Just who do you think you are?!

Recently I’ve had opportunity to follow an interesting line of thinking.  A close friend gave me a glowing compliment on my adult children and how well they “turned out”.  His compliment was accompanied by another comment, expressing surprise that they had were successful and well-adjusted.  I wasn’t offended, but I was amused.  I wanted to say, “Well, of course they turned out great!”  All my friend meant was that they had some obstacles and hardships that they worked through while growing up.  Children of divorce often have problems with self-esteem and usually carry some emotional baggage as a result of their broken home.  And I’m sure both I and my children do carry a little extra “baggage” but I choose to believe we’re in better condition from lifting those weights.

I discussed this with one of my sons the other day and he mentioned that someone had mentioned to him that he had “come a long way.”  That friend was referring to the years when my son was driving a beat-up old truck and struggling to make ends meet.  That son is now following his dream as an architect, experiencing a fulfilling life with his new wife in Chicago.   I laughed with him about the old truck that is barely a memory now.  I told him, “You were more than that truck!  What you drove did not define you!”

That conversation started my thoughts in a direction that is so exciting!  Most of us go through life being defined by one thing or another.  Or by many things.  Through the years I have often introduced myself (and still do) as Gene Huff’s daughter.  For years I was Bill Zawko’s wife.  Forever I will be the Zawko kids’ mother.  And now I have a new label….I’m Ella, Danny, and Harper’s Grammy!  That’s one of my favorite designations!  But I am more than any of those.  I’ve also been “defined” by circumstances…many of them were out of my control.  Even now, I hate to fill out forms that ask marital status because I have to check “divorced”.  By the way, why don’t those forms just let you choose between “married” or “single”?  Why do people have to mark “divorced” or “widowed”?  It’s enough to live with the situation without having to testify to it every time you fill out a form!

But, back to my subject of being defined by circumstances….   The things that I have faced or am facing are not what defines me.  I am not defined by my marital status, my salary, or my abilities (or lack thereof).  I am not defined by the car I drive, the house in which I live, the job or career I hold, or even by the way I look.

So what does define me?  Who am I?  I think the answer is two-fold:

  • I am who God says I am!
  • I am who I believe I am!

And who does God say I am?  Well, there is no way I have space in this limited blog to enumerate all that God says I am (and you are).  But just to name a few…God says:

I am a Child of God.   I am free from sin’s power over me.  I am holy.  I am a new creation.  I am a victor.  I am an enemy of Satan.  I am saved and called by God.  I could name many more but these can give you the idea of who God says I am and you are.  When I look in the mirror, it’s God’s will for me to see myself as He sees me….a child of God, and all that accompanies that designation.

If God says I am all these, and scores of other things, then why does the second part matter?  Does it really count who I believe I am??? Yes!  It matters!  It’s not enough that God says you are a victor if you don’t believe it yourself and step into and live the victory!   So when God says I am “more than a conqueror” I only put into practice and fulfill God’s plan for me when I agree with God and affirm in my own mind and spirit that I am who God says I am.

So, let’s stop being defined by our circumstances.  Begin to believe what God says about you!  I’m not a teacher who encourages the easy-believism doctrine of “name it, claim it”, but I do know that God’s will for His children is that they know what God says and that they agree with what He says.  I love that chorus that cries, “Whose report will you believe?? We shall believe the report of The Lord!”   Life is a series of choices.  I choose to allow God to define who I am in Him!

Advertisements

My Journey to a Better Me

Early in the summer I began a new journey. Although I’m pretty well traveled, this was a journey I’ve needed to take for a long time. It’s a journey of self-knowledge, self-development, and self-improvement. You might be thinking, “Well, there’s a lot of SELF in there!” And it does sound that way. I’m trying to think of a more spiritual way to express this project and the old Army slogan comes to mind….”Be all that you can be!”   It might be a result of having another birthday at the end of June that spurred this thinking and these new goals. I turned 62 this summer and that sounds pretty old! Whatever the cause, my mind has been drawn to new habits and goals and I’ve become very introspective, reviewing where I am on this road map of purpose and accomplishment.

