Category Archives: God Stuff

I try to walk through life with my eyes open to what God might teach me. These are some of those things.

Changing Gears

I took a lot of long road trips this summer. If you have ever ridden with me, you know that I almost always do the driving. I am a bit of a control freak, and also suffer from motion sickness. Combine the two and you get someone who volunteers to drive every time.

I notice that on a long drive, my left shoulder and arm begin to ache. It can be annoying after a couple hours, and excruciating on a really long drive. It is always my left arm because although I am right handed, I mostly drive left handed.

On our last long trip, I pointed this out to Rusty. ‘You know why, don’t you?’ he said. ‘No,’ I admitted, ‘not really.’ (Then he stopped to relish one of those moments when he knew something and I didn’t. I let him, since I know how hard it is to be married to a know-it-all.)

Photo Credit: aimhelix

‘It’s because you drove stick shift for so many years,’ he explained. And he was right, of course. My first car was a stick, and I drove a manual almost exclusively for my first sixteen years or so of driving. My left hand was steering because my right hand was shifting. Muscle memory had done the rest. And now, although I have driven an automatic for the last ten years, that muscle memory makes my left hand take the wheel.  Even when I correct myself and place my right hand up, it doesn’t take long for my concentration to drift, and my left to take over. So as often as I tell myself on those long drives to switch hands, my left works hard to go back to where it is comfortable: on the wheel.

I think that there is an emotional muscle memory as well. I think that this is one of the reasons that it can be hard to really forgive someone. It is because even when we forgive, but we rarely forget. When someone has hurt us or wronged us, it is so easy- comforting even- to turn that offense over and over in our minds. Repeatedly we examine it, assuring ourselves that we were in the right, that it was indeed a grievous wrong. In this way, we create an emotional muscle memory that flashes up at the strangest times.

It might pop up when dealing with the person that you thought you forgave. It might be when something else stresses you emotionally- something seemingly unrelated. But because that emotional muscle memory is there, we dredge up these past hurts again, turning them over and over, like some wretched treasure that we are unwilling to part with. It is as exhausting as driving for hours with just one hand. And yet, even though we know that relief comes with just switching hands- or in this case consciously switching off that wounded inner dialogue- we can easily sabotage that relief by switching right back again.

This is perhaps one reason when Peter asked Jesus if seven times was an adequate number of times to forgive a brother who has sinned against him, Jesus replied ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven .’

There are times when I know I need to forgive someone seventy times seven times. Because even when I say ‘I forgive you’,  that emotional muscle memory can pull me back out of forgiveness again. Actually, I think the number of times depends on the intent. I need to say ‘I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you….” until I don’t just say it, I mean it. Only then will it stop exhausting me, freeing me for better things.

Who do you need to forgive?

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Don’t Wear the King’s Armor

I spoke at my church’s Communion Dinner earlier this month. Here is the meat of the message I gave that night. Thanks for reading!

Lysa TerKeurst

It has been really exciting to have my little speaking ministry grow, I have been working hard on it, and one of the things I did was to attend the She Speaks conference in North Carolina. It is a conference for Christian writers and speakers put on by Proverbs 31 ministries, whose president is Lysa TerKeurst- a rock star in women’s ministry. She was a key note speaker, and it was awesome to hear her speak. What was even more cool was passing her in the hallway the first day. Or at least it should have been, but instead when I saw her I stopped in my tracks and just stared. Then I closed my mouth and apologized for staring. She laughed and kept walking, talking with her assistant.

I did what any star struck girl would do. I texted my bestie, Pam.

Me: OMG!!! I JUST PASSED LYSA TERKEURST IN THE HALL! So hard not to stare!

Pam: Awesome. I bet she was thinking the same about you. She will be!

(Wow, don’t we all need a friend like that?)

The deeper I get into this speaking ministry, the more difficult it is for me to fight the temptation to want to be the next Lysa TerKeurst or the next Beth Moore. It is hard not to look at the success of these ladies, see that they seem to have what I am chasing, and not want to be them.

