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Where are the Voices for Freedom of Speech?

Freedom of Speech. Three simple words comprised of 15 letters of the English alphabet.  For over 20 centuries, blood has literally flowed from the veins of good men and women to protect these three words that are so flippantly thrown around on the airwaves and in social study classes. It’s not just a phrase or a tag line. It is a principal upon which our government was established. It is the core of we are as citizens.  We are free to express our opinions and beliefs regardless of how and by whom they are received.

DSC_8943YET…there is no freedom of speech if the hearer must approve of what the speaker says. When my voice must be quieted because what I say offends you, the freedom dissipates. When my words must flow through the filter of those who disagree with what I say, there is no longer freedom.  Common sense and respect for our fellow citizens dictates appropriateness and respect but the freedom to speak cannot be hushed.  We simply cannot allow it.

My heart is sad for those filled with incredible hatred. I pray for their peace and for God’s love to penetrate those who try so hard to resist Him. The devil is destroying our country from within…that’s what he does…he divides families, churches, citizens…for if we fight each other we will be distracted from the real issues.

Does it really matter who won’t make a pizza for whom, who can and cannot say they are Christians on their private social media accounts, when the real issues are babies being murdered, young girls being sold as sex slaves, people literally dying everyday from starvation and evil armies trying to attack innocent people.

Can we really be SO selfish and self-centered that who approves of us and who is or isn’t willing to serve us that we completely lose sight of common sense?

The Bible says to “Be angry and sin not.” It’s time for God’s people to be angry and stand up for those whose voices are being quieted by bullies, and a few loud mouths. MOST people just want to live their lives, love their families, provide for those in their care, and enjoy this earthly journey. Most are not hateful and vindictive. So why, someone please explain to me why, a few people with too much money (that could make such a difference if used properly) and way too much hate can silence the majority? Am I the only one who is weary of stories day after day after day of injustice.

This post is not directed at any one person or group of people. I am, unashamedly a Christian. I love God and am humbled and amazed that He would die for me so that I can live eternally in Heaven. By nature of my DNA, I would be considered the middle child, the peace maker. I detest conflict. I love harmony.

The lens through which I view life sees no difference in people based on where they were born, what the tint of their skin is, what they know and believe about sexual orientation, what they have been taught about God and religion, or what values have been instilled in their lives. My friends include people from every corner of the world and point of scale on the morality measuring bar.

One of the richest experiences of my life was a summer spent in the gay community caring for a dying friend (a post for another day), moments providing care for foster children of different races and ethic backgrounds have taught me a lifetime of lessons about acceptance, and my passion for traveling and mission based journeys has opened my eyes to ways of worship beyond the walls of a church auditorium. While my mind on salvation is incredibly narrow and based solely on the Bible teaching, my heart is wide open for those human beings I am sharing this beautiful earth with at this point in History.

Soon, our story will be told. The people alive in the 21st century will be the History lessons studied in schools and reflected on as a learning benchmark for those who come after us. Sadly, I fear what they will learn and remember. I fear they will look at our generation as one that was too harsh, too divided, too full of hate to have made progressive contributions to the world. A society that got so focused on their personal needs that the greater good was harmed and sacrificed.

God’s righteousness will prevail…He is such a patient God but as much as He is patient…He is just.  How He continues to love those who despise Him is beyond my comprehension. But love is God…it’s Who and What He is. Mind baffling and pure, holy love.

This post was bathed in prayer and written from a heart of love.  These words, spoken with freedom, may or may not be well received.  That part of this journey is not mine to take.  My part is to speak freely.

Renee Parris

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Own Your Life Book Study: Chapter Two

We are continuing our study together of Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson.

The more I read and study this book, the more I am convinced that every person I know should read this book.  Regardless of your profession, education level, or age, this book has something for everyone.  I’m blessed to have read this gem.

Chapter 2: Controlling the Chaos – Owning Your Priorities and Commitments

This chapter spoke deeply to me.  Got right in there and nudged at the dirt in the corners of my heart.  The Holy Spirit likes to do that…clean out the crevices.

