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Monday, November 7, 2016

“You Don’t Get to Determine My Christianity…”

(Standing up on my soapbox...)

I believe we all can agree how tumultuous and contentious this 2016 Presidential Election season has become. Every four years, each candidate is enlisted with the responsibility of communicating a vision for the future of our country.

What began as a passionate exchange of issues has now become a brutal, disrespectful display of a lack of civility.

Anais Nin says, “We Don’t See Things As They Are, We See Them As We Are.”

Everyone makes decisions based on their own life experiences, perspectives, opinions and how they see the world.

Keeping this in mind, I live by one of my favorite Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”:  "Seek First to Understand Than To Be Understood.”

I have watched both Republican and Democratic National Conventions, as well as the Libertarian and Green Party Town Halls. I choose to be “informed before being opinionated.”

As I have tried to do this, I was told by a Facebook friend that they “would not even consider my point-of-view.” Others stated, that if I didn’t agree with them, that my own Christianity should be called into question.

Wow!

I am confident that GOD hasn’t appointed any human being to “police the universe.” 

And…you can’t have it both ways. You can’t condemn one candidate for sins YOU have deemed unforgivable, while ignoring the daily, out-and-out UNREPENTANT sins of the other….slap a few bible verses around it…and revoke my Christianity, if I don’t see things as you do.

You can’t be unforgiving, yet expect God to forgive you. Doesn’t Work that way...

I rely on Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all thy might, LEAN NOT ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING; Acknowledge Him in all thy ways and He will direct thy path."

I find "Blessed Assurance" that GOD IS GOD and things will unfold how HE wants it to unfold.

I am Janette McGowen…and I approve this message…


(stepping down off my soapbox…and down on my knees…)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

"…Only God Knows the Prognosis”

I was unexpectedly hit with a debilitating, progressive and (currently) incurable illness, Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis in 2012 at the age of 48 years old. For someone like me who was extremely independent, never been sick before, near the top-of-my-game professionally, spiritually-comfortable and called myself a "health fanatic," I was totally blind-sided, in disbelief and devastated.

I kept the diagnosis very private for almost a year. I only confided in my very immediate family and a few trusted friends, who I put under a "gag order." I could not utter the words "MS" without breaking-down in tears. I needed time to "wrap my mind around it."

After listening to my lengthy, emotional, fake-confident rant about it, my wise minister and dear friend, Bro. David Jones, Jr. calmly replied, "Janette? You are grieving." 

I paused...and asked what this meant.

He explained, "You are grieving the DEATH of life as you knew it. You are experiencing the Stages of Grief, which are: Denial; Anger; Bargaining (with God); Depression; and Acceptance. You are learning to adapt to a "New Normal." 

This was a profound revelation to me!

I realized that I was allowing it to "consume" me and overwhelm my life. MS is just something I manage, it's not who I am.

This rocky, uncertain "Health Journey" I am on continues to affect me more spiritually, emotionally and mentally, much more than physically.

One day, while driving to worship, this quote came to me so strongly that I had to pull over to write it down. It has become my primary life theme that I repeat to myself every day. 

I pray it encourages you as it does me...



Tuesday, July 12, 2016

“Stricken to Your Inner Core” 

Oftentimes, we experience emotions that are so extreme and so profound, that they seem to permeate your bone marrow and inner being. They can be so overwhelming that you feel like you are in a state of perpetual, never-ending feelings.

They can appear either as grief and loss or happiness and joy.

Cases in Point:

#1 - It was 1989 that our family experienced the tragic, untimely death of my oldest brother in an auto accident. He was only 31 years old...I was 24 years old. This was the first time I had experienced death so up-close-and-personal. Everyone had gathered at our home. Our immediate family, all four grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins…a full house. My sister-in-law had already told my 12 year old nephew, but now had the horrible task of telling my 6 year old niece. She took her back in my parents’ bedroom and closed the door. We were all gathered in the kitchen, living room and den. 

Suddenly, there was a piercing scream throughout the house, followed by an anguished wail of “My D-a-a-d-d-d-y!!!!”

Everyone lost it. There was not a dry eye in the house. My sister-in-law was so overwhelmed that she exited the bedroom and asked Daddy to help comfort his granddaughter. Daddy went in and held her, while she hugged him tightly. She was inconsolable with profound grief.
*I must say this was the first time I ever saw my Daddy cry.*

#2 – During my oldest brother’s funeral, I recall feeling a level of grief I had never known before. I cried and wailed uncontrollably. I felt like my head was going to explode. I gasped so much, I felt like I couldn't breathe. It took my cousin to hold me and help console me...and for this, I will be eternally grateful.


