Not by coincidence

Every day, we’re given a blank page to write- another page in God’s story.

Today is a day that He’s given you and I to live for his glory and his kingdom. Yet how often do we forget that the circle’s he’s put us in are exactly where we’re supposed to be to shine his light?

I was just thinking the other day how the nursery care worker at my gym that we see regularly is not by accident. The grocery baggers at Kroger that we see every week isn’t by chance. The people I live near and the certain friendships I have are a part of God’s plan. And it doesn’t just happen to be that it’s the year 2009 and my family and I live in the city of Dallas, Texas.

Many times, I ask God to bring the people he wants into my life so I can share his love and grace. But I forget that often, they’ve been planted right in my midst- in the every day places.

Even in the tiniest details of life, nothing is an accident.

It takes hard work to be aware of this every day and it’s amazing that God chooses us to be the vessel to help grow God’s kingdom here on earth.

Was there a time when you knew that something was not “by accident” but was a part of the story God is writing?


Jesus is Better than Comfort

I’ve been asking God a few times today why he chooses to work through trials and why trials make us depend on Him.

I’ve been learning a lot lately about my own comfort levels. And I can’t believe how much I love them. I love a well stocked savings account, a beautifully decorated home, a consistent bed-time, an overflowing pantry and refrigerator, friends that love me, Christmas songs that remind me of childhood and hug my soul, a warm black tea latte, job security, babies that don’t cry, a well-heated car, and the list goes on…

But is that alone what God calls me to?

Yes and No.

He has made all those things. He wants me to enjoy them and to enjoy this life to its fullest. That’s evident all over the book of Ecclesiastes. But, he doesn’t promise  that I’ll be comfortable all the time or exempt from trials. And he never said that comfort draws me closer to him.

Suffering and trials do.

Oh, but I don’t want them when they come. It’s so difficult to live by faith!

But I’m learning, in all my imperfections, that it’s not so much about the trial, but about loving and knowing him because He is better than all the comforts the world has to offer. He is the one who fills my soul and deepest longings. And He is all I will have when this life is over, not all the things I try to hold onto.

Well… I guess that’s His answer to my questions. Now it’s time to trust him in this trial!

Who’s image is it?

1156610_36788246A few weeks ago, I found a guy named Andy Blanks through a wordpress search. As the content editor for Small Group Trader, I frequently search for blogs that have quality content that can be used on our site as articles. And I asked him if we could use his post, Image vs. Mission which is now live on our site.

Andy wrote some things that I deal with but might be ashamed to admit.

At times, I care more about what people think then I do about spreading the gospel and being about God’s kingdom.

At times, I care if I look “this or that” way to someone.

And I’ve missed opportunities to share what Jesus is doing in my life with an unbeliever because my “image” has been of first importance.

Being all about image is an ugly thing because it puts all the glory on self, and not on our Savior. It can even consume us if we let it and before we know it, we’ve completely neglected God.

But the reality is that any good looks we have, stellar talents, skills, relational ability, intelligence… all come from God- for his purposes.

I told Jeremiah just before bed the other day about a conversation Anne Jackson and I had about writing. I’m afraid of pride if I were to ever be really successful, specifically in publishing my own book. It’s a huge fear of mine.

He said something I’ll always remember: “Samantha, your gifts are not yours. They are God’s.”

A light bulb went off in my head. I took that as: my gifts don’t just come from God, but they are God’s.

What a difference. So in that knowledge, how will the ways I use my gifts be different? I think it has to do with image. Will I choose to reflect his glory by making him my prized treasure instead of glorifying self, being worried about what others think, or even being concerned about my own pride?

It’s not about Samantha. It’s about God. It’s that simple.

RightNow Conference Highlights

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Kay Warren, Lonnie Smith, Matt Chandler

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me and Donald Miller

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Kari Jobe, Lonnie Smith, Amena Brown

I feel like I’ve been saved all over again. Well, that’s what I told Jeremiah on the last day of the RightNow Conference.

The theme of our conference: Trading in the pursuit of the American Dream for a world that desperately needs Christ, spoke to me in so many ways and I don’t want to live my life any other way than to be a “trader.”

Here are a few highlights, nuggets, and take-aways I got this past weekend:

1.) I am selfish and don’t naturally think of others every day, so I must make a conscious effort to trade in my selfishness to help others who need physical healing and help, but most of all, who need the gospel.

2.) Even Francis Chan has wanted to quit. If someone like him can admit that, we should too. Leadership and ministry is a difficult, messy, but well worth it road.

3.) Living for and following Jesus requires a dangerous surrender. Kay Warren encouraged us on Fri. evening to surrender our life to the cause of Christ and to be willing to die for it. Her boldness inspired me and I don’t think anyone left that room unchanged that night.

4.) Matt Chandler’s passion for the gospel is unmatched. He helped us to get the gospel right and I can’t even begin to describe the magnitude at which the Holy Spirit uses him when he teaches God’s word.