In Chapter 2, Sally Clarkson shares about Owning Your Priorities and Commitments.  This is a tough area for most women.  We find our days busy and over scheduled and our nights exhausted and restless from all we have done yet all we have left undone in the same period of time.

Busy or EffectiveAt the beginning of each year, I seek God’s direction for the year and ask Him to point out a very specific area of my life that needs more attention than the others.  I know if I list too many resolutions or goals, I will become overwhelmed and resigned to leave life as it is for fear of failure once again.  So, I pray and ask God to give me one theme that could reach into several areas of my life and make me more of what He wants me to be.  This year, 2015, the message came back loud and clear: Busy versus Effective.  Ouch.

We can pride ourselves on how much we do and all that we are involved in, but is our life filled with busyness or effectiveness?  God has been working on me and I’m seeking to eliminate the drainers as Sally calls them and reexamine my schedule…yet again!

Highlights from Chapter 2:

A woman, running late to a meeting, said these words to Sally:

“Today, all the chaos consumed me and left me empty.  If you could write a book about how to have peace in the midst of the chaos of everyday life, you would sell a gazillion books.  That is how everyone I know is living – in utter, busy chaos!

Her words haunted Sally.  These are some of her responses:

“I wanted to tell her that she didn’t need to find peace in the chaos, instead, she needed to move, step-by-step, toward a more reasonable and centered life.”

“God has equipped all of us to live more simply, to move toward order, and to live with intentionality.”

“I have watched many women battle compulsive busyness.” 

“The end result? Depression and isolation. Many women wonder how they will get off the merry-go-round of life.  Even in Christian circles, women live with deep weariness and what I call sawdust souls-an inability to experience any lasting joy.  Their spirits are dry and depleted, but they aren’t even sure how to get close to God, or how to have intimacy with family and friends.”

“Busyness falsely promises productivity.”

In order to bring calm to the chaos, we must be able to identify where the chaos comes from.  We need to listen to the voices that influence us and rid our lives of the voices that don’t line up with the voice of God.

“Unless we return to God’s original design for us and listen to His wisdom, the confusing voices of culture, even Christian culture, will lead us astray.”

“In the absence of Biblical convictions, people will go the way of culture.”

“Many of us struggle to bring God’s light to influence culture; instead, we have allowed culture to inform our values, our work ethic, and our ideals.  Consequently, the values and habits of the world and Christians’ choices are often indistinguishable.”

“We were made for love—in fact, loving God and loving others sums up all the law!”

“Our calling is to bring light—like Jesus—so that when we step into the worlds of others, we bring His peace to every person and enlighten the dark places of the world.  Coming into contact with us should be like coming in contact with Jesus.”

Personal Take-Aways and Challenges:

So, what is the answer?  We have to identify the drainers.  We need to know what steals our hearts away from God’s design for our lives.

Before we can make changes, we need to be honest about our priorities.  We can say we are committed to a daily walk with God, serving our families, loving our communities, ministering to those in our paths, yet if our habits and commitments keep us too busy to do those things, then we are deceiving ourselves.

Perhaps it’s time to be brutally honest with ourselves.  Often it is our self that we lie to the most.  Putting our schedule down on paper is a great way to be able to see where our time is going.  What eats up our day?  Could it be social media, idle phone or text conversations, too many hours away from home?  It will be different for each of us, but we each get the same 24 hours a day and those hours are filled with something.  Whether it is idleness or excessive busyness, the drainers will find a way to consume our hours.  We must be intentional about identifying where the time is going if we want to change how the time is spent.

Daily FreshnessWithout a Biblical foundation, we are empty.  There is no substitute for quiet time spent with the Lord.  And the way He speaks is through His word.   If my soul is void of the freshness of His word, daily, then I am empty and have nothing to give to those in my life.

A haunting question of my heart is this: When people come into contact with me, do they feel as if they have been in contact with Jesus?

What drainers can I eliminate so that my quiet time is more consistent?  What commitments can I let go, so that the people I say I love most actually feel my love?  What busyness can be traded in for effectiveness?

