Thursday, August 23, 2012

Unclaimed Blessings by Nina Keegan Owens

Are you still taking baby steps on your walk through Christianity in spite of your new found place with God? Are you still not living an extremely blessed and joyously happy life? Or are you a grown up, wise, mature, Christian that is on fire for God and living your absolute best life?

We can all easily say the prayer of salvation and receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We can all secure our place in heaven and gain everlasting life when our time here on earth is up. Yes, that prayer of salvation can do all that for you just by you deciding to give your heart to Jesus. Praying that little prayer however, is the easy part. Then what? What's next? Unfortunately for many, the blessings seem to stop there. Even though they have nabbed themselves an eternal, ring side, boxed seat in the presence of God in the here after, they remain imature, elementary, and juvenile in their Christianity for their entire lifetime here on earth and never fully experience all of God's best.

So many Christians completely and unknowingly miss the boat on all the wonderfully powerful blessings and phenominal perks that could be theirs. God does not swoop in with the wave of a magic wand and poof our lives are transformed while we sit lazily on our sofas! Consequently, these blessings of unspeakable elements of pure, radiant, joy, often times go untouched and ignored. Our blessings fall by the wayside simply because we dont even know they exist.

People often fail to realize that there is a large instruction manual, the Bible, that comes with that tiny, simple prayer of salvation. By us diligently reading, learning and seeking the wisdom of God through His word, we can easily follow the correct path that can permanently seal our salvation. Failing to utilize all the tremendous blessings available to us is a regrettable fact. It is like getting a new ipad for Christmas and simultaneously tossing the cords, batteries, and chargers in the trash. You are then left with this awesome, highly functional, piece of technology but you will never get to see all of the brilliant things it can do. It will never be used to its full potential and purpose for which it was created.

It is precisely the same for many Christians. Often after dedicating their lives to Christ, they make no further efforts in pursuing their new commitment to being a steward of God. The road seems to end there for many. They continue to live the same old, average, insecure, monotonous, type of life. They have limited joy, no peace, and are still living with grudges, anger and unforgiveness. They are often still living frustrated, in angst and fearful. The ho hum, just getting by, mentality remains their habit. They remain selfish and self centered. The "What about me?" question gets repeatedly asked and is their main anthem. The negativity that inhabits their mindset never fully diminishes. They feel infinitely sorry for themselves, never rising up and fully living the blessed, bountiful, joyful and successful life that the Bible says we all can and should have. Many of us just never get to experience those magnificent moments of serene peace, divine interceding, and the abundant provisions God has stored up for us all. We instead remain cemented into the vast depths of mediocracy.

I once read an analogy that depicts our first stop after arriving at those pearly gates of heaven. It goes on to say that stop number one is at that of a huge storage unit filled with millions of extremely large boxes. On every box there is a name clearly etched on the front. There is one box for every single one of us. The Boxes are filled to the brim with all of the copious, unused blessings that the Lord had wanted each one of us to receive, yet there in their boxes, they wastefully remained.

Imagine shopping for a mass of wonderful Christmas gifts for your children. You wait excitedly to watch them receive all of the thoughtful gifts that you hand picked with each child in mind ; only they never open and receive the abounding haul that was waiting for them. It would be so sad and disapointing to see those gifts go untouched. We would miss out on seeing our kids be blessed, happy and full of joy. Likewise, God, our Father, sadly, continually misses out.

How can we graduate into mature Christians so that we can receive the blessings that are stored up for us in our personalized storage boxes? How can we walk in miraculous favor? I'm sure that you, like me, would like nothing more than to arrive in heaven to see our boxes completely empty, with not even a mere trace of blessings left behind because we had received each and every remarkable gift God had for us.

Psalm 106:3
Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are those who observe justice [treating others fairly] and who do right and are in right standing with God at all times.

By faith, faith and more faith we can insure that our boxes will be vacant! We can start by studying and knowing the word of God. You can have what the Bible says you can have if you apply obedience to His word. We can follow the commandments and do our best to keep them. We can put God before everything else and in doing so, we will promptly begin to change our ways. The more you understand the word, the more you will begin to know the promises that God has for you. You will see that His love for you knows no boundries. He cannot love you more than He does at this very moment reguardless of where you are in your walk with Him. By being able to remotely comprehend the magnitude of God's love, you will begin to grow in your relationship with Him. His words will fill you with an overwhelming knowledge and you will be forever changed, forever blessed. You will soon begin to transform everything, the way you think, the way you act, and who you will become.