#3 - My parents had one son, twins – a girl and boy, and identical triplet girls, of which I am the third. In 2001, when we got the tragic news that my older twin brother had died by smoke inhalation in an apparent house fire, we were devastated. I had just spoken to him a few days prior. He loved calling me "Jet" instead of Janette. Personally, my heart was breaking.

I remember entering the hospital to see his warm body in a body bag. I found myself nudging him and whispering, "Brother? Wake up!" I asked the doctor if he would be a candidate for organ donation. Unfortunately, he wasn't, due to the toxic fumes he had inhaled. I desperately tried to make this tragedy have some meaning.

As we were leaving the hospital, I saw my brother-in-law trying to comfort my older twin sister. She was crying, almost uncontrollably. Although our entire family was upset, her level of grief seemed so deep, so "unusually & extremely profound" to me.

Then it dawned on me…he was her TWIN! They were born together and had 41 years of experiences, secrets, laughs and closeness that were ONLY theirs.

Sometimes, the anguish can feel unbearable. Fortunately, we have a COMFORTER to help us navigate through these times.

And then, there are overwhelming Levels of Joy:

#4 – My nephew, the son of my triplet sister, married his true love a few years ago. Her family and our family felt naturally interconnected. Their wedding and reception was magical! Although this was their special day, it was obvious that it was a blessing for all of the attendees. Even his long-time mentor flew over 16 hours from China to be there! Personally, my heart was so overjoyed that I could not stop smiling. It was one of the most heart-filled, happiest and uplifting moments that I had ever experienced.

#5 – Our immediate family has a tradition every Christmas Eve of exchanging gifts among each other. Everyone witnesses each other open their gifts. We save Mama and Daddy for last. At times, I gave gag gifts :)  The fact that we have done this over 50 years is humbling to me. This is an annual gathering that fills my heart with much joy and happiness.

#6 – My minister retired as the full-time pulpit minister of my church after 53 years of unwavering service. I was a witness and participant in 23 years of it. My congregation hosted a month-long celebration that culminated in an elegant 1,000 attendee banquet. We also changed the name of our assisted living center to honor him. The love our congregation extended to him and his family was extremely overwhelming for him and us. My heart still overflows with profound pride and joy, when I remember it…

The Bible says:
John 11:35 (NKJV):
Jesus wept.
Psalm 34:18 (NIV):
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Matthew 5:4 (NIV):
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
John 14:26 (KJV):
26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Romans 12:12 (NKJV):
rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;
Romans 12:15 (NKJV):
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Psalm 37:4 (NKJV):
Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Proverbs 14:13 (NKJV):
Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, And the end of mirth may be grief.

When you feel “stricken to your inner core” in life, find comfort in knowing that GOD is aware and HE will see you through.




Friday, June 10, 2016

“Pray About It…Then, Be About It…”

This quote came to me one day, while experiencing a “self-pity” moment. While dealing with a debilitating health challenge, I prayed intensely for the Lord to give me some relief and ultimately heal me.

I realized that I was praying…and then doing nothing. No research, no exercises, no diet implementation…nothing. I just sat still and waited for God to do His thing.

Then I reflected on this story from the movie Facing the Giants:
“I heard of a story of two farmers praying to God for rain to come. Both prayed, but only one prepared the land to receive it. Who do you think trusted God more to send the rain?”

"God will send the rain when He is ready. You need to prepare your land to receive it."

I wanted blessings that I was not preparing myself to receive.

Cases in Point:
Prayer: “Lord, please help me win a Marathon.”
Your Actions:  You won’t even walk around your house.
Prayer: “Lord, send me a wife.”
Your Actions:  You currently have No job, No house and No means to take care of her.
Prayer:  Lord, please bless me with a brand, new car.
Your Actions:  You fail to wash, change the oil, keep clean or maintenance your current car.
Prayer: Lord, please let me win $1 million dollars.
Your Actions: You are a horrible manager of your current finances.