Each day my story is being written.  So is yours.

Building someone else’s dream leaves our stories untold.  Embrace the script God has for you.  Love the people God has called you to serve.

Be honest, brutally honest, about what adds value to your life and be willing to set aside what doesn’t.  Even good things can hinder our effectiveness.  It doesn’t have to be sinful, sometimes it’s just not expedient.

How are you owning your life?  Well.  I trust.

Renee Parris

A link to purchase this amazing book:

http://www.amazon.com/Own-Your-Life-Intention-Generous/dp/1414391285/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420299444&sr=8-1&keywords=own+your+life

Own Your Life Book Study: Chapter One

We are continuing our study together of Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson.

Each person will have a different experience reading this book, so please know that these are just my thoughts about how the Lord is speaking to me at this point in my own life.

Chapter 1: Seeing Beauty and Purpose in Your Ordinary Days – Owning the Hero Who Lives inside You

This chapter unfolds beautifully and awakens the dream of living a life of significance.

In Chapter 1, Sally Clarkson sets the stage of creating a life that matters and Owning the Hero Who Lives inside You by sharing stories of her childhood in which she was the heroine in her own tales.  She twirled, danced, and dreamed of becoming the Miss America she watched on television.  She read stories of great ladies who answered the call and did heroic acts like Florence Nightingale and lasting work like Madame Curie.

As little girls, we play dress up and dream.

As little girls, we play dress up and dream.

Most of us would admit we spent more time daydreaming of the life we would someday have than we do of cultivating the life we actually live.  Somehow life happened and got in the way of our vision.  Dreams got exchanged for reality and we woke up one day and realize we are quite a distance from the vision our hearts held for a life of beauty, inspiration and satisfaction.

Highlights from Chapter 1:

From her earliest childhood memories, Sally says:

“Even as a little girl posing as a beauty queen, I knew in my heart I was born to become someone significant.”

There is a sweet exchange between she and her son where he says, Mama, you know what? I think Superman was just like Jesus.  He came from a far-off place to save his world.  I think I am going to be Superman when I grow up because I am going to do something to save my world.”

Sally declares, “I believe there is a heroine in each of our hearts waiting to come out.  Yet somewhere along the pathway of our lives, we lose our innocence, forget our dreams, and succumb to a life filled with monotony and responsibility.”

She shares of a time when her children were small, they were living with her mother-in-law, finances were tight and life was overwhelming.  On a particular day, she found herself sitting on the floor in front of a couch hoping her children wouldn’t find her as they ran by.  She says “I was Eyeore living under clouds of ‘Woe is me.’”

She was hiding from life and the dailies.  Sometimes just the sheer routine of life can weigh on our spirit.

Sally recalls, “In that moment, my life was a pile of puzzle pieces, all mixed up with no seeming pattern or logical way to fit them together.  And a heroine was not to be found in the picture.”

Then right there in the midst of her pity party, there was a come to Jesus meeting.  Isn’t God like that?  He just meets us wherever we are.  No pretense, no hiding the truth of our feelings from Him.  And only when we are honest with God about our situation can true healing begin to take place.  Yet, that is where many of us struggle…in being honest with the God that knows the truth about us.

So, from the pity party and honesty session with God, healing came.  Sally began to realize that from this very place of what she viewed as adversity, would come a heart for others and a dream for how her life could inspire others to reach above their circumstances and create a beautiful story.

In reflecting on her 60 years (so far) of Walking with God, Sally asks herself a question: “Have I written a story of faith and faithfulness that will speak inspiration to generations to come?”

One thing I have come to realize from Sally’s teaching is that greatness happens in the routine, mundane, small moments of the everyday.  While here on earth, Jesus didn’t minister, on a huge platform, to the entire world.   He touched those who brushed up against His life on a daily basis.  He poured into a few and they poured into a few and on and on until the world was turned upside down for Christ.

“Even Jesus lived in a tiny town, never venturing more than fifty miles from His home during His ministry. Though He did not work with great world leaders and was obscure in His commonness, Christ’s love and service literally changed the history of the world.”