For you make him to be blessed and a blessing forever; You make him exceedingly glad with the joy of Your presence.
Psalm 21: 6

By spending time with the Lord, putting Him first in your life, worshiping and praising Him, your eyes will begin to open and your heart will begin to supernaturally shift. A complete metamorphosis takes place as you draw closer and closer to God. The chains of mediocracy and the strongholds that once bound you will be eliminated from your life. Inviting Christ into your heart and soul and trusting Him with every precious detail, becomes the new status quo as you follow His path for your life. You can start living by example by allowing your new, luminous light to be a beacon of hope to others. You will begin to see blessing after astonishing blessing become your current way of life as you begin receiving God's grace for all that He has in store for you. You undoubtedly will begin to fathom wholeheartedly that His sole purpose to bless you is so you can be a blessing to others. Being willing and able to love and bless others is the definition of pure, unspeakable, joy. It is what classifies you as being a mature Christian.

Isaiah 43:19
For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

Through your ever growing faith, God will take you on an amazing journey. Your willingness to put the time and effort into this most important relationship, will lead you to a glorious victory filled life. Seek Him first.

Matthew 6:33
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Psalm 21:3
For You send blessings of good things to meet him; You set a crown of pure gold on his head.

Heavenly Father, we long to become mature Christians by growing in our faith. We want to be a blessing to others as you transform us from glory to glory. Thank you Father!
In Jesus name!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Blessings For The New School Year .... By Nina Keegan

It's that time of year again, it is time to close the curtain on the long, hot, lazy, days of summer and usher in the new and highly anticipated school year. The TV commercials are in full swing, bombarding us with a bevy of creative advertising showcasing all the latest and greatest "must haves" for the fall.

When my kids were young, I loved taking them to pick out their new backpacks, clothes and school shoes. We would spend the day knocking it all out at once as we store hopped on a determined buying mission. The boys would aimlessly pick out all of their new supplies from the school's continual list. We would check it all off as we braved the trenches of school supply aisles in the local Department store. The cart would quickly get heaped full of notebooks, folders, markers, glue sticks, #2 pencils, boxes of kleenex and of course, my favorite, brand new crayons. We would be perpetually armed and ready for whatever the new school year would bring.

This time of year is sometimes kind of bitter sweet for me and probably many other parents. I would get kind of melancholy as I was giving up my kids once again and handing them over to this year's teacher. I would miss our days just hanging out together! School meant no more lazy summer days of sleeping in, swimming all day, late movie nights complete with popcorn and trips to the Tastee Freeze for cool summer treats.

I remember feeling quite anxious about their impending new school days. Would they like their new teachers? Would they get to be in the same classroom as their best buddies? We would all have to get into a new routine, back to making those bagged lunches, after school snacks, rides to practices, and helping the kids with their piles of homework. Of course there would always be a few extra trips to the school to schlep the carelessly forgotten gear, lunches, and assignments.

These days the school supplies in my family have been replaced with apartment furnishings, car insurance and text books. My last one is heading off to his new college and a new school year far away from Home.
There are many times I wish I could go back to the days of making those early morning waffles floating in maple syrup before school. Those days that seemed so rushed, stressed and hurried now are just cherished memories of a time I wish I could have back again. It has flown by so quickly and without my permission. They are suddenly grown and gone.

I realized that as we are reluctantly handing our kids over to new teachers, dorms, coaches and even their own apartments, we can simultaneously hand them over to the complete, unchanging, infinite, protection of God!
He can and will be there to pick up the slack for us weary, anxious, parents. We can trust Him to always be there when we cannot. Whether our kids are coloring at the first grade art table or they are 500 miles away from us on a college campus, We can trust that our almighty God has them covered and He will never leave them or forsake them. As the saying goes; "We need to let go and let God!"

