By, Mari Noruzi
Recently a friend told me that I’ve lost my joy, and I should get my joy back. This made me sad. My heart sank, I felt angry and confused. The enemy looks for instances like this to cause division and take us away from God. We get stuck in the muck of anger, hatred, envy…This grieves the Holy Spirit, but it pleases the enemy! The enemy strives to destroy our joy, our vision- he is a thief and a liar. He is happy when we are disconnected from God. However, God wants us to be joyful. We experience peace and joy in loving and forgiving each other. I feel we have a choice.
Proverbs 12:20 says “Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but counselors of peace have joy.”
We gather joy from spending time with God in prayer and reading His word. God wants us to have His joy. So, I prayed and spent time with God. I felt the Lord was telling me to forgive, empty the yuck in my heart and do a spring cleaning of my soul. Spiritual warfare is all around us, our souls have to be cared for by asking the Holy Spirit to enter into our heart and fill our soul with God’s love, peace and joy. Forgiveness is key!
I prayed to the Lord for guidance and to open my heart and eyes. God had my ears listen to sermons and songs which contained forgiveness, soul care, spiritual warfare, peace, love and joy. All confirmations for me! I love how the Lord talks to us, and very short after I decided to write this testimony on joy (and happiness).
According to the dictionary happiness is defined as “emotions experienced when in a state of well-being, joy is a state or emotion of great happiness.” To me, happiness comes and goes, but joy stays with us. Happiness is based on happenings or when things are going well: being happy. Joy is a beautiful and good feeling in our soul produced by the Holy Spirit: having joy. The word joy appears eighty-eight times in the Old Testament and fifty-seven times in the New Testament. Below are scriptures containing the word joy that spoke to me:
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.” Hebrews 12:2
“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness and Faithfulness.” Galatians 5:22
“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17
Joy is the second fruit of the spirit. It is a choice that God gives us- Do we seek the Lord through His word and prayer and so receive His joy in our soul? What gives us joy? Does our perspective need to change and our gaze and focus to be placed on Jesus? We should be joyful and encouraging others to be joyful as well, not taking their joy away by letting them down, discouraging them, hurting them, etc. Our ego needs to be kept in check. Selfless giving and service to the ones in need bring joy. Not just saying but doing, and being consistent in our deeds. Focusing on Jesus Christ and not on things of this world keeps us joyful. I end with the words in the lyrics of For King and Country’s new release called JOY:
“Though I walk through the valley in the shadow of night, oh with You by my side, I’m stepping into the light. I choose joy- The time has come to make a choice, and I choose JOY.”
By April Sliwak, Executive Director
I’m super excited to be studying the women of the Bible this season in Her Life Speaks. These women each had a story and a life full of circumstances that are no different than ours today. These are women who were disobedient, faithful, prayerful, generous, beautiful, sexually abused, widowed, adopted, chosen, depressed and sick. God’s providence is among the stories that we read and we’re left with a picture of who God is, what he capable of doing, and her final legacy in that story.
My favorite story is of Queen Esther. I love her for so many reasons. But more importantly, I love her because of her willingness to abide in what God was calling her to do without her realizing it at the time. God used her circumstance, her gifts and her position to further his purpose.
Here is my edited version of the book for Esther. I highly encourage you to go and read it in its entirety. God is never mentioned once within the 9 chapters but his presence is ever present:
1. GOD IS IN CONTROL OF ALL EVENTS
God orchestrated the dismissal of Queen Vashti to make room for the teenage orphan, Esther; unaware that the events that were taking place in the kingdom were going to change her life and the Jewish people FOREVER.
2. GOD IS THE CREATOR
God gave Esther the gift of BEAUTY. God used beauty so that the king would fall in love with her and choose her to be Queen. God used beauty for HIS glory.
3. GOD GIVES FAVOR
God gave favor to Esther numerous times in the story to advance his purpose.
4. GOD HONORS PRAYERS AND FASTING
God honored Esther’s prayers and fast. The call to pray and fast shows Esther’s faith. Her act also shows her confidence, conviction and leadership because she is the one who suggests it to her guardian and cousin Mordecai. His response is the popular verse: “And who knows, but that you have come to your royal position for such time as this?” Esther believes in her passion for something and is willing to accept the risk of its outcome.
5. GOD IS THE PROTECTOR
God protects the brave Esther when she goes to visit the king unannounced.
6. GOD IS IN THE DETAILS. HE’S INTENTIONAL ABOUT EVERYTHING
God allows circumstances, like the king’s insomnia to promote Mordecai.
7. GOD’S PLAN IS FULFILLED
God orchestrated the opportunity for Esther to tell the king about Haman’s plot to annihilate the Jews and to tell the king that she is Jewish.
God uses her position for his purpose.
How can we relate to Esther’s story from 2400 years ago to our lives today? God used a young, orphan Jewish beautiful girl to change the world. She grew up without a mother. She grew up without her father.