I also reached another milestone this past year: my youngest child left home permanently and got married. After 35 years of raising children, this task is complete. I live alone and am no longer actually responsible for the support and care of another human being. That’s huge! Also, I can no longer blame anyone else for my shortcomings in any area. If my house is messy it’s my fault. If tasks are undone, there’s no one else to point at. Although this fact could be depressing, to me it’s very freeing. I can do anything I want/need to do without asking another person if it’s okay with them. I can say that after 62 years of asking permission or at least checking in with someone.

So what am I doing? Well, the changes I’ve noticed are these:

  • I’m developing and embracing new daily habits along with my long-standing old habits. One resource that really helped in this area is the trilogy of Happiness Project books by Gretchen Rubin. Her books, The Happiness Project, Happier at Home, and Better Than Before, are a tremendous treasure of information on helpful habits and include many ways to create and develop new beneficial habits.   Some easy habits that are part of my life are morning daily devotions, making my bed and “staging” my bedroom daily, making sure the kitchen is clean every evening, doing an evening walk through of my house to deal with any mess or clutter, and listening to uplifting or educational audio books and podcasts every single day. Some of these are old habits but some of them are new.
  • Another powerful area is to “know myself”. For years I’ve been saying “I’ll let God be God, and I’ll just be Arlene”. But often I have looked at myself as somehow lacking and I’ve recently begun embracing my own individuality. I used to say, “I’m too talkative” or “Why do I feel compelled to always look for the positive…I should be more realistic”. But I’m making a true effort to be me. I am who I am and I realize I actually like me. It’s enjoyable to analyze myself and see things like: I don’t really like having a lot of stuff but I love the “hunt and gather” experiences of life. So it’s fun for me to volunteer to be the person at church or at work who purchases supplies and organizes events.
  • I recently began taking inventory of my finances and as a result I’ve been reading books and studying personal finance. I have set up a new budget and I’m loving it! Because I’m the only one in my family, I have total control. I can set up my budget to include getting my nails done, even if it means spending less on groceries. There’s no one to complain! And having my finances under control is extremely liberating. When money isn’t leaking out into unknown areas, it’s amazing how much more I have! In this area, I suggest Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” as a beginning guide. I also listen to Dave’s daily podcast and it keeps me encouraged and engaged in the process. His Every Dollar online budgeting tool is wonderful!  My pastor encouraged me in this area when he asked me to host the “Financial Peace University” at our church this coming January, 2016.
  • I don’t want to exhaust my readers but I want to mention that the core of all these new efforts and habits is my desire to embrace a bigger life. For me that’s a really big life. I’ve always had a big life due to the opportunities God has given me. But I’ve had this life because I took/accepted those opportunities. I was willing to leave my security behind and move to a foreign country as a missionary…more than once. Now that I’ve been here at WYGE for more than 20 years, my life hasn’t felt as BIG. But even here in my hometown, I’m embracing the bigger life. Two years ago I volunteered to begin teaching little girls at our mid-week service at our church. I wanted to invest in their young lives and tell them things that I feel young girls need to know. It’s been a wonderful experience. Exhausting, but wonderful. It’s part of my project to embrace a bigger life. I also am making the effort to reach out more to the community, attending and supporting groups and events that I deem worthwhile and valuable. And I’m setting aside money and time to do things that I want to do while I still have the means to do them. I’m planning a trip with a dear friend this fall. We have tickets to go to Israel for a week, and then on to Rome for another week. At the end of the trip, we arranged to spend a day in Amsterdam. I have wanted to visit Corrie Ten Boom’s house in Harlaam, Holland for all of my adult life! And we are planning to do just that!

As I was making plans for this trip; booking flights and hotels, checking out sight- seeing tours and restaurants, my youngest son encouraged me by saying, “YOLO – you only live once!” And truly that is accurate. At the longest, life is still short. Every moment and day is a gift from God. Once it is gone, it’s gone. Readers, my advice to you is this “Be all you can be. Embrace the opportunities God gives you. Reach out wherever you are. Bloom where you are planted. Choose the bigger life. You only live once! YOLO!”

Both Keys Required!

Recently I finished my newest Truth Talk series, “Maintaining Balance in an Unbalanced World.” On the final broadcast I closed with one of my favorite scriptural thoughts, “Both Keys Required!”   As much as any single text or scriptural principle, this truth has changed my life!