We can pray a blessing over our kids that seals them into the impenetrable safety net that the word of the Lord promises we can have. The Bible says we can pray a hedge of protection over our children, we see this in the story of Job. A hedge was placed around Job, his home, his children and all that belonged to him. This was a strong barrier that encompassed Job and protected him from all harm.

When Job experienced this protection, Satan complained about its effectiveness against him: “Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side?” (Job 1:10).

The Bible is full of blessings we can pray over the protection of our kids.
I like to start my mornings, coffee and Bible in hand, sitting on my back patio with my dog curled up next to me. It's my meeting place, it is where I have my morning prayer time with God. It sets the precedence for my entire day. It is where I hand it all over, my concerns, fears and worries and ask Him to amazingly bless the days of my children. I ask for His ultimate protection over them. I visualize them covered in the full, securing, armour of God. I pray that His perfect will be done in their lives, and that they would make wise choices according to His word. I ask for His unceasing favor and noble grace to be upon them. I ask for Him to send a legion of His heavenly angels to surround my children continuously and to pluck them out of harms way. I pray for wonderful Christian friends to surround them. I visualize the mighty hand of God holding them up, so safe and protected, so strong, changeless and unfailing. Then as I continue on in my day, I know that my words will not return to me void, (Isaiah55:11). I know God has heard me and if it is His will, He will honor my fervent requests.

There is a peace in knowing that God is completely in charge. He is still on the throne !! He is still at the helm of our lives and He will perfect that which concerns us (Psalm 138:8).

God has a spectacular plan for each of our kids, a uniquely different, highly individualized plan that only He knows. Since He wrote the script, He has the final word. He will then see to it that His plans for our children, for us all for that matter, will be astoundingly successful.

(Jeremiah 29:11)'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'

So as we begin this and all new school years and as we are diligently packing up the school gear, waking the kids up early, and sending them out the door, let's send them out wrapped in blessings, with abundant favor heaped upon them, dressed in their new shoes and of course in the full armour of God!!

Heavenly Father, we pray a blessing of protection over all of our kids as they begin a new school year, guide them on their paths, help them to make wise choices and to be blessed with knowledge, wisdom and ability. Help us as parents to let them fly and to trust them to your protection. In Jesus name!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Riding The Storm Out.. By Nina Keegan-Owens

Right now, as I am writing this, I am on a family vacation on the beautiful Island of Roatan, a small Island near Belize and off the coast of main land Honduras. The tropical Island paradise is 4 miles wide by 35 miles long. It has an extraordinarily peaceful, serene, low key, kind of vibe to it that is so tranquil and captivating. It is surrounded by its turquoise waters and blanketed in lush, jungle covered, mountains so dencely populated with palm trees and brilliantly colored tropical flowers. There are beautiful, pristine, golf courses and endless sandy beaches. The minute we land here we know instantly why we keep returning to this wonderful place.

I do come back here often, my family and I are mesmerized by the allure of calmness and serenity this place offers up. I can most assuredly learn of few lessons from the people living here. It seems as though these lovely island locals do not have a care in the world, they are so laid back, happy, and friendly beyond comparison. They seem to take it all in stride, they are fearless.

As luck would have it, my vacation is being spent watching the locals and the hotel employees bearing down for the arrival of hurricane Ernesto. All the furnture surrounding the pool decks have been stowed safely indoors, stores are closing, flights have all been canceled and people are all heading home early in anticipation of Ernesto. There has been endless chatter about the hurricanes path and the cone of uncertainty. The latest news and weather updates predict that the storm is heading straight towards Roatan.

Like it or not, Ernesto is having the last word on the subject . The storm is on its way and is supposed to hit the Island sometime late this evening or in the wee hours of the morning.

Having lived in Houston for 15 years, I am certainly no stranger to hurricanes, Rita, Ike, just to name a few left quite a path of destruction behind. These storms can be undoubtedly devastating.