But is that what God wants for me? The answer is no. When He created me, He did not recreate Lysa TerKeurst or Beth Moore, He created Nicole White. Trying to be someone else is never a good idea.

This is true in the story of David and Goliath. Just as a recap, in this story we see two armies facing off- the Israelites and the Philistines. Actually, we see one army facing off- the Philistines, and one army trying not to pee their pants out of fear- the Israelites. The Philistines had one massive warrior, the giant Goliath, standing out in front. He was pacing and taunting the Israelites, calling for them to send out their best to fight him. The Israelites were essentially hiding in their tents, not wanting to face them.

We know what happens, David, a young Israeli sheepherder- not a soldier, not a warrior- shows up and says ‘What are you all afraid of? God is on our side! I will go fight Goliath.’ Saul, king of Israel, agrees to send him out, which is where we pick up our story in 1 Samuel 17:37, where David says:

37 The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”

38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.

Once it was decided that David was to fight Goliath, the natural conclusion was that he had to do it a certain way. If he was going to go fight, then surely he must do it like the typical Israeli warrior would. Therefore he put on this tunic and armor and helmet so that he could be what everyone expected him to be.

Think about the things that we try to put on in our own life so that we can be what everyone expects of us. Because I work with the youth I know that this is a huge temptation for them.

  • ‘I wish I was as played sports like….’
  • ‘I wish I was as popular as….’
  • ‘I wish I was smart like…’
  • ‘I wish I was in the youth band like…’

They are starting back to school in less than two weeks, where the pressure to be someone other than the child of Christ that they actually are is huge.

I also know that we as adults are not immune to it because I am not immune to it. Here’s a look at what goes on in my head:

  • ‘I wish I was a better mom like….’
  • ‘I wish I had a cool career like….’
  • ‘I wish my house was decorated like so and so’s (or at least clean…)’

In doing this we are trying to put on other people’s armor and expecting it to fit. And the same thing happens to us as happens to David in the story from 1 Samuel. David sees it, though, and chooses a better way:

39“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.

God did not create David to be like someone else and wear someone else’s armor. Just like he didn’t create me to be Lysa Terkeurst or Beth Moore, and He didn’t create you to be like anyone else…. but YOU. You are good enough just as you are because YOU are exactly as God created YOU.

We know what happened with David. He didn’t try to be something he wasn’t, which was a good thing. What would have happened if David would have gone out there trying to be something that God had not intended him to be? He would have failed.

God had prepared David to be what he was: awesome with a slingshot. God used the gift that he had given David to bring down that giant. What did God use beyond that slingshot, though? God used David’s faith. David looked at the Israeli army and said ‘What is the matter with you people, don’t you know that God is on our side?’ In the end the weapon that David wielded was a slingshot, but make no mistake- that slingshot was powered by faith- a faith that God had equipped him for the job. Have faith in the way God has equipped you, too.

God created you the way you are. He created you to be YOU; He did not create you to long to be something else. Tonight, Communion Dinner, as we come together emphasizing that we are one in Christ- one body- let’s also thank God for making each of us who we are as individuals.

Your creator loves you just like He created you. Shouldn’t you, too?

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Was It Worth It?

I spent all of yesterday incredibly sad. I am still sad today. Every time I open up Facebook (and you all know how I love me some Facebook!), I just get more sad.

I want you to know how much I love Jesus. I love Him and am so thankful for Him. Before I knew Him I was so lonely and purposeless. If I ever make you laugh or you are ever touched by my kindness or my love, know this: it is fully the love of Jesus in me that you see and not me. Any meanness or selfishness, well, that IS me.

And that is why I am sad. I fear that because of a national movement, because of a stand taken ferociously and joyfully by my some of my well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ who I love dearly, that I have lost credibility as someone who loves Jesus.

Supporters- you were right. You were right that a man has the right to sell chicken regardless of his opinion. You are right that just because you have a different point of view, it doesn’t make you a hatemonger. You were right.