Hebrews 11:6 says, But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” This verse clearly explains the balance of faith in God that is necessary for the believer to exert in order to please God…and even to come to Him!

In order to correctly understand orIMG_5646 visualize what is taking place with this two-fold faith, I think of a locked door. The door of my house has two locks; a deadbolt and the lock on the door knob. To enter the house I actually have to use two separate keys! And in the same way, to show the faith necessary to please God, we must use two keys to come to Him. When looking at these two aspects of faith I simplify them in this way:

  1. We must believe that He is…. Or believe that God is God!
  2. We must believe that He is the rewarder of them that seek Him … Or believe that

God is Good!

The God-pleasing, door-opening faith that is required of the believer is two-fold, encompassing the truths that God is both great AND good. The way I imagine this truth is to remind myself that even if I unlock the deadbolt to my door…if I don’t unlock the other lock, on the door knob, I can’t get in. The same way, if we have faith that God is God, but we don’t trust that He is also good, we cannot please Him or even come to Him.

The first part of the verse refers to the greatness of God; His omnipotence, His awesomeness, His immutability, His omniscience, His omnipresence, His foreknowledge…and many other God-qualities that are far beyond our understanding. The second part of the verse refers to the character of God…His goodness. This would include His faithfulness, His love, His patience, the grace He extends to His children, His forgiveness…and the list is endless. But the crucial part of the verse is the word “And”. It’s not enough to believe that God is God…we must also believe that He is Good.

It’s my firm conviction that our enemy, Satan, knows that he will not be able to convince you and I that God is neither God nor good. He knows he can’t get us to drop BOTH keys. But it is Satan’s tactic to convince us to drop one of the keys. He might tell you that, “Sure, God is in control. He is powerful and can do anything…but He doesn’t love you enough to protect you. He let this bad thing happen to you when He could have stopped it.” If you believe that lie from the enemy, then you have dropped the “God is Good Key”. Or Satan might tell you that “Sure, God loves you but He just couldn’t do anything about the situation. He’s not in control.” If you believe that lie, then you have dropped the “God is God Key”.   Again, remember, the only way to please God…and come to Him…is to use BOTH keys.

So how do we answer the enemy when he tries to steal one of the Faith Keys? We remind him (and we remind ourselves) of the truth: “Yes, God is the God of the Universe! He has all power and He is in control. And Yes, God is a God who loves me, who cares for me continually, and He has a purpose in every situation or difficulty that comes into my life. God is God AND God is Good!” With these two keys you have direct access to come to God and even more than that, you have assurance that you will please Him. That’s His promise!

Maintaining Balance in an Unbalanced World

Recently I observed a young individual who seemed to exert an over-abundance of confidence and I noted that perhaps a little more caution or humility might be needed in his life. And that thought led to another and another…as I began mentally listing all the areas of life, both natural and spiritual, that require balance. It’s not that confidence is a negative trait–but for a confident person to be truly successful, that confidence must be counter-balanced with wisdom…which we might call caution.   Lately I’ve been pondering the many areas of character, habits, and even Biblical doctrine, which call for balance in the life of the Believer.   So in a few days, I plan to begin a new series on Truth Talk which will cover many of these themes.

When I think of balance, the idea of a tight-rope walker comes to my mind. I usually visualize the circus performer holding a balancing pole as he walks across the high wire, trying to keep his equilibrium. In the Christian journey, the believer walks the precarious wire of this earthly life holding a balancing pole too. That pole is the Word of God that keeps us stabilized in a world that is constantly wobbling and wavering. Whether it’s our character…or lack of it, or our daily practices and habits, it’s God’s plan for His people to be steady and upright.

Even in the area of ministry in the Church of Jesus Christ, The Lord desires and expects balance. Evangelism must be balanced with discipleship. Growth of the local church must be balanced with global missions. To truly please God, we must be well-rounded Christians in a well-rounded church.

I find it fascinating that God Himself illustrates balance in His character and attributes. God’s holiness is balanced by His loving-kindness. His hatred for sin is balanced by His love for the sinner. And His doctrines also show us balance when we see the relationship of God’s Providence to the free will of man. I’m excited to begin the study of many of these areas that reflect the perfect balance that God reveals in Himself and that He desires to see in His people.