5.) Eating Bar-b-que with Kari Jobe and her band. Jeremiah and I had a good time getting to know Kari and her band during dinner. Kari led our worship at the event and it was beautiful and God-exalting. Hearing her sing Revelation Song, Healer, and I Live to Worship You live was the best. She was a joy to meet in person. Check out her music at karijobe.com!

6.) Getting to see Brian Mosley, Marc McCartney, Lonnie Smith, Natalie Drew, and all our video producers in action. Brian is my boss and the Founder of Rightnow. Marc is our Dir. of Events. Lonnie is the Dir. of Church Relations. Natalie was in charge of all the details of recruiting volunteers and tons of the behind the scenes stuff. Every day in the office, I see their passion for our generation, but this weekend I got to see it on stage and among thousands of leaders. It was awesome!

7.) Spending an hour with Anne Jackson over pizza. We had so much fun talking about writing, her upcoming book, marriage, and things we struggle with. It was great getting to know her husband Chris as well (aka her road manager for the trip). Just in one hour, I felt like I’d known her all my life. Now I know why the world is so crazy about her!

8.) Getting a personal note from Kay Warren, and her book Dangerous Surrender. I received a very sweet note from Kay along with her book. I never had the chance to meet her though until after I got the book. She told me someone told her about me. I was shocked and humbled and right now I really want to thank whoever did that. 🙂

So the conference is over and now we are packing all the video and content from the main sessions into the upcoming RightNow Leadership Development Kit. We have lots to do and are so excited to get the experience out to many more leaders.

What stirs your affections?

869617_84392121We’re interviewing Matt Chandler this weekend at the LeadNow conference here in Dallas. I was preparing some interview questions yesterday and was stirred by some things he’s said in an article with Leadership Journal. At The Village Church where Matt pastors, he believes that sanctification begins by answering two questions: What stirs your affections for Jesus Christ? And what robs you of those affections?

Those questions reminded me of my post from Monday on simplicity. I think the bottom line of what I wrote on that post deals with my own affections. And most importantly, what things might be robbing me of putting my full joy and delight in Christ alone?

In the LJ interview Matt goes on to say that “Many of the things that stifle growth are morally neutral. They’re not bad things. Facebook is not bad. Television and movies are not bad. I enjoy TV, but it doesn’t take long for me to begin to find humorous on TV what the Lord finds heartbreaking…”

I appreciate Matt’s honesty in that he’s not exempt from certain affections that could stifle his growth either. It doesn’t matter if he’s a pastor of a renowned church. The reality is that he’s human. And no one is exempt.

I was reading this morning in Proverbs 4 and in verse 23 it said to “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”

I was reminded once again of where I’m placing my affections. What am I allowing myself to see with my eyes, hear with my ears, believe in my heart, ponder in my mind, and then what do my actions reveal? If someone were to take a sneak peak inside my heart, will they see that my deepest affections are for Jesus?

I hope so.

It goes on to say in verse 26 to, “Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.”

It’s a challenge to watch over my heart and the path that I tread each day, but the command is there for protection so that the fruit of my life will be what God wants- not my own fleshly desires.

I’m excited to see if Matt will hit on this at the conference at some point. I’m hoping he will!

Why I need to simplify my life

simplifyThis past week I spent time in VA Beach visiting my sister and nephew. I came away from my trip with a lot of unexpected thoughts, refreshment, and a confession that  flying with a one-year-old is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

Probably because I’m often impatient and struggle with people pleasing at times. Therefore I was constantly giving John toys or feeding him gold fish and pretzels to keep him from screaming the passengers’ ears off. I can still feel the frustration.

Anyhow, the one unexpected thought I came home with was to simplify.

Simplify in the sense of what I allow into my life. And it all started with a conversation my sister, mom, and I had about email and facebook. I think lately, a lot of my personal time has been dedicated to answering email and facebook comments. I don’t think I’d ever go as far as to say it’s an addiction, but maybe something I do a lot? I don’t know.

I know email and facebook are not bad things. The majority of us use them. But for me, too much of a good thing is a bad thing and I need to chill out for a bit. The world doesn’t need me. It will still go on. I don’t have to get back to people the moment they ask for something. It’s really okay. We’re all friends anyway.

So the last several days, I’ve checked my blog, email, or facebook about once or twice a day for a few minutes. It’s been so freeing to be detached. I’m excited to use the extra time to be intentional about playing with my son, spending time with my husband, hanging out with friends, enjoying God’s beauty, and soaking up what life is all about- real-life relationships.

My desire is that in the next few months I will accomplish things I never thought possible by living a more simple life when it comes to online habits. So please… check up on me and ask how I’m doing.

Are there any areas in your life where you’re learning to simplify, or at least would like to?

Dear John- 10/27/2009

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Your first haircut on your 1st birthday

Dear John,

On Friday you turned one! The sun was shining and the fall air was crisp just like on the Thursday morning you were born.