The last couple pages of this chapter are rich with the importance and challenge of maintaining a daily walk with God.  To maintain integrity and live a life of service to others, we have to be filled with His love.

Sally says, “Once I understood that my integrity was built when no one else but God was looking, I was motivated to remain faithful in moments alone with Him and my Bible.

“I discovered that heroes are made during the secret moments.”

I love this video clip of Sally explaining how we each have a cup.

She leaves us with this: “Each of us has a different life puzzle to assemble.  The choices you make in the midst of your life journey do have eternal consequences.  No matter what your limitations are – your life is meant to be filled to the brim with the potential of God’s blessing.  If you embrace your unique puzzle of life, you will find wholeness.”

“Your story lived faithfully will become your glory – the place where He builds messages, provides answers to prayers, and teaches wisdom.”

Personal Take-Aways and Challenges:

It’s time to own our lives and commit to living each day on purpose and being intentional about our dreams and goals.  Whether that is in the way we display beauty in our homes, create memories for those we love and serve, inspire those around us to embrace life, or enjoy a deeper walk with the Lord.  It is up to us to create and nurture the life we want and to do all we can to stop negativity and burdens from interrupting the story we are writing with our lives.

God’s puzzle and design for our lives is a beautiful masterpiece.  A life lived, by His ways and in His will, is a beautiful story and a gift to leave to those who come behind us.

A few questions I am pondering in my heart from this chapter: Am I the living out the role God designed for me and embracing my own puzzle?  How am I ministering to those who brush up against me each day?  What is the story my life is writing?

How are you owning your life?  Are you the heroine in your great story or are you living the script written for someone else?

Renee Parris

Here is the link to order this inspiring book:

http://www.amazon.com/Own-Your-Life-Intention-Generous/dp/1414391285/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420299444&sr=8-1&keywords=own+your+life

Own Your Life Book Study: Introduction

Reading a good book is a gift to the soul.  Sharing a good book with friends is divine!  The book we are going to be discussing has been a treasure to my soul.  It has touched me profoundly.

I am currently leading several groups through Sally Clarkson’s book Own Your Life.  I will be summarizing each chapter and posting notes here on the blog so that those in the groups (and those who may not be) can all have one central place to find the notes.

Here is the review of the Introduction of Own Your Life.  Enjoy this rich treasure.

Introduction: The Beginning – What Will Be the Legacy of Your Life?

When reading the Reviews, Forward and Introduction of a book touches and inspires you, you can be assured this is going to be a great read.  So it is with Own Your Life.  I was privileged to preview a portion of this book before its release and I was touched deeply.  Then I was blessed to be part of the launch team for the book and I could hardly stand the wait for the release date.  I so desperately wanted to get this book into the hands of my friends.

Why?  Because Sally Clarkson is the real deal.  A godly woman whose walk with the Lord is so real and transparent it’s almost touchable.

photo(12)I remember well the day I saw Sally Clarkson for the first time.  She was a speaker at a home school convention that I attended in North Carolina.  Her natural beauty, mannerisms, and soft voice made me take notice.  Her message that day on raising whole hearted children resonated deeply with me and I knew I would follow her and read her books after the conference.

What I could not foresee was how God would allow our paths to cross time and again and how blessed I would be to get to spend time at her home and develop a friendship with this amazing woman.  For 12 years now I have watched her raise her four children into fantastic and creative adults, love and encourage her husband, minister to women all over the world and stay true to the God who is using her to write a beautiful story of living life well and with intention.

photo(7)I’m honored to be leading a study of this book and to share with you how God is speaking in my life right now through Sally’s words and to see what God will do in your life through this book.  The Holy Spirit uses each of us to encourage the other.  So, here we go…digging deep into the pages of Own Your Life and deeper into the love of Christ.

Highlights from the Introduction:

In the Introduction, Sally Clarkson asks a poignant question.  “What Will Be the Legacy of Your Life?”  Ponder that for a while!  We all will leave a legacy; a story that lingers and will be shared after we are no longer contributors to the story.  I don’t know about you but my story is not yet complete with all I want it to include.  There is so much more that needs to be added and edited and I am realizing it is up to me to make those contributions.  I cannot leave my story in someone else’s hands.  It is mine to shape and share.