A Godly Heritage

Of all the riches that God has given me, one of the most prized is my godly heritage! Although both my paternal and maternal grandparents were born-again believers, my maternal grandmother and her family have had the most tangible spiritual effect on our family and my life personally.

My grandmother, Oneeta Chadwell Dayberry, was a woman of God who walked in faith and purity. Although for many years her husband was not a believer, she had a remarkable influence on her six daughters. My mother is the fifth of those girls. Ironically, all the six girls admired and respected their mother, but none of them had made a profession of faith until my mother, at age 15, became a Christian. Soon the other Dayberry Sisters followed and, in the years that followed, four of them (along with their pastor’s daughter) formed a gospel singing group, The Starlet Quintet.

My mother met my dad when, as a young evangelist, he came to her church for a revival and she was the church pianist. They dated for three years and then married. All of this was over 60 years ago. My grandma, Oneeta Dayberry, died at a very early age. She went to heaven when she was younger than I am now. She did live to see her girls grow up, serve The Lord, marry, and have children. And she lived to see the birth of her 16 grandchildren. But she never saw any of those grandchildren grow to adulthood. So, although most of those grandchildren have memories of her during those years when we were young children, we lost her when we were very young.

unnamed-1I often think of Grandma Dayberry when I think of our family. Grandma was a Pentecostal believer who loved the ministry so much! She died before she saw the fulfilment of a promise that was in every home that bore children. In my generation of our family there are nine Pentecostal preachers/ministries out of 15 children that lived to adulthood. And the following generation includes scores of great-grandchildren who are in Christian ministry. Nearly every child born into our family, and there are many, is a professing Christian. The influence of godly parents and grandparents cannot be overrated, but there is no way to evaluate the influence of the single, committed life of one godly mother, Oneeta Chadwell Dayberry, who poured her life into her children and grandchildren and passed her love for God down to them.

Just this week, many of our family met together to honor the memories of our grandparents, Roy and Oneeta Dayberry, and to decorate their graves. But the greatest honor to them was the gathering of their remaining children and their spouses, who range in age from 80-94. There is no greater testimony to a life well-lived than those that endeavor to follow in those footsteps that never led them astray.

It was a privilege to meet again with my mother’s sisters and her brothers-in-law for one more time. And we were reminded again that nothing is more valuable than family….and a godly heritage.

He Maketh No Mistake

The past week was one of the most exhilarating and one of the most exhausting that I’ve had this year. Last week my local church, First Pentecostal of London, KY, and our missions’ organization, Goodnews Outreach, held its annual missions’ conference. I heard so many incredible messages during the three-day event, but one was especially challenging and I think it might have forever altered my mindset. The message preached was focused on the story of Lazarus and his death and miraculous resurrection. I won’t try to “re-preach” the message, but for those of you who would love to hear/watch two amazing messages from the conference, here’s the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSIDVQ-7qBc

Both messages heard through this link are tremendous, although the second message is the one I’m referring to in this blog. The speaker, Rev. Todd Sloggett, during his retelling of the story of Lazarus, recounted the illustration of a journey through an unsavory part of town in order to find a high-end restaurant. I was reminded of a trip my mother and I took to Chicago last summer. My mother is over 80-years-old and I’m no “spring chicken,” but we had made the plan to visit her cousins in the Chicago area and then spend some time with my son and daughter-in-law who live in downtown, Historic Chicago. It seemed like an excellent plan at the time and we thought it would be simple to follow my GPS from Hammond, Ind., to a Hyatt Resort where we had reservations. Both our cousins and my son were not very convinced that this was a good plan and kept saying, “Just don’t go through South Chicago! It’s one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in America!”

But I kept saying, “No problem. I’ll follow the GPS.”

So that’s what we did…just followed the step-by-step instructions of my iPhone GPS. But, lo and behold, while following the turn-by-turn instructions of the GPS, we found ourselves right smack in the middle of South Chicago! I called the resort and spoke to the concierge who assured me that, “Yes, you are coming the right direction–You just need to keep driving.” When I asked him how much further, he answered, “About 42 more blocks!” When my son found out that we were driving through this dangerous area, he nearly fainted. Long story shortened….we made it through and arrived safely and had a great story to tell. In fact, the resort management was so apologetic about our harrowing experience; they upgraded us and changed our room to one on the 17th floor with a riverfront view! Our GPS hadn’t actually made a mistake…it just took us the quickest, straightest route from where we were to where we wanted to go.

