Saturday, December 19, 2009
This move is not only the closing of one door, it's the openning of great opportunity for adventure, BIG adventure. For so long I've felt stuck, and today God proved to me that He's bigger than any mountain that stands in the way of the dreams He places on our hearts. For awhile I've wanted to live on my own, try new things, go new places, but I've felt a bit of a burden financially. But today God shut the door of financial fear, and opened one of blessing. He is showing me that even in the darkest hours, He's still there, aware of my struggles and needs.
Moving is also a time of reflection of the relationships built within this neighborhood, and the new opportunities that lie before me. It's a time to realize and appreciate all that's been given to me, and to think seriously about what God would have the future be. I'll tell you one thing, if I've learned anything from this move, it's that Americans have WAY too much stuff. I mean WAY too much! I keep going through things finding silly little trinkets that someone gave me long ago, that I never really used. So much time and money is placed into things that will never fully satisfy for fulfill.
With that, I've started writing my goals for 2010, and one of the top goals is to make memories instead of buying more "stuff". Because memories are what we take with us, what we cherish. How many of us can name all the presents we received for Christmas 5 years ago? I'd be surprised if we could even remember 1 of the gifts we received. But how often do we remember grandma's fruitcake or the Christmas when Santa was found to be grandpa?
Another goal for 2010 is to live life fearlessly - taking risks, taking on challenges, and living out the "go to grow" calling. I can't believe that another year has gone by, but I'm excited for everything that awaits in 2010. Praise God for His direction and ultimate plan!
Monday, November 23, 2009
This passage has led me into a whirlwind of questions. How do we know what the promises of God are? How do we know we’re able to gain these promises? What are the promises of God, Biblically speaking?
As I started my research, I found that the promises of God are all over in scripture:
1. Jer. 33:3 – God will answer us when we call to Him
2. John 14:14 - Ask and receive – if we ask in the name of Jesus
3. Matt. 6:33 – seek 1st His kingdom and all these things will be added to you (blessing!)
4. Phil. 4:6-7 – answers our prayers with peace
5. Ps. 32:8 – God instructs us and leads us to the way we need to go
6. Rom 8:28 – God works everything for the GOOD of those who love Him
7. Ps. 46:1 – God is our comfort and help in trouble
8. Is. 40:29 – gives us strength and courage
9. Ecc. 5:19 – Blessings from God – that we may be able to enjoy success and life
10. Jer. 29:11 – Has a plan for us of a hope and a future – not of harm
And these promises are only the beginning. God's Word is FULL of His promises and His blessings that He pours out on those who love Him. God has a Plan in any and every situation that we face throughout life. So how do we trust the promises of God? How do we get to the level of faith of truly, willingly, unrelentlessly Trusting the Lord’s promises that He lays on our hearts? Constant and everyday communication with Him - hiding His words, His Truth, His promises in our hearts, so that when the difficult times of life come knocking, we have the fuel and the strength to face any obstacle that comes our way.
The only issue is that often within the difficulties of life we're faced with an overwhelming fear that nearly paralyzes us from acting -but what we must do in these circumstances is come straight to the Throne of Grace, seeking His guidance in the midst of the darkest hours. Easier said than done? Always... but the diligence of seeking relationship with the One and Only always pays off in blessings, comfort, and strength. It's worth it... that's all I can say.
Start asking for God to show the promises He has for your life to you... and start allowing yourself to live out these promises, so that you may live to the full potential of life here on earth. Risk, Dream, Do - more! WOOT! :-)
Monday, November 16, 2009
I’ve come to the foot of the cross over the past while, asking for guidance, for direction, for increased hope, and for a future filled with God’s desires becoming my own. The prayers went from, “let me have this or that Lord.” to, “may your desires become my desires." And soon enough, I found myself praying some pretty huge prayers, that take faith beyond my own ability to trust to come about in the perfect time. It was when I started asking the big things, the deepest desires of my soul, and the true feelings of where I’m at in life, that God answered. One such prayer has been for no distractions to get in my life/my way along the path He has me going down. And you know what? I get little distractions along the way… but He’s been faithful to my prayer.
