Wednesday, February 29, 2012

There can be Miracles when you believe!

One of my favorite all time animated movies is Prince of Egypt. I loved it so much because it was a classic Bible story told by one of the best directors in Hollywood, who employed some of the best in thier particular fields of expertise to make it. This was no second rate cheesy film, and the soundtrack to the movie was no different. They used some of the best to sing on this project. The song that immediately sticks out is the title of this blog. In the middle of thier "hay days" these two singers were considered pretty much the best in the world! Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston! Wow! What more could you ask for?
As you pretty much know now unless you live under a rock, Whitney Houston died a few weeks ago. It struck me particularly hard. Not because Whitney and I were such tight friends (I could have only dreamed), or because she was out there setting the music world on fire at this particular moment (it had been awhile since she had a real hit). It struck me hard because it was such a WASTE!!!
Here was a beautiful woman who had one of the most amazing gifts of song that has ever been given! She sang songs that inspired and motivated. She made you want to be sassy and independent when you listened to her music. You couldn't help but sing along, at least I couldn't! Her voice had a quality that would draw you in and make you feel the words to every song she sang. Surely this woman was a confident woman. I mean, beautiful on the outside, voice that captured thousands, loved by millions..it's what every little girl who wants to grow up to be a singer dreams of. On the surface it seemed like she had it all! That she had achieved a level only a few will ever see. Sadly, what was portrayed on the outside did not live up to what was really happening on the inside!
I remember reading something that Kevin Costner said about Whitney. He said she had insecurities. That she worried about if she was good enough, if people would like her songs, if she would be loved, etc. Are you kidding me??? If you lined up every vocalist who dreamed of becoming a singer after listening to Whitney Houston, surely the line would wrap around the world and this woman wondered if she was good enough???
What a lesson for us all!
Money, success, fame and achievement can not buy self confidence. Being known around the world doesn't gain you peace of mind and belief in yourself. Whitney was human. She was just like me and you. Held up by the praise of people, but also struck down by the hateful words and criticism of others. She demonstrates to us such a powerful truth! It is vital who you allow to speak into your life. You will have many voices telling you where to go, what to do, who to listen to. I believe that Whitney had people in her life that loved her. That was so evident by the world's reaction to her death. But I honestly believe she had begun to surround herself with people who would tell her what she WANTED to hear more than what she NEEDED to hear. Her insecurities had been allowed to run unchecked. That so easily happens when you suffer setbacks in your life. Once you have achieved such a pinnacle a fame, it becomes almost impossible to hit that high mark again. I'm sure she never set out to allow drugs to take over her life, or to become dependent on alcohol and derail her own career. Her belief in herself got blurred with what others believed about her.
How guilty are we of this same thing? God has told us over and over what He thinks of us! I love what the Message Bible says in Psalm 16:5-6 "My choice is you, God, first and only. And now I find, I'm your choice! You set me up with a house and yard. And then you made me your heir!"
What more do we need? We are God's children. He has a purpose and a plan. Why do we so strive for the validation of man when God has already given us HIS stamp of approval. Why? Because we are human. And like Whitney, we want to believe, but are often sidetracked by what we see. A less than flattering comment here, a snide remark there and we begin to lose faith in ourselves. Everyday can NOT and will NOT be a mountain conquering day. It's just a fact of life that part of our life will be spent in the valley looking up trying to figure out how to get to the top of the next obstacle. What sets apart the people who succeed and those who don't is the amount of faith, determination and belief they each exercise. Are you an "I'm in the valley what's the point of trying?" kind of person or are you an "I'm in the valley now but look up there..that's where I'm headed!" kind of person.
We were all meant for some kind of greatness in our lives. God loves us all the same! That love doesn't change depending on what successes or failures we have in our lives. I challenge you to remember who you are and whose you are! Use wisdom with who you allow to speak into your life. Don't take the compliments or the criticisms to seriously! We will all have good and bad days. Ultimately...Life is what we make it for ourselves. And when we allow God to be the center of our universe and the loudest voice in our ear..it's a sweet sweet life. I leave you today with the words of a song that Whitney sang so powerfully...
"Many nights we prayed with no proof anyone could hear, in our hearts a hopeful song we barely understood. Now we are not afraid although we know there's much to fear. We were moving mountains long before we knew we could."
I remain your friend - in this ride called life right along with you! Let's put the top down and sing this to the top of our voices and ignore the roadblocks that get thrown in front of use. We will find a way around them together :)
April