I heard the message last week about the experience of Lazarus and the preacher’s insight that what that family endured was a difficult journey through the sickness and death of Lazarus, and the feeling of betrayal they felt when Jesus didn’t arrive in time to heal him. But God knew that the most efficient and quickest way for them to learn deep spiritual truth was to go through that terrible experience. And it was made clear to me that I have experienced that in my life. Over 20 years ago when I, and my children, saw our family break up and our home and ministry forever changed, it seemed like the worst possible situation. But God brought such tremendous spiritual blessings to me and to my children as we experienced His continual provision, security, and comfort. I can never look at what happened without thanking God for it all. And God brought development and growth to my life, and to the lives of my children that would never have been otherwise achieved.

Today I read the story of the Wright Brothers who, as we all know, invented the airplane. They were the sons of a minister and most of their formative years were spent in Dayton, Ohio. The older brother was Wilbur, and he showed much academic promise, so the plan was made for him to attend Yale and all his prospects were bright. But at the age of 19, while playing hockey, he was accidentally hit in the face with a hockey stick, knocking out his upper teeth. It was not an especially serious injury, but it caused disfigurement, as this was in 1885 and dental work in those days was not advanced as it is now. From that time on Wilbur began to withdraw and suffer from depression…and what would now be called anxiety attacks, so he wasn’t able to attend Yale University. For four long years he struggled with depression and mostly just stayed secluded and studied at home. But then he and his younger brother, Orville, began to work together on some interesting projects. They built a printing press and began printing a newspaper. And they opened a bicycle shop, all the while tinkering around with their secret dream…a flying machine. Well, the rest, as you know–is history. In 1903, the Wright Brothers, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, made the first successful flight of a motor-powered airplane. But when looking at the details of this story we can clearly see that history was changed due to a seemingly tragic accident. Wilbur Wright was injured, he couldn’t attend Yale, he stayed home and secluded himself, but he began to focus on a dream and eventually he saw the fulfillment of his dream and that realization of his vision actually changed the world.

It’s my strong belief that life is filled with so-called accidents, or even tragedies, that can cause us to take paths we never planned and go in directions we never would have chosen. But God knows best. He knows that often the most efficient and most direct route to His purpose for us is through a arduous and difficult struggle. And although our GPS can sometimes be wrong, God is never wrong.

He Maketh No Mistake
My Father’s way may twist and turn,
My heart may throb and ache,
But in my soul I’m glad to know,
He maketh no mistake,
My cherished plans may go astray,
My hopes may fade away,
But still I’ll trust my Lord to lead,
For He doth know the way,
Though the night be dark and it may seem,
That day will never break,
I’ll pin my faith, my all in Him,
He maketh no mistake,
There’s so much now I cannot see,
My eyesight’s far too dim,
But come what may, I’ll simply trust,
And leave it all to Him,
For by and by the mist will lift,
And plain it all He’ll make,
Through all the way, though dark to me,
He made not one mistake.
– A.M. Overton, 1932

I am a soldier!

This week I’m in Illinois at my annual ladies retreat for a time of spiritual refreshing and inspiration. The theme this year is “Women Warriors” and our focus is spiritual warfare. I have received much during these days of ministry and have been privileged to teach two classes this week, but of all I’ve learned, this poem by an unknown author has been the most moving. I encourage you to read it aloud as a prayer to God and ask Him to make you that committed soldier.

I am a Soldier!

I am a soldier in the Army of my God! SoldierThe Lord Jesus Christ is my commanding officer. The Holy Bible is my code of conduct. Faith, prayer, and The Word are my weapons of warfare. I have been taught by the Holy Spirit, trained by experience, tried by adversity, and tested by fire. I am a volunteer in this army and I am enlisted for eternity. I will either retire in this army at the rapture or die in this army; but I will not get out, sell out, be talked out or pushed out. I am faithful, reliable, capable, and dependable. If my God needs me, I am there. If He needs me in the Sunday school to teach the children, work with youth, help adults or just sit and learn, He can use me because I am there!