Boycotters- you were right. You were right that if a man stands for something that you disagree with so fundamentally, a stance that causes great pain to you or someone you love, then you have the right to not patronize his business. You were right.

Photo Credit: Dmitry Kalinin

But here we sit in the aftermath of the ‘rightness’. Here we sit with our voices hoarse from screaming and our ears deaf because of the noise. Here we sit in the carnage of this event. Right and righteous. Congratulating ourselves in our courage to scream.

Was it worth it?

Here it is the next day, and my job is still the same as it was yesterday. To talk about Jesus and his great love for me and for you, too. And by you, I mean whoever is reading this. You.

But because of the screaming, ears are more deaf to the message. Because it was so important to be right, the lines are drawn more deeply. The two immovable sides are now more immovable. Credibility (“Witness” in Christian-ese) has been traded for the privilege of being right.

Was it worth it?

 

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe~ Philippians 2:14-15

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Are you Happy to Wake Up in the Morning?

This summer I got to participate in a lot of ministry. But if I only ‘did’ ministry and didn’t listen and learn, then I would be doing it wrong. In this series, ‘Summer School’ I present some of the lessons God taught me.

Summer School Lesson 4: Are you Happy to Wake Up in the Morning?

We were deep in the devastated ninth ward of New Orleans. I was with my team of high school missionaries, working at a Community Garden- a bright spot of hope in a place that had lost everything to Katrina. About an hour into our work, we had a visitor from the community. He was an older gentleman- a patriarch of the community- who had heard our team was there and stopped by to see us. He spoke to us for over an hour, prodding our comfortable minds with questions about philosophy and sociology and Katrina. He was interesting and intimidating. He began by asking us this: “How are you kids doing today, are you happy to be alive this morning?”

When our team responded positively and enthusiastically, he challenged us. “Why?” he asked. “Do you believe that when you die, you will go to a better place? Then why would you be happy to wake up and still be here?”

Some of the kids answered a bit, but this gentleman- an old and practiced philosopher- pressed every challenge down with the same basic response: if you believe you will go to a better place, then why would you be happy to be here?

Finally, I gave my answer: “If I woke up here this morning, then God is not done with me here. If He is not done with me here, then I am happy to be where He wants me to be.”

The old philosopher did not like this answer. “Let’s leave God out of it. Then we can talk on mutual ground.”

I smiled (it was a powerful, but not antagonistic conversation) and told him the truth. I could not leave God out of it. His is the lens through which I view the entire world.

The philosopher considered this, but then changed topics and went on to challenge us on other things.

It was just the next day that we met another gentleman, Brett, who gave us some perspective on it. He was a graduating resident of the Timothy House, a New Orleans ministry that looks to restore people enslaved by drugs, alcohol, and despair. They describe themselves in their website: In this world of multitudes of therapies, costly hospital treatments, and rip-off quick fixes, we are honored at the opportunity to share with you what we have found in Jesus Christ — the answer.

Brett told us a jaw-dropping tale about his life as a supervising floor nurse. He told us about riding out Katrina and the aftermath on duty in a flooded hospital. He told us about the decisions that had to be made when the power and generators quit and life support machines failed. It was truly a hell that I could hardly bear to hear, much less envision actually experiencing. He told us about the psychological toll it took and how he eventually turned to drugs to escape, if just for a moment, the hell in his head. There is much more to his story that I cannot do justice to here. He told us of reaching a point of total loss and desperation, and finding himself at the Timothy House. He told us about finding hope again. He grabbed that hope, found in the blood of Christ, and did not let go. He got clean, literally and spiritually. Now he is about to graduate, but is not leaving. He has decided to stay behind as a counselor, to give hope to others.

Then, with no knowledge of what we had heard the day before, he told us this: ‘I had lost hope and any reason to get up every morning. Now I love getting up every morning to do this work of God, and to see what He will do.’  That’s why Brett is happy to get up every morning and see another day.

Photo Credit: Liz West

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. Lam 3:22-23.

