pick up my friend's book, "Intentional Marriage: The Art of Loving Your Husband." It is .99 for today only on Amazon. Pick it up!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Role of Gratitude: The Thankful Project Book Excerpt

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book The Thankful Project, which speaks about living a victorious life through gratitude. This particular excerpt talks about the role of the priest and poses the question of whether we are taking our job seriously in the royal priesthood of Christ. 

“They are to stand every morning to thank and to praise the LORD, and likewise at evening.” 1 Chronicles 23:30

The Bible has a lot to say on the subject of thanksgiving in regards to our spiritual journey. More than a suggestion, it is commanded of us and part of our role as Christians. An intricate part of worship, thanksgiving is crucial to our spiritual growth. The existence or non-existence of Thanksgiving can be used as a good indicator of where we are in our walk with God. 

In 1 Chronicles chapter 16, we see a very important, and beautiful, picture of the role that thanksgiving plays in Christianity, as David appoints the levites with their different roles in offering praise to God. King David has just had the ark brought back to Jerusalem after it had been out of Zion’s possession for quite a while. After celebrating its return, David wastes no time in giving the Ark a home and setting up the duties of the priests. He immediately appoints the Levites with different jobs concerning the ark.

“David appointed the following Levites to lead the people in worship before the Ark of the Lord—to invoke his blessings, to give thanks, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel.” 1 Chronicles 16:4 (NLT)

 The roles consisted of praising and petitioning God, as well as giving thanks. There was actually a specific job designated solely to being thankful. Having a heart of gratitude may sometimes start to seem cliche or trite, but this passage of scripture shows us the true importance it holds. At the point of history in this verse, God’s spirit did not live within humans as he does today, but in one place - The Ark of the Covenant - and the Levites, or priests, were the liaisons between believers and God. God’s people counted on the priests to help them remain in good standing before the Lord by offering sacrifices, praise, and offering thanksgiving! The people of God expected and relied on the Levites to carry out these duties on their behalf. Once Christ ascended to heaven, He sent Holy Spirit - the spirit of God to live within those who believe. Now we are our own priests - our lives and praise our sacrifice. How often are we offering our thanksgiving to God? I can’t help but wonder if we maintain our priestly duties to the degree that we would have expected the Levites to do for us. Do we take advantage of this incredible gift or do we take it for granted? This question can only be answered individually, and I have a feeling I know my answer. Can you say “ouch”? 
Notice also that the priests were not merely stating their thanks for “counting their blessings”, they were offering up their thanksgiving to God. You may consider yourself a grateful person, but are you giving the thanks where thanks is ultimately due? 
Paul confronts the consequences of due thanks being withheld in the book of Romans as he writes about the wrath of God being poured out on the godless and wicked. In chapter one, He points out the root of their detestable sins:

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Romans 1:21 (NIV emphasis mine)

Withholding gratitude from God had a pretty hefty price tag for these “godless and wicked” people, as the next few verses explain that He gave them over to their sin. They refused to acknowledge Him and His goodness, made life about themselves and distorted the truth, thus beginning the downward spiral. They worshiped themselves and the things of this world rather than the maker of all things, hoping for power from powerless things. We do the same thing when we refuse to worship God by giving an offering of thanksgiving - acknowledging Him as the true God “from whom all blessings flow”. 


  This post was shared at:

  Missional Women

Thursday, January 9, 2014

One Word: Commit

Do you have commitment issues? You can be honest, there is no judgement here. I am the poster child for commitment issues. I am great at coming up with grand schemes, but following through hasn't always been my strong suit. A few months ago, the Lord convicted me of allowing my talents to lay wasted, and encouraged…err…commanded me to pick them up and use them. So, I began writing my blog and after some time of being consistent with that, He began having me write a book. I don't think my commitment issues stemmed from laziness ( not completely anyway), but in not feeling like what I was doing was anything special - a kind of "why bother?" attitude. The truth is, as long as we are doing it for The Lord - it is special - to him - and he receives it as worship!

As the new year began, I saw the growing trend of the "one word" movement for 2014, in place of the traditional resolution. I wasn't feeling totally swayed at first, but my need to conquer a good challenge kicked in and since coming up with one lone word as my resolution for 2014 was truly a challenge - I accepted! I mean really, one word?! I figured I would need at least 25 to get myself in order! Can I get an amen?! Seriously, though, as I began to ponder on the verses that'd been on my heart - and thought about the verses that my husband had shared with me, I heard my "one word". COMMIT. I feel that this word was two-part, meaning that I needed to commit to work the blessings He's given and will give me, and that once I have made that choice, that I then need to commit those blessings to him.

"Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed." Proverbs 16:3

This is an oldie but a goodie, for most of us. We read it and trust in the fulfillment of His promise. This promise is conditional, however, and I wonder how many of us have been putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable, so to speak, when it comes to this verse and others like it. In order for our plans to succeed,we must first COMMIT them to the Lord. Um…yeah. That's easy peasy. NOT! If you're like me, you like to control your plans - they are yours after all, right? Well, even if that's true, so is this:

"People may plan all kinds of things, but the Lord's will is going to be done." Proverbs 19:21

Oh, Proverbs! You have a way of chopping us down to size! But really, we know that God can navigate better than we could even dream of, so why waste precious time trying to steer ourselves? That being said, it is still not easy to give over a dream! 

It's a trust fall, a leap of faith. But we know that he will catch us -that he will come through, because he is faithful! So, close your eyes and jump already!

Maybe you are still stuck on the actually committing to the working park - the making up your mind to put your head down and plow - I am right there with you. I am more of a sit in the shade and sip tea kind of gal….not a plower, but I hear God saying it is time to work - and sow amazing seeds that will turn into fruit more bountiful than we can imagine! 

He is faithful to his promises. Commit and watch him establish you. 

Yesterday, I heard the words of a very successful Christian who is no stranger to hard work, say the words, "If you will not be lazy and commit to the process - He (God) will do great things". This struck me, as it was the very words He'd already been speaking to me. I love how he confirms His Word to us. 

So, I took the challenge and found my one word for 2014. I will commit to the process and I will commit the process to Him. Will you commit in 2014? What's your one word? 

XO - Shara

This blog was linked up at Serving Joyfully!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Thoughts on the New Year and First Friday Link Up

We have a double oven in our home, but for the last year the top oven has not worked. It's a major bummer when the holidays roll around, especially when you are hosting Thanksgiving - but a lot of people make do with one oven, so can't really whine too much, right? I actually turned it on for a while on Thanksgiving day and asked God for a miracle, but alas, the little oven light remained un-illuminated. 

A couple days ago, I walked into the kitchen to my husband cooking breakfast. He was making pig n' blankets and as I groggily stumbled to the coffee pot, he announced that the top oven was working! I stood there, half asleep, staring at the little red light that shows you the oven is on - illuminated for the first time in over a year. He hadn't done anything but turned it on! I immediately felt the Holy Spirit tell me that this was God's favor - things that hadn't worked previously would work now - with HIS hand on us.  

I truly believe that if we submit ourselves to Christ with obedience, that God is ready to knock our socks of this year! What's your dream for 2014? Mine is to be debt free and I know that if we are faithful to the process that God is going to come alongside of my husband and I and multiply our efforts! He is such a good God that knows how to give above and beyond our wildest dreams! So dream BIG this year!

Here are a couple scripture passages that I have enjoyed reading and feel may be pertinent to the coming year:

Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. Psalm 2:8

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

I also think that the book of Jude is a magnificent prophetic word for this year. Dig in The Word! 

Share your thoughts on the New Year or anything else that is on your heart and link up here or click on First Friday Link Up in my header.