Your first breath of life changed your Daddy and I forever.  Your eyes were wide awake when you arrived and you even grabbed Daddy’s finger while the nurses were getting you ready for me to nurse you for the first time.

I couldn’t stop staring at you and giving you gentle kisses as you were tightly swaddled in your blanket.

You grew so fast during those first few weeks and months. Eventually you started to smile, laugh, and coo. Then you graduated from baby food and crawling to real food and walking, even before your one year old birthday. You are truly amazing.

I have taken you all kinds of places around Dallas and we’ve met all kinds of people. And one thing remains the same: People don’t leave unchanged when you’re around. I’ve seen smiles remain on their faces after we’ve walked away. We’ve actually stayed at the grocery store longer because of the old ladies who can’t stop getting enough of you.

God has given you quite the personality and you pick up on how to do things so fast! Lately, you like getting into Daddy and Mommy’s books, phones, and gadgets more than your brand new toys. You are saying “mama” the majority of the time then “dada”, “baby” and “oh?” We love your sweet words.

God has given you one year to live and we pray that many more are to come because this world needs you.

You’ll come to learn one day that your Daddy and Mommy aren’t perfect all the time, but we do serve a God who is perfect and will never let you down. We will still do our very best to love you with all that we have… because you are a gift from God and that is a serious thing.

I am proud that you are my son.

I love you,

Mommy

10/27/2009

Are you a trader?

SGT_LogoThe term “trader” has infused where I work for quite a while. In 2000, my boss Brian Mosley founded the RightNow Campaign to help 20s and 30s connect to opportunities here and abroad to put their faith into action. The mission of RightNow is simple: To help our generation trade in the pursuit of the American Dream for a world that desperately needs Christ.

Every year, we put on the Rightnow Conference and it’s coming up in less than two weeks. This year’s theme is The Mission of the Church Matters. The line up includes pastors and authors Donald Miller, Francis Chan, Mark Batterson, Kay Warren, Matt Chandler, George Barna, and more.

I’ll be working at the conference, scribbling away on my note pad to prepare to write the curriculum for our upcoming RightNow Leadership Kit we’re producing. I absolutely cannot wait to soak in what these guys have to say.

Bluefish TV, the RightNow conference, and our new site SmallGroupTrader.com all stand under the umbrella of the RightNow Campaign’s mission of trading in the pursuit of the American Dream. Every thing we produce is to help others put their faith into action.

So that’s a little background info you may or may not have wanted! Now that leads me to expound a little more on Small Group Trader.

Our name was originally called Small Group Exchange but we decided to narrow our focus more to the idea of being a trader because Small groups aren’t an end to themselves- we’re calling small groups to battle against the “me-centered” way of thinking (that we all struggle with at times) by trading it in for the the missional call of Jesus – to care for the homeless, minister to the sick, and share Christ’s love with our neighbors.

I’m super excited about this change as it gives us a more clarified mission to strive for as a ministry, calling others to live out Jesus’ command. A nice home, car, clothes, savings account, etc. are good things that God wants me to enjoy, but it’s the pursuit and striving for them that I have to question. I have to constantly ask myself: Am I living for the dream or pursuing what really matters for eternity?

As the Content Editor for Small Group Trader, I can’t wait to see where this site goes and how small groups across the country will be impacted by this mission. If you’re a small group leader, small groups or community pastor, have thoughts you want to share on leadership, or have been impacted at all by being in a small group, let me know.

Step out and share your story. Be an encouragement to others who are trying to fulfill God’s mission for their lives.

You can email me at editor [at] smallgrouptrader [dot] [com]

How are you being a trader with your time, talents, and treasures? Are you willing to give up the pursuit of the American Dream for a world that desperately needs Christ?

Why all human life is precious

3878374083_406d9a0872Recently, I was stopped at a green stoplight. Two policemen were blocking me from going through the light because of a homeless man off to the side of the road.

The police got out of their cars to approach the man. I had a feeling they might jerk him around or in anger, ask him what in the world he was doing.

But none of that happened. They spoke a few words. He listened. He spoke a few words. They were patient to hear him. Then they gently turned him around and put plastic cuffs around his wrists, and signaled me to go ahead.

Sitting comfortably in my car with a place to go home to, I thought about how much God loves that homeless guy. No matter where he had been or what he had done, God made him in his image and wants a relationship with him.

All human life is precious to God because he created us in his image to bring glory to him, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not- All human life that’s yet to be born, all life that is breathing right now on earth, all human life with disorders, disabilities, mental problems, diseases, brokenness, life that might appear useless… All of it matters to God and it should matter to us.

My heart is beginning to change when it comes to the homeless people I see on the streets of Dallas every day. While I’m not always able to meet their needs physically, especially as a young woman by myself, I think one of the issues in my heart is whether I have love and compassion for them. Do I realize they were created in the image of God? And that God is deeply concerned for them as he is for every person’s life?

I’m really thankful I was stopped at a green light that day.


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