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What About When He Hit You?

This summer I got to participate in a lot of ministry. But if I only ‘did’ ministry and didn’t listen and learn, then I would be doing it wrong. In this series, ‘Summer School’ I present some of the lessons God taught me.

Summer School Lesson 3: What About When He Hit You?

One of the things I got to do this summer was travel with a group of high school students on a mission trip to New Orleans. While there, my team spent our afternoons at an inner city church that provided care for 80 or so neighborhood children. This is a conversation I had with one of them. I wrote it down that night because I wanted to remember it.

New Orleans Girl: You got kids?
Me: Yes! I have three.
N.O. Girl: Where they at?
Me: In Texas with their daddy.
N.O. Girl: They not live with you.
Me: Yes, but I am here this week, so their daddy is home with them.
N.O. Girl: How long were you with him?
Me: What do you mean?
N.O. Girl: Like, how long you in a relationship with him?
Me: We’re still married.
N.O. Girl: You married to him!? How long?
Me: Twelve years.
N.O. Girl: That long?! Don’t you fight?
Me: Sometimes, but we are in love and we promised God that we would be good to each other and love each other, so we never fight for long.
N.O. Girl: What about when he hit you?
Me: He never hit me. He would never do that.
N.O. Girl: Never?
Me: No. He’s a good husband.
N.O. Girl: I want a good husband.
Me: I want you to have one, too.

Even weeks later, I don’t have much to say about this encounter because it sort of speaks for itself. Also weeks later, it still makes me want to cry. I guess the biggest lesson for me was this: our entire world is corrupted and fallen, and this is not our home. My tidy little life is not really different than hers; it is just more tidy. This little girl’s worldview was that men hit, and men don’t stay. And yet she still longed for something different. This isn’t her home, either. From 1 Peter: Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. [Emphasis mine]. Sometimes I fall deep into the belief that this is just the way things are; it isn’t that bad; I can’t change it. This encounter reminds me not to try and save the world, but to do God’s work to save those in it.

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Who’s in Charge?

This summer I got to participate in a lot of ministry. But if I only ‘did’ ministry and didn’t listen and learn, then I would be doing it wrong. In this series, ‘Summer School’ I present some of the lessons God taught me.

Summer School Lesson 2: Who’s in Charge?

When I volunteered to be the director for my church’s VBS (Vacation Bible School) this summer, my motives were selfish. I wanted my three kids to go to VBS at our church. The fact that 50+ other kids also got to do it, too? That was just gravy.

I am not equipped to do VBS, and I didn’t know exactly how the whole thing was going to play out. If I was really in charge of VBS, here’s how it would have gone: for crafts, kids, let’s do a coloring sheet. With Sharpies. Your moms will love that. For bible time, you kids can listen to me make jokes that are over your head and read from the book of Deuteronomy. Recreation? Well, just try not to hit each other too hard. Snack time…. Um, here’s a saltine and some water, now watch this Veggie Tales and be quiet for 20 minutes. Drama, well, isn’t there enough drama in our lives? Let’s skip that part. Music… um, where it the cd player?

Because God knew I was not equipped to be in charge of VBS, He just let me think I was and instead He took over the details. He had the Body do it. You know… The Body of Christ- the Church. Like it says in scripture: Now the body is not made up of one part but of many…..  But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

  • He sent the most creative ladies in church for the craft room with a budget of under $30 to boot!
  • He sent patient, fun bible study teachers who not only taught, but transformed their classroom into a desert oasis complete with tent and fountain.
  • For recreation, He sent two amazing servants out in the Texas heat who managed to make everyday Water Day, and the kids never complained!
  • Snack and a video? No thanks, said God’s snack team. Let’s have them build their own snacks as a craft that reinforces the bible lesson.
  • Skip drama? Instead, God had His plan fulfilled by one of His saints to pull out all the costumes, all the props, cast all the extras to make the gospel come to life for these kids.
  • Music? Let’s not just sing, whispers God in the ear of the music leader. Let’s worship and praise.
  • And to lead the groups? God sent about 20 youth eager to love on and play with the little ones of this church.
  • Now, says God, I will also give you an administrator, preschool director, sound team that all have one goal in mind- serving Jesus.