Think about who you are and your upbringing; were you raised by a single parent, or a guardian? Were you adopted, like Esther? Were your parents divorced? Does your birth order make you the way you are? What is your age now, your race, where you grew up? What were your experiences? What were your circumstances?
Think about your gifts; leadership, servanthood, speaking, writing, faith, creativity, kindness, giving monetarily, task oriented, detail oriented, gentleness? How can God use your circumstances and your gifts to fulfill his purpose?
Ephesians 1:4 & 11 says this: “God chose us before the foundation of the world… having predestined us to adoption… being predestined us according to the purpose of Him who makes everything work out according to his plan.” This was true of Esther. It’s true of us.
God is limitless. He can use any event in your life to advance his plan. Do you have a vision for something that will bless, encourage or further the kingdom work?
Could you mentor a younger woman to be an empowered leader, provide a meal or financially support a ministry, or take the first step towards enhancing the ministry you’ve been assigned to already? Just some ideas…
Right now, you might be contemplating a vision. What’s holding you back? If you removed that very thing that hinders you, what would your vision look like? Envision that for a moment…
Who would it bless, empower, promote? How would it change the world you live in?
What is your, “Such a time is this?”
What will your legacy be?
God can use your position now for his purpose!
Ten years ago, when God gave me the vision: “older women share their stories with younger women”, I executed our first retreat sharing testimonies. I didn’t know then that I was IN God’s plan at the time. But 10 years later God shows us the purpose of the vision. Her Life Speaks!
As believers, God calls us to his plan and purpose.
This is your time. Your time in history to make a difference. It can be an act of kindness, forgiveness, or to serve and volunteer, or cast a vision and LEAD!
God’s providence is here. Now. It’s always here. In every circumstance.
On October 20 we will be having a workshop. We’re going to talk more about what your purpose and we’re going to make our own personal mission statement. Won’t you join us?
FOR SUCH A TIME IS THIS YOUR TIME!
Are you contemplating a vision now? I’d love to hear about it!
By, Noelle Rhodes
I became friends with Sharon in my late twenties. I was living in Northern Ireland as a missionary at that time and Sharon took me under her wing. She was a spunky, full of life Northern Irish woman who never stood still while she talked to you. She had so much joy pulsing through her veins that she would nearly jog in place while you had a conversation.
Sharon would often invite me to her house for something that she called a "cuppa”. A “cuppa” is simply a cup of tea often served with a plate of cookies. When I would arrive at Sharon’s home for a “cuppa”, she would always greet me with the most vivacious welcome. Sharon had a way of making you feel as though you were the one she had been waiting for. She would swing open the door and screech with glee,
“It’s Noelle! Noelle is here,” she would say in her Northern Irish accent, “come on in! I have been waiting for you!”.
After a big hug, she would take me by the hand and lead me to her kitchen which was tucked at the back of her house. It was then she would order me to “take a seat at the table” which was always strewn with her children’s school work and plates of half eaten toast. With one swoop of her arm, Sharon would slide the toast and school work to one side of her table and say,
“There. I cleared a spot for you.”
As I would settle into a seat, she would put the kettle on, pour the milk into a tiny jug and pick out a special mug just for me to use. She did not own matching mugs.
When the tea had brewed, she would pour it into the carefully chosen mug and walk it over to me - with a jug of milk in the other hand. She'd place my “cuppa” before me and as she slide a plate of biscuits towards my way she'd ask….
“Now, Noelle, What is your story?”
She would ask me this question nearly every time I found myself at her table. What she meant when she asked me this was,
“Tell me what is happening in your life. What you are most excited about? What is keep you up at night? What is going in your world?”
As I sipped tea, I would pour my heart to her… because she made room at her table for me to do so. Sharon would listen to me talk about what I was worried about...and what I was looking forward to… she allowed me to dream and plan for the future… and she even let me process the past. This was at a time in my life when I felt very lost in a very big world. I felt incredibly inadequate, anxious, and alone but not at her table.
It never failed that at some point in my story, she would stop me and say, “Ha! You just reminded me of something I read in the Bible today. Here let me tell you.”
Sharon would jump and grab her Bible and journal. Without hesitation, she would share with me what God had spoken to her and what she believed God was saying to me too.
“Look at that!” she would say, “God is speaking to your story right now!”
Somewhere between the first cup of tea and the third, I would realize at Sharon’s table that I had a story.
I had a story that God was in.
I had a story God was speaking through.
I had a story God was speaking to.
And I had a story someone wanted to hear.
I want to be a Sharon.
I want to clear a space and make some room for women in their twenties and early thirties tell their stories and hear what God has to say to them in the midst of their stories. This is why I am so excited to be apart of the new ministry of Her Life Speaks, “The Table”, a small group bible study for women 21-31 years old!
A table is not just a place where you can belong… a table is place where you can become who you are meant to be.