The Bible says:
Revelation 3:7-8 (NIV):
7 ...“What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name."
James 2:14-17 (NKJV):  Faith Without Works Is Dead
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Psalm 23:4 (NKJV):
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Powerful Quotes:
“Don’t complain about results you are not getting based on the work you are not doing.”
“Actions trump Good Intentions.” – Janette McGowen
“Actions prove who someone is; Words just prove who they want to be.”
“Life has no remote. Get up and change it yourself.”
“Pray when you feel like worrying. Give thanks when you feel like complaining. Keep going when you feel like quitting.”
Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
“You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. This is how prayer works.” – Pope Francis
"Often the answer to our prayer does not come while we are on our knees, but while we are on our feet serving the Lord and serving those around us.” - Dieter F. Uchtdorf
“If you are going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill

We should all PRAY for God’s blessings, while, through faith, preparing ourselves to receive them.

Friday, April 22, 2016

“Always Under Construction"

We often see signs on the roadways that say “Roads Under Construction.” New buildings being built will often say “Building Under Construction.”

These signs typically indicate that the former structure has been torn down and a new one is in the process of being built.

The “building process” is a very detailed one. It typically involves the digging up and tearing away of the former structure in order to rebuild the new one. It requires attention-to-detail, supervision, following instructions and making adjustments, when needed.

Since wear and tear naturally occur, regular maintenance is required to minimize the deterioration.

As human beings we are constantly evolving. From being a newborn to a toddler to a pre-teen to a teen to a young adult to an adult to a mid-lifer to a Senior.

Our spiritual life is, as well. After coming up out of the water immersion of baptism as a “new babe in Christ,” we spend our entire life evolving into whom God created us to be.

Hardships, often revealed in the forms of: heath issues, challenging relationships, disappointments, job loss and death (to name a few), are used to help mold, strengthen or renew your faith and trust in God. 

The Bible says:
Jeremiah 29:11(NLT):  For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
2 Peter 3:18 (NKJV):  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
2 Peter 1:5-7 (ESV):  For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
1 Timothy 4:7-8 (ESV):  Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
Romans 12:1 (ESV):  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Psalm 139:13-14 (ESV):  For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV):  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Memorable Quotes
“You will never influence the world by trying to be like it.”
“Don't shine so others can see you; shine so that through you, others can see Him.”
“Fill your mind with God’s word, and you’ll leave no room for the enemy’s lies.”
“Keep Calm…and read the Bible.”

As we continue traveling this journey called “Life,” we should understand that we are constantly learning, healing and evolving into the person God created us to be. Surrender and Embrace it…


Friday, February 26, 2016

Why We All Need to Travel...
It’s amazing to me how we sat in worship service on Sundays and sing hymns such as: “How Great Thou Art,” or “My God Is Real,” or “My God is an Awesome God.”
However, many of us only believe that God’s width, depth or vastness exists only in your own, narrow perspective of the world.
Cases in Point:
  • I may only believe that God is as big as my small hometown of Lynchburg, TN or maybe as the capital of Nashville TN or but probably no bigger than the State of Tennessee.
  • I remember having the opportunity to go to Phoenix AZ and visit the Grand Canyon. I was in awe! I was taken back by its vastness, its beauty and it richness in color. Then I realized…this wonder of nature was only a 27 mile stretch in the large city of Phoenix in the state of Arizona, as part of the country of the United States, on the planet Earth, part of one galaxy… of what may be beyond our understanding. Creating the Grand Canyon was only a “thumb scratch” to God.
  • When driving to work or just being outdoors, have you taken a moment to see the clouds, the trees, or feel the warmth of the sunshine on your face?
We read in Genesis 1:1 (NKJV) that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” But do we really understand how big God is?
I had the opportunity to go on a cruise to the Bahamas. The ship was spectacular! Other ships just as massive were in the same port. However, as we all left port and went on our way, they eventually disappeared!
As I stood out on deck, I saw the bluest of skies touching the bluest of waters, both extending as far as the eye could see. Tears slowly escaped my eyes. I found myself silently singing words from a hymn titled “Our God, He is Alive”:
There is, beyond the azure blue
A God, concealed from human sight
He tinted skies with heav'nly hue
And framed the worlds with His great might.

We often fall for the subtle lie from Satan that the wonders of nature are somewhat separate from God.
The website gotquestions.org answers the question:
Is the idea of mother nature biblical?
The term Mother Nature serves as a kind of umbrella encompassing political and cultural ideologies such as global warming, environmentalism, and climate change. This, in turn, has fostered a negative impact upon our world with its “new discoveries” making the news headlines daily: rising temperatures, rising sea levels, savage wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, coupled with the emergence of new and even ancient diseases, etc. As a result, many see “Mother Nature” as a kind of capricious goddess who wreaks havoc throughout the earth. The Bible makes it clear that it is God who send the rains on “the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).
It is God who controls the forces of nature: “But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding..” (Jeremiah 10:12–13).