My motives for VBS were selfish. I wanted my kids to have a week with their friends to build relationships. I wanted them to have a week with the teenage helpers to see that big, cool kids could love Jesus, too. And I wanted them to have a week with the adult leaders because there was a lot of knowledge and love being poured out from these folks. And I wanted my three children to benefit from it. They, along with 50ish new and old friends, got to do just that. All around, lessons were learned about Jesus and His great love. My lesson?  Who’s in charge. Hint: it isn’t me.

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Two Are Better Than One

This summer I got to participate in a lot of ministry. But if I only ‘did’ ministry and didn’t listen and learn, then I would be doing it wrong. In this series, ‘Summer School’ I present some of the lessons God taught me.

Summer School Lesson 1: Two are better than one…

I had been signed up for the She Speaks conference in North Carolina for months, and had not been this excited about something in a long time. It was a conference for Christian speakers and writers, and I felt like it was made specifically for me! I could not WAIT to get there and see what God had in store.

So when the gate agent suddenly announced my flight there was cancelled because of mechanical issues and that all other flights out of Austin were full that day, and I realized that it was very likely that I would not be able to make the first half of my conference, things looked really, really dark.

But just two minutes before that announcement, God had sent me a little message. “Nicole, it is going to look bad, but trust me. I got you.”

That little ‘pre-disaster’ message came in the form of a lady who had sat down next to me, chatting on her cell phone. Just before she hung up, I heard her mention North Carolina. She hung up and gave me a warm smile, which I returned. “Are you headed to North Carolina?” I asked. “Yes, to Charlotte,” she confirmed. “I don’t suppose you’re going to a conference there,” I continued. “I am!” she said. “I am going to She Speaks.” This is how I met my new, dear friend, Judy Patterson.

We only had time to exchange cards before that fateful announcement about our flight cancellation, but from that point on, we worked as a team. A quick trust was formed, and we decided to make our changes together instead of doing it ‘every woman for herself’ style.

  • My call to the airline got dropped, so she handed me her phone with her booking agent to get my reservation done, too.
  • I made the suggestion that we abandon the airport, split a rental car and drive to DFW for our connecting flight, and she said ‘Let’s do it!’
  • Instead of abandoning me, she waited patiently while I saw about my checked luggage, and as a reward, the clerk suddenly found a way to get us by Super Shuttle van to Killeen to connect to Dallas, then to Charlotte late that night, courtesy of the airline. No expensive rental car!
  • Our late arrival in Charlotte meant that we would both miss the available transportation to the hotel. Judy called the hotel and got the number for the conference shuttle coordinator. When she typed it into her phone, it was already in her contacts because it was a friend of hers. The friend/shuttle coordinator said don’t sweat it; I will come and get you no matter how late.

These are just a few of the ways that we supported each other all day. We grabbed each other’s bags, shouldered each other’s loads, compared iPad apps, laughed and talked all the way to Charlotte. In all earthly standards, this would have been a long, frustrating, disappointing day. It was still long, but it was absolutely delightful because my new friend and I got to see God work out the details and fulfill His whispered “I got you.”

At the conference, I met up with Judy at her booth for womensministry.net many times, and we carved out a lunch together. She snuck in to listen to one of my speaker evaluation group talks and offer wonderful support. Also, we found out that we were on the same flights home as well! I helped her pack up her booth, and we set out together again. No cancelled flights this time, but it was a better day to travel with a friend.

I went to the She Speaks Conference to learn more about my craft of speaking and writing. I went to be filled and refreshed by God’s word. All that happened. But one of the biggest ways I was blessed was in the airport by a cancelled flight, and the living sermon that it provided.

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their work:
 If one falls down,
    his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
    and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecc 4:9-12

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