I can't wait to meet you at The Table.
By Denene C. Smith
I recently watched a YouTube teaching by Dr. Cindy Trimm, one of the most prolific speakers, foremost authority and author on Spiritual Warfare and Intercession. The teaching is entitled “Putting Yourself Where You See Yourself”, it is part 2 of a series; “The DNA Of Destiny”. This message had a profound impact on me as it regards to the power of thought and how our words can, do and will shape our atmosphere either positively or negatively.
Proverbs 23:7 says “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” On many occasions I have found myself placing constraints on my ability to realize my dreams and achieve my goals by negative thoughts and words that placed boulders and moats between them and me. I realized that not everything that has occurred in my life was orchestrated by the enemy but by words and thoughts I spoke. Dr. Trimm asked a profound question: “Who do you listen to the most?” I know many of us will say “oh God of course”, truth is we talk to ourselves the most and we listen intently. What are we saying to ourselves? Is it edifying? Does it catapult us into our destiny, or do our words place chains on our feet, make us stagnant, does what we say to ourselves keep us from growing in the word of God, in the revelation of the call on our lives?
I learned that I cannot let what I see in the mirror or my past prevent me from moving forward and accomplishing what I want to do. My past and my fears have nothing new to say to me, I am dedicated to redesign the way I think and revise the words I speak! It takes no more effort to think on those things that are holy and good than to think on the negative. I am fearfully and wonderfully made, there is no good thing that God will hold from me, because it’s His desire to see me blessed. So, I am taking hold of this new way of thinking and speaking and I intend to be a world changer, I want and will see my dreams realized, I expect the best from God because He is the best. I am repenting right now as I write this of every word I spoke over myself that was contrary to what Abba Father says I am, I submit my mind and my spirit to Him, Lord transform my thinking and my speech.
Will you join me?
Will you commit your thoughts and words you speak to yourself to our Father? I’ll ask you again, what are saying to yourself?
I’d love to hear from you and look forward to hearing how God has or is changing how you see or think about yourself.
By Lisa Samuels
My name is Lisa and I practiced Buddhism for 30 years. It was not challenging enough to continue and I felt spiritually disconnected and lost. My family are Christians, so I thought I’d give that a try.
This is how my journey to Christianity started. While seeking the way and visiting churches my experiences were similar to what I found frustrating with Buddhism. I prayed, “Lord, if you want me to be a Christian, I need your help to show me the way.”
God answered my prayer!
At the time I was working for the Bergen County urban League as a certified housing counselor. The first client that morning gave me a Christian prayer book. I was so happy to receive this gift, I began reading the prayers each morning.
One afternoon a client came in and her presence illuminated the waiting room. Amazed, I asked her what was it that made her shine so brightly. Smiling she said, it was God’s love and His Holy Spirit. Then she shared her testimony.
It was awesome to see what God had done in her life!
Before leaving she invited me to a Her Life Speaks women’s small group that studied the Bible. After a few sessions, I felt at home with these beautiful, compassionate women studying and sharing.
My new friend was so happy I was enjoying the study group, she blessed me with a beautiful Bible. While studying God’s word, I was calm and at ease even though my life was falling apart due to loss of employment and very little income.
Every Her Life Speaks study session ended with prayer requests. I asked for prayers for my finances. These understanding and compassionate sisters made it easy to ask for prayers without embarrassment. Whenever I was with my HLS sisters, I felt in my heart we were one with one another in God’s love.
During the first year I learned to pray and how to relate the Bible lessons to my life. The first study topic was Breaking Free by Beth Moore and it was at this time my business partnership dissolved. I felt misled and controlled by my business partner but continued to pray and study God’s word daily. The Breaking Free lessons spoke about “Beauty from Ashes”.
“All who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty from ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks the Lord has planted for his own glory.” Isaiah 61:3
Understanding and believing how broken my life was, I desired God to heal me. I continued to read Isaiah 61 “They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated for generations.” This verse was the truth of my life! I meditated on this verse and it felt like a miracle was happening in my life.
I was so grateful for meeting these enlightened women of God and to be a part of the Her Life Speaks sisterhood. Through it, God brought me joy and hope for the future. From the lessons of Breaking Free, God restored my confidence and trust in Him. I believe God loves me and I am beautiful in His eyes. I was able to see how God could and did work in my life by blessing me with a solution to my financial problem and a solution to my spiritual problem!
God is my Deliverer!
Being a part of Her Life Speaks these past two years and attending retreats has been a revealing journey for me. God has blessed me with abundance. I love studying the word of God with my HLS sisters in faith. When a problem comes along, I have God and my sisters to pray me through. I am so blessed and honored to be a part of this growing ministry.
Her Life Speaks is all about Her testimony, Her life, and who God is in Her story. Here we write our stories in hopes of helping other women find their relationship with Jesus Christ.