 

I am a soldier, I am not a baby. I do not need to be pampered, petted, primed up, pumped up, picked up or pepped up. I am a soldier. No one has to call me, remind me, write me, visit me, entice me, or lure me. I am a soldier! I am not a wimp. I am in place, saluting my King, obeying His orders, praising His name, and building His kingdom. No one has to send me flowers, gifts, food, cards, candy, or give me handouts. I do not need to be cuddled, cradled, cared for or catered to. I am committed. I cannot have my feelings hurt bad enough to turn me around. I cannot be discouraged enough to turn me aside. I cannot lose enough to cause me to quit.

 

When Jesus called me into this army, I had nothing. If I end up with nothing I will still come out ahead. I will win. My God has and will continue to supply for all my needs. I am more than a conqueror. I will always triumph. I can do all things through Christ. Devils cannot defeat me. People cannot disillusion me. Weather cannot weary me. Sickness cannot stop me. Battles cannot beat me. Money cannot buy me. Governments cannot silence me and Hell cannot handle me. I am a soldier. Even death cannot destroy me. For when my commander calls me from this battlefield, He will promote me and allow me to rule with Him. I am a soldier in the army, and I’m marching forward claiming victory. I will not give up. I will not turn around. I am a soldier…marching Heaven bound.

April is my favorite month!

CalendarThere’s no contest for me…April is my favorite month! It’s also my busiest month so perhaps there’s a correlation.  Every year in April we say “good-bye” to winter, cold temps, cabin fever, and the dead landscape. And we say “hello” to warmer temperatures, new life, flowers, and frenetic activity. As I look at my personal calendar for the month I’m overwhelmed with joy for what’s happened already and the anticipation for what’s coming!

Celebrating Resurrection Sunday earlier in April was such a wonderful way to begin the month. We focused on the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord when He purchased our salvation. During the week of Easter I spent time with all five of my children and three grandchildren, making it all the more precious than usual.

Moving on through April, I’m so excited that my new granddaughter, Harper Mae Zawko, will be dedicated to The Lord at our home church on Sunday, April 19. It’s an honor for us to give thanks to God for His gift of Harper to our family. We’re so grateful to accept the challenge of raising our girl, “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”   And it’s our great privilege to place her back into God’s hands for His guidance and direction for her little life and future.

April 20-23 I’ll be making my annual trip to the Illinois and Christian Ladies Retreat for a time of relaxation and spiritual refreshment. I’ve been part of this retreat for nearly 20 years. I have often been a featured speaker and for more than a decade I’ve been secretary-treasurer for the group. This year, I’m teaching a workshop in which I’ll share some of my exciting “It’s a Wonderful Life” insights with the ladies.

The last week of April is my absolute favorite week of the entire year! At my home church, First Pentecostal of London, KY, we have an annual Missions’ Conference. This three-day event is absolutely life changing! We usually host around 30 resident foreign missionaries, home missionaries, and organizations during this week. The inspiration this event brings to my life can’t be exaggerated. The effect on those who attend–is immeasurable. In addition to the uplifting services and fellowship, I’m also honored to host several guests in my home. This year, I’ll have a single missionary lady, two of my nieces, and several Bible college students staying with me.

I’ve neglected to mention one Red Letter Day in April…Tax Day is on April 15th. This year, for the first time in 35 years, I don’t have a child in my home to claim. Alas, all my children are grown and no longer at home. So it’ll be the first time that I actually have to pay a large additional federal tax. I was upset about this at first but then I began thinking of all the reasons I have to be grateful for my taxes. When I wrote out the check I reminded myself of the blessings of living in America.

I thanked God that I live in freedom and privilege, I drive on good roads and highways, I have a police department for protection and a fire department in case of disaster. I have a beautiful public library (that I visit often) and my mail arrives every day. Although I don’t have any children in the public school system, many of my friends do and it’s great to know that ournation’s children are being educated. I’m honored to know that my tax dollars go to provide a military for the protection of our country and I’m especially honored that my own son-in-law serves in the US Army. So when I mail (what seems to me) a large check to the IRS, I’m feeling no rancor or anger toward my government. I’m feeling extreme gratefulness that I’m an American and I live in the most wonderful country in the world! I’m agreeable with giving back a little of my financial blessings to the country to which I owe so much.

So, yes, April is my favorite month…in every way.