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"A Woman Living In A Man's World"

I know that the title of this blog is going to immediately cause some people to assume that I am about to go off on a rant about how unfair it is to be a woman in a man's world. Not true. If you know me very well you would know that I am not the type to go off on rants. In fact, one of my biggest pet peeves is when people use social media as their personal platform. It gets downright ridiculous. What I have found is that most narrow minded people feel the freedom to express thier opinions, but automatically dismiss yours if you don't think like them, so I avoid the redundancy!!
Anyone that knows me can vouch for the fact that I am fairly assertive and confident and that I usually don't have a problem speaking my mind on certain subjects! Insert laughter here :) No this isn't a ranting blog, it is a blog to share about a situation that I find myself in. Long ago, I felt "called" to a job that is usually reserved for men. I felt called to go into full time ministry. Now that is not to say that is what I always WANTED to be, but it's what I felt CALLED to be. I wanted to be everything from a doctor, to a famous singer, to a gymnast, to a broadcast reporter. I even went to college and earned a degree in Telecommunications with a minor in journalism. I liked to write and I thought that I could turn this into a career. But eventually God kept tugging at my heart. I have a deep love for people and I have found great fulfillment in working at a church because of the many opportunities that I have been afforded to love on people.
I accomplished a lot of things as a single lady in the ministry. But no doors were opened for me like they were when I got married. I was able to so to speak "hitch my wagon" to a man who was also in the ministry. Churches liked hiring my husband because they always soon realized that they were getting "a two for one deal". He was always recognized as the minister, he always got the bigger paycheck. But the churches were always "willing" to allow me to do the work. I have never been one to shy away from something because I have never done it. I was bred in the world of Masters, so I adopted the philosophy "if you see a need, fill it!". I was willing to work and work with everything in me in every area of ministry I was needed in! I soon found myself the go to girl for a lot of things. I was happy working "behind someone" because I found validation and purpose in making things work. I was ok with him getting the credit because our names were synonomous with one another. We were a "power couple". I soon overlooked that I was not given opportunities without him. As long as I was busy, I was happy.
Fast forward to the present. What happens now? In September, my husband decided he no longer wanted to be a "power couple" :) So I found myself in a new position. I was ordained as a minister long before I met my husband. So does my validation as a minister end because he decided that we shouldn't be married? Absolutely not. I never needed him to validate me. God has always done that. But I have to admit it was so much easier operating in the world of ministry tied to a man who was a minister. Do I give up and try something else? Do I have to change everything about myself and go find something that will bring me so called acceptance? I don't think so. Who I am is who I am, with husband or without. No, I feel like I am still CALLED. I just can not afford to sit back and rest on somebody else's laurels any longer. My husband was creative and funny. He was gifted to be a speaker. BUT SO AM I! The Bible says that God knew me before He formed me. That he knew all my days before they were even written. I am in a place of seeking now. Ironically, our last place of ministry together is still his home and I have had to move on to find some place new. But that's ok. There is something to be said for a Fresh Start. I have the unique opportunity to rewrite my story. To figure out who and where God wants me to be. I am seeking to hear what my next should be, seeking to find where I fit in this world. If God calls me to remain in this "man's world of ministry", so be it. One thing I am not is scared!! :) In fact I love a good challenge. If God calls me to it, I will doggedly pursue it. I am more afraid of failing God than I am intimidated by old school thinking. I have one goal in this life and that is to live my life to please God. This is a new day. God has chosen PEOPLE - men and women alike. He is not so much concerned that I am girl, as He is to see if I am willing. Will I have the courage that I once possessed? I still believe in the philosophy of seeing a need and filling it. And right now, I believe there is a need for this woman to step it up and do what God has called her to do!! And I thought medical school would be hard? hahahaha
What is your challenge today? What purpose are you called to pursue? And who or what are you allowing to stand in your way? Don't let life and systems of this world intimidate you. Go for it!! I know I am and we can do it!! Can't wait to hear the stories of your success. I know I will be sharing mine :)
Your Friend in the Fight!
April Phipps

Monday, February 6, 2012

"Now that's a good idea!"