Another bizarre idea is that Mother Nature is somehow the wife/consort of God and she rules in heaven alongside Him. The Bible, however, declares that God, in the triune Godhead, rules heaven and earth alone and unaided (Daniel 4:25). Nature is His creation and He alone sustains and protects it and, in doing so, He testifies to His goodness and kindness toward it. “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy" (Acts 14:17). http://www.gotquestions.org/mother-nature.html
I challenge everyone who calls themselves a “Christian,” to travel. When you are flying among the clouds, you know that only God is in control. As you attend sporting events, concerts and venues with a lot of people, you realize that God is operating in each and every life.
The Bible says:
Psalm 97:6 (NIV):
The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all peoples see his glory.
Psalm 19:1 (NIV):
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Genesis 1:31 (NIV):
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good…
Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV):
He has made everything beautiful in its time…

Memorable Quotes:
“If God were small enough for us to understand, He wouldn’t be big enough for us to worship.”
“Why wish upon a star when you can pray to the one who created it?” – Francis Chan
“God’s ART speaks of Himself, reflecting Who He is and What He is like.” – Francis Chan
“As the beauty of nature is constant, so is the God who made it.”
“Never pass up an opportunity to enjoy nature’s beauty – it is the handwriting of God.”
"Our divine nature comes from God." -  Rosemary Wixom
“Next time a sunrise steals your breath or a meadow of flowers leaves you speechless, remain that way, say nothing and listen as Heaven whispers, “Do you like it? I did it all for you.” – Max Lucado
“I thank you God for this amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirit of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything that is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.” – e.e. cummings
“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we only tune it.” – George Washington Carver

God created the heavens and the earth. All of nature is His creation. If we’d only take a moment out to pay attention and travel, we might grasp how infinite and utterly awesome God is. 


Friday, February 12, 2016

“Well, If I Were You…"

Although people may mean well, they are often guilty of giving others “unsolicited advice.” Typically, it is based on their own background, personalities and experiences.

I am sad to say that I have been guilty of doing this to others in the past.

Cases in Point:
  • I advised a timid, single mother how to aggressively confront her child’s teacher about an unrealistic homework deadline. (Note: I am single, with no children and was an aggressive, strong-willed Account Executive in sales.)
  • I advised someone about managing their health issues. (Note: I do not know their diagnosis nor had I ever been sick.)

This is even applicable regarding your spiritual journey. Each and every one of us has an individual, unique and personal relationship with God. Our prayers, dreams and levels of faith are all different.

Biblical Examples:
  • Eve fell victim to this ploy from the serpent. Although she KNEW the Lord’s command , not to eat from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the serpent basically said: “Well, if I were you…” Eve and eventually Adam did eat, and were punished by God by being banned from the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3)
  • Noah was commanded by God to build an ark to save himself and his family. HE was going to destroy the entire world by water because it was so corrupt and evil. But He found favor with Noah. It is probably safe to assume that Noah was levied with tons of opposition from non-believers and “Well, if I were you…” advice. Noah trusted God and remained obedient. HE was true to his word, causing it to rain for 40 days and 40 nights, destroying the earth.  (Genesis 6 & 7)

It’s not that we shouldn’t listen to or take advice. We should just be diligent in only adhering to “wise counsel” and God’s Word. One may want to say, “You may want to consider another perspective.”

The Bible shares:
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV):
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 1:5 (NKJV):
A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
Proverbs 12:18 (NIV):
The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 22:17 (NIV):
Pay attention and turn your ear to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach,
Romans 12:2 (NKJV):
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Memorable Quotes:
 “It doesn’t matter what others are doing. It matters what YOU are doing.”
“Stop caring what others think of you and start doing what God has called you to do.”
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
“Don’t let anyone who has done nothing tell you anything.”
“Don’t base your decisions on the advice of those who don’t have to deal with the results.”
“Not everyone thinks the way you think, knows the things you know, believes the things you believe, nor acts the way you would act. Remember this and you will go a long way in dealing with people.” – Arthur Forman
“Never waste time trying to explain yourself to people committed to misunderstanding you.”
"Stop letting people who do so little for you control so much of your mind, feelings, and emotions."

When people tell you “Well, if I were you…” kindly reply, “Since you are not me, I will obey God.”  Seek Wisdom…not Random Advice.