Something it seems is apparently different here in how they handle a possibly severe situation such as a hurricane. Maybe it's the lack of the constantly streaming news media hyping up the storm, creating chaotic pandemonium and grid lock with their 24 hour, non stop, coverage. We get inundated with sensationalism causing us to freak out and be riddled with anxiety during mother nature's wraths. We sit endlessly in the ever growing lines at the gas pump, stock up on bottled water as if we are are going on a 400 mile hike through a sun beaten desert. We buy batteries, candles, and canned goods by the gross. We arm ourselves with generators, and radios to keep up with the news frenzy and the wide spread mayhem. We strap down everything that can "fly" in our back yards. The news relays the message that patio furniture, and potted plants can turn into projectile missiles at a moments notice resulting in windows being shattered. The list goes on and on. Major storms for that matter, are a big and often lucrative business for sure.

Of course we need to heed the warnings and take these monstrosities very seriously. We absolutely do need to take the aforementioned precautions and do our best to always keep our families and homes safely protected.

The difference I see on the island is the way people handle this type of scenerio. There is an overwhelming sense of calm. It does not appear that anyone is at all worried about this fury about to be unleashed upon them. They just stay focused, unexplainably calm and steadily work together to accomplish their mission of battening down the hatches.

That remarkable sense of ease they walk in on a daily basis does not seem to change when they are faced with unexpected adversity. They literally ride the storm out. The old saying, the calm before the storm, could not be more true than right here and right now.

The Bible says in (Exodus14:13-14) Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.

We as Christians should be able to stay calm and trust God through all the proverbial storms we face in our lives. When negative situations and circumstances plague our lives, we need to trust the Lord to handle it all as He sees fit. His will, His plan. We may not have a choice about the trials, tribulations and storms we find ourselves in, but we can choose how we "weather" the storm. If it is out of our control anyway, then we are going to go through it, like it or not. There is no doubt about it, we will ALL face trials in our lives. There is always uncertainty surrounding us. Nobody is exempt from tribulation. We do however have a choice to either worry ourselves into a panic, or to be still, remain calm, and just place our trust in God.

God already knows the outcome anyway. What will happen in our lives is going to happen plain and simple. It is already written. We will have storms! All the worrying we do will not remedy the situation, it in fact worsens it. We simply cannot trust God and be worrying at the same time. We need to remain calm and know that the Lord will protect us and see us through every storm we endure. We can choose to ride out those storms calmly and stoically. We can remain at peace, and let our fears stay at bay and we can live unaffectedly. We can listen to the Holy Word of our living God and let Him bear it all on His shoulders.

Proverbs1:33 says, If you will listen to me, you will live in safety, you will be at ease and live free from the fear of harm.

Promises do not get any better than that. We can live in complete safety. We can remain at ease if we will just listen to God. We can brace ourselves in His divine protection. Whatever your storms in life may be, know that they are temporary, God always shows up and delivers us in His perfect timing. We can lay all of our burdens and fears down at the foot of the cross and fully trust in the mighty, righteous, right hand of God. He can and will carry you through it all. There is no hurricane bigger than the love of God!

Be still, and know that I am God!
(Psalms 46:10)

Dear sweet Lord, let us come to you with all of our problems and storms and not panic about them. We give it all to you and we will trust in you to keep us calm and free from the fear of harm...
We praise you in Jesus name!

“As we sail thru life, don't avoid rough waters, sail on because calm waters won't make a skillful sailor”

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Having Balance In Your Life... By Nina Keegan Owens

Are you one of those people that always seems to be scrambling to meet deadlines, always worrying about not having enough time in the day to do it all, while living frantically on the edge of reason? Many of us seem as if we are constantly being pulled in a million different directions all at once. Sooner or later all that pulling can have some serious repercussions on our lives and on our well being.

There is always something gnawing at us and needing our full attention. Kids alone are a full time job. We are continually driving them to all their activities, volunteering at their schools, helping them with homework or having to help with one of their infamous, last minute, school projects that wind up being a parent's worst nightmare involving one or more 9:00 pm excursions to the grocery store for rubber cement and poster board. Then there are meals to shop for, plan and prepare. We of course always have that ever mounting pile of laundry that magically seems to grow behind our backs. We have homes to clean and take care of, and cars and yards that continually need maintenance. Many of us also work outside the home where we have yet an additional set of daily duties that need to be accomplished. We have quotas that need to be met, important decisions that need to be made, calls and emails that need to followed up on and clients that need our full and constant attention. We also have spouses ,marriages and relationships that cannot be neglected and require quality, loving, time and effort.