Have you ever had an idea? I mean what you really thought was a good idea? I have! At least to me :) I can recall several times when I would speak about a great idea to someone. The conversation would usually go something like this..."if I had money, I would...". I am from Hamilton, Ohio. Let's face it, people in Hamilton LOVE greasy food :) I remember going away to Masters and eating at this foreign place called Sonic. I remember saying to someone, if I had money, I would open a Sonic in Hamilton. People would go nuts for that food there!! :) Then I was introduced to Cold Stone Creamery! Heaven!! :) I remember saying the same thing! If I had money, I would open a Cold Stone. When CJ was little, I remember telling someone that I wanted to invent a cellphone for kids. It would have big buttons with preset numbers so they could push a button and call mom, dad, etc. I knew parents around the world would appreciate this!!
Well needless to say, Sonic is now in Hamilton and business is booming. There are Cold Stone's all over the place and people are enjoying heaven in an ice cream cup :) And The Firefly phone was introduced over 5 years ago, complete with three big buttons and has come and gone! Great ideas? yes! Successful ideas? yes! My ideas? no! You may say but wait a minute, you just spent two paragraphs telling us how you had these great ideas and now you say you didn't? :) I say my ideas no because that's all they ever were to me! Ideas, lofty thoughts, dreams. I talked about them but at the end of the day, that's all it ever was..just talk. Someone else thought of the same thing that I did, but decided to run with it. A good idea is never anything but a good idea until someone picks it up and takes action! How many times has this proven true in our own lives? We talk a good talk. We have great ideas for what we would like our lives to be like, but nothing ever comes of it because we don't know how to take the next step or something holds us back. There is always someone or something to tell us that we can't or we shouldn't or even that we aren't qualified! But what qualifies a person to do something great? In my opinion..doing it! If Michael Jordan would have listened to the naysayers, we would never have witnessed one of the greatest basketball players that ever lived. If Walt Disney would have stopped dreaming when he was told that he had no imagination, billions would not have had the joy of experiencing Disney!
You say to me..April, these aren't good examples. These are extraordinary people and I'm just me. I refuse to accept that thinking for me or to allow you to accept it for yourself. Everybody is just an ordinary person until they dare to think beyond themselves and to believe in the dream. The bible says that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made! ALL...you are a part of the equation! I have really been enjoying reading the Message Bible lately. I love what it says in I Peter 5:5 "God has had it with the proud, but takes delight in just plain people!" That's me!! I'm just plain old me BUT God takes delight in me! He isn't looking for you to be qualified enough or talented enough. He is just looking for you to be willing enough!
I'm calling you out today. And in the process I will call myself out. What have you dreamed of doing or being but have never done it because you were scared, or financially challenged, or let's be honest..sometimes just lazy?! I don't know about you but as I get older I am growing more and more anxious about what I want to do with my life and the time I have left to do it in! I don't want to read an inspiring story..I want to write one! I don't want to listen to somebody who can get up and motivate people to be better...I want to be the speaker!! I can do it! You can do it! Let's hold each other accountable. I have decided that nothing or noone is going to stop me from at least trying to accomplish my dreams! I will write a book and soon. I don't care if me and my mom are the only ones who read it. I will accomplish it. What are your dreams and goals? I would love to hear about them. I promise to pray for you! Let's pray for each other that God will give us the motivation and the drive to make something new happen. Believing in you today!
You can tell I am serious by the number of exclamation marks :)
Your Friend - The author, April Phipps :)