Life is fleeting and decisions to be effective must be made now.

Sally share about attending a conference where seven young women drown in a freak flood and how that event framed the atmosphere and messages of the conference.  At the end of one message, Sally recalls thinking, “Oh how I wish I could have an opportunity to make a difference in this world!  God, I am just a young, untrained, unskilled person, but I want You to use me during my lifetime.  Please let them pick me to go if it is Your will.  I am your girl forever.”

They did pick her and she became a missionary sharing God’s redeeming love in six communist countries in Eastern Europe.  There were many hurdles, adversities and adventures in her years as a missionary.  Those days shaped her.

“Being challenged to live every day as though it might be my last has made an immense difference throughout my life. ‘Seeking first the Kingdom of God’ became a life focus.  Knowing I have only one life to live, one opportunity to invest it fully in the Kingdom of God, has given energy and purpose to each day and every season of my life.”

Sally challenges the reader to form a grid, a list of questions that will bring them back over and over to evaluate whether the life they are living is the life they intend to live.

I love how her life is an example for all of us about God’s faithfulness.  She says, “At sixty years old, I can look back and see that God has honored those decisions I made to live a life set apart for Him beyond what I ever imagined.”

 

Personal Take-Aways and Challenges:

Each of us long to matter.  To live a life that makes a difference is a cry of the heart.  God placed in each of us a longing to create, nurture, and accomplish.  Yet, life and the daily-ness of it, often gets in the way and we find ourselves settling for a life of mediocrity. The dreams and plans are still there, just buried beneath the rubble of everyday trials.

We are not called to live the same story but we are each called to live His story.  Every person has a role to play and the story cannot be complete without each person embracing and living out their individual role.

A fresh question on my heart is this: How can I be more intentional about living the life God designed for me? 

 

Are you ready to own your life?  Let’s do this.

Renee Parris

Here are some ways you can connect with Sally Clarkson

Her blog: www.http://sallyclarkson.com/

Facebook: www.https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sally-Clarkson/242157951372?ref=br_tf

To order a copy of Own Your Life:

http://www.amazon.com/Own-Your-Life-Intention-Generous/dp/1414391285/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420299444&sr=8-1&keywords=own+your+life

New Year…New Promises

New Year Resolutions.  Promises Made.  Intentions Set.  Goals Outlined.  Something about January and the clean pages of a calendar brings out the planner in many of us.  We dream, plan, envision, intend, and draw our mental pictures of how this will be the year.  The year of promises kept, goals achieved and resolutions that last beyond the first month of the new year.

Sigh.  Reality. Daily-ness of life and routine.  My heart imagines yet I know that all that is within me is incapable of change.  BUT GOD…  That’s the game changer.  For “I can do ALL things through Christ” according to Philippines 4:13.  So, I’m claiming that…His strength, His power, His grace to cover my inadequacies and to do more in and through me than I am capable of on my own.

Every year I revisit my dreams and I ask God to bring alive again those dreams that are from Him and those purposes to which He has called me.  We each live a different puzzle but for me, I know that I am called to be a wife, mom, writer, encourager, friend, and witness.  The purposes to which I am called don’t change year to year.  My commitment to how seriously I pursue those purposes is what changes.

So this year, encouraged by my dear friend Sally Clarkson, I have decided to intentionally “Own My Life.”  To find peace on the journey, embrace the challenges, and celebrate the puzzle God has given me.

394814_4098317667888_1904929254_n

ownyourlifebookphotoofemma35799_1460401200419_2271066_nWhat is it God has called you to?  What purpose has He placed deep within your soul?  Who has He brought into your life that needs to be loved on and cared for through your hands and words?  May you find peace in the calling and choose to “Own Your Life” in this new year.