Where do we fall short? Somethings got to give! We often feel like a circus juggler trying to keep all the balls in the air but sooner or later we are going to drop the ball on something important or hurt ourselves trying.

We need to have some balance in our lives, set our priorities and learn that "No" is a complete sentence. It's ok to unapologetically just say that two letter word that packs a wollap of punch and exclamation! When we simply know we cannot take on one more thing we need to be able to just say so!

We need not feel guilty when we face the pressures to do it all and can't. No one expects us to. We unfortunately place those unobtainable expectations on ourselves. Having balance in our lives will help us regain control and have some peace to slow it down a bit and enjoy our lives so as not to be continually stressing over it. When we have that perfect balance, the things we choose to take on and focus our attentions on will thrive. It's better to do less things and do them with excellence than to do many things in a mediocre manner.

Many of you are probably combing through your to do lists as you read this and are thinking that this all sounds good on paper but there is nothing you can possibly give up. That may be true but we can certainly adjust our time frames to allow ourselves a more reasonable allotment on our schedules to achieve our end goals. We can start by delegating and asking for help. We can be more organized and more efficient with what we do take on by prioritizing and letting the not so important tasks slide. Laundry can always wait! Above all else, when we see that we are spread to thin, and are feeling out of balance we must give ourselves a break and take some personal, guilt free "me" time to rejuvenate even if that is just 1 hour with a great cup of coffee and a Bible. Schedule time for yourself and God first, then you will be a better you for everyone and everything else. We need equal moments of solitude to balance how much of ourselves we give away.

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

Balance is the key to life, success, and happiness. When we spend cherished time starting each new day with some quality God time, meditating on Him and His word, it will give you the grace you need to make it through the rest of the day, joyfully, stress free and well equipped for anything that comes your way. Morning prayer time is like putting on the full armour of God, preparing to do battle suited up with the unpenetrable protection of our heavenly Father. We are then fully armed with an abundance of confidence, an unspeakable peace and a feeling of balance that we would never want to leave home without! You can have that kind of grace and reassurance just for the asking. Seek God's perfect grace to help you balance your daily life and you will find that that is all you will ever need. When we ask we receive! His amazing grace makes the tough things easier and that can even include our crazy schedules and our overwhelmingly full calenders. Even God himself for whom nothing is hard, took time to rest on the seventh day when He was creating the entire universe.

The Bible tells us in Luke chapter 10 the story of the two sisters Mary and Martha who were preparing to have Jesus to their home for dinner. Can you even imagine Jesus being your dinner guest? What happens though is clearly a lesson we all need to learn.
When Jesus arrived at their home, Mary stopped what she was doing and dropped everything to sit at Jesus's feet to spend time with Him talking and visiting. She was eager to listen to His teachings. Martha to the contrary still kept preparing food and continued with her busied tasks. She was trying to impress Jesus with all her hard work. Martha was even so bold as to ask Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help her with all the serving. Jesus replied that Mary was right where she should be, spending her precious time with Him because He was not concerned with all the preparations, that was not important to Him. Jesus would rather have them both sitting in leisure, spending quality time visiting with and loving Him.

There is a time for work and a time to just lay at God's feet and soak up His renewing strength. We must find the right balance that can keep all the blocks from tumbling. We need to stay in a state of mental and physical steadiness and have a complete equliibrium so as not to lean to far in either direction causing ourselves to crash. We need to maintain an even distribution of weight on our life scale. When we find the perfect combination of work and rest, everything else will fall into place and line up for us. We can cast all our cares and burdens on to the shoulders of our almighty God and rest in His presence. He will pave our roads with ease and make light our burdens. When we are balanced in Christ, there is an appointed perfect time and a God given divine purpose for everything!

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to harvest ; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; and a time for every purpose under heaven.

Take time each day to ask yourself, what did I do today for my mind, my body, my spirit, my relationships, my creativity, my passion, and set about taking care of them all equally by letting God be your guide, your teacher, your coach, your boss, your mentor and your loving strength in the process!

Heavenly Father please help me to stay balanced in my life by focusing first on you and letting you be my guide in all areas and in all circumstances. I thank you and praise you in Jesus name!