This book will inspire you to be more, dream bigger, love deeper, and intentionally live out your life.

http://www.amazon.com/Own-Your-Life-Intention-Generous/dp/1414391285/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420299444&sr=8-1&keywords=own+your+life

 

My encouragement to you is to give yourself the gift of the words and wisdom of my dear friend, Sally Clarkson.

May this be the year for dreams realized, visions brought forth, and purposes embraced.

From my heart,

Renee

Christmas Blessings for Your Family

December is well under way and what tends to be the busiest month of the year for most families, also lends itself to be the most stressful.  Gatherings, work parties, school events, concerts, plays, gift exchanges, and shopping all add themselves to schedules that for most of us are already full to the brim.

The added stresses can take the edge off of our joy and replace the fringes of our lives with contention, stress, discouragement, and chaos.  How do we enjoy this merry season without losing perspective on why we are so busy in the first place?  It’s simple…focus.  Focus on the meaning of Christmas, the people we are gathering with, and the communities to which we are blessed to belong.

In this Christmas season, I offer you these blessings.

May you read the Christmas Story in Luke chapter 2 and remember the birth of Jesus…the event that gave us this season to celebrate.

1002224_669054796486111_368254482_nMay you remember the simplicity of that first Christmas night when all Mary focused on was holding and nurturing her precious baby.  The gifts given were a bonus but not the focus.

201May you invest in the relationships of your gift recipients more than in the candles, mugs, and socks you purchase for them.

May you realize that even if you are not surrounded by friends and family, that your Creator has chosen you, loves you and longs for your fellowship.

1606370_10201627597115207_1085362289_oMay you be in the moment at every event.  Hear the music, enjoy the plays, eat the yummy food, and embrace the goodwill of strangers and friends alike who offer greetings of the season.

May you gather with those you love, set aside differences, and be grateful that of all human beings, God put the puzzle of your family and friends together for a reason.

1795613_669055329819391_634952472_nMay you be blessed to have people to love, strangers to be kind to, and a Saviour to celebrate.

May you listen to music in your home, enjoy wrapping each gift and pray over each Christmas treat you give away.

247May you find quiet moments in each day to whisper prayers of gratefulness that you are alive and in this present moment.

May you look, really look, at the faces of those you love and remember the faces of those you have lost, and be thankful that your life has been blessed by their presence.

303May you find this Christmas season to be a deep, soul filling, time where the added activities are welcome and enjoyed.

May you know, above all, that the babe born on a quiet night in Bethlehem, now waits for you in Heaven and longs to commune with you.  His birth changed history and longs to change your life.

1897677_10203249962320256_541273943_nMay you be blessed this Christmas season to see another one a year from now.

From my heart to yours…Merry Christmas!

Renee Parris

Making the Journey Together

Making the Journey Together

mother-child-reading

 

Today I find my heart in reflection mode. Looking back. Remembering. Reaching back so that I can propel forward.

Another academic year has arrived and for most families that brings a time of planning and new beginnings.

To plan well, we first must reflect and take stock of what is going well and what needs to be adjusted. Sometimes we can just look back to yesterday and sometimes we have to go all the way back to where it began. That’s where my heart is today.

Recalling this now 7-year journey of homeschooling and wondering how I got here and how that first day of bringing Emma home from public school has become so many days of doing life together with some very dear friends: moms who go against the grain, swim upstream, and live outside of the box of societal norms.

My heart remembers the night I stood in our church hallway and poured out my insecurities to a veteran homeschooling mom who told me, “I was enough.” When I tried to convince her I was out of my league, she gently reminded me that if God gave me children, then I was the perfect choice for them and them for me. In her mind, her words may have just been noise from her lips but for me they were fuel to the kindling of the fire God was stirring in my soul.

FOR THE FULL ARTICLE, FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW

http://www.itakejoy.com/making-the-journey-together/

I’m so blessed that God has allowed me to cross paths with some Godly mentors and friends including Sally Clarkson.  She is the heart behind the “I Take Joy” and “MomHeart” Blogs.  I am always grateful when she allows me to use her platform to share the messages God places on my heart.

With my heart,

Renee Parris