The sad part is that this particular prayer is one of those most difficult to ask for. One of those prayers that means personal sacrifice for God’s incredible paradise. A period in my life where dependence on the One is the only way I’ll get through it. And the funny thing is - He’s there. He’s in the middle of it. He’s walking the struggle with me, even when I can’t seem to track Him down. He’s standing beside me. He’s prompting my steps, speaking to my spirit, guiding every step. Even though this is one of the most difficult times in my life, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s a beautiful time of life that I’m finding the direction I’ve sought for years. It’s in this time that I’m gaining the courage to step out and “go into the land I have called you”. It’s in this time that I’m being refined into the person I’ve been called to be.
So I leave you with this: Instead of being careful what you ask for, why not start being prayerful about it? Why not start risking a bit, asking for those things that are deeply planted in your soul, but you’re too afraid to ask for? Even though they may be difficult things for you, they may be the very things you NEED to ask Him for; the items in your life that are preventing you from living to your full potential. You know what they are, now all you have to do is start asking so that you may receive the abundant blessing of the Presence of God. Because He shows up everytime, with an answer - it's just up to us how we'll respond to it.
Friday, November 13, 2009
So often, we think with our emotions instead of our heads. And as Christians, we often fall into the trap of allowing our emotions to somehow be “God speaking” to us. When in reality, our emotions are what often hold us back from the full potential and Will of God. The feeling of fear or anxiety paralyzes us from taking action, even when it is vital to our own destiny. The overwhelming emotion of love drives us into relationships/friendships with people who may be more toxic than good. The feeling of excitement or happiness sometimes drives us to make unrealistic and unwise decisions.
Emotional based reasoning is not the way that God intended us to think. He gave us a mind to reason and take action with, and to some He gives a “sense” of peace or a “burden” when it comes to certain decision in life. Others feel that He “opens one door, while closing another”. And even more feel that the Lord speaks directly into their lives through His word or through the “still small voice”. What we ought to be doing instead of trusting our emotions to make the right decisions for us, is listening intently and looking for the way in which God directs our paths. As it says in Rom. 12:1-2, “1-2 So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” We are to be fixing our attention on God when it comes to big decisions and life altering choices.
I especially love the section in Romans 12:2 that says, “Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it.” How often do we get a vision of what we’re meant to do and quickly forget about the promise of God to walk us through any trial we face in life? After discussing this issue with a few friends, I’ve found one of the best ways to keep your heart and mind focused/reminded of what He wants from us is to journal. Write it down people – that way we can go back and reference what we heard/learned/etc, so that if it’s a task that takes months or years to complete, we keep our focus and eye on the end goal.
It’s also vitally important to have a group of friends or family members that can sort through things with you. Someone we can be blatently honest with, and can ask us the tough questions like, “what’s holding you back from going after this desire?” or “what do you need me to do to help you meet that goal?”. Having encouragement, wise counsel, and support in the life changes. And it certainly is a good idea to have someone around to get your head out of the emotional cloud that so often fogs our judgment and understanding of God’s perfect and pleasing will for our lives.
I’ll leave you with this verse that should really become a life motto for us all, found in Phil. 4 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”
Thursday, October 29, 2009
And so I ask… if we’re here to seek and save the lost, if our one mission on this earth is love other’s as Christ has loved the Church, then how are we supposed to do that if we're completely segregating ourselves from the unbelievers, the “sinners” of society? Because I have news friends, every single one of us was once a sinner. That’s right… at one point you too were a sinner! How DARE you judge, despise, and separate yourself from loving those God has placed in your life? Why do you find it appropriate to place yourself on your own little pedastool of perfection, while watching those who so need the love and grace of a God of mercy perish?
Matt Chandler had a great piece of insight that totally rocked my world recently… “the more you engage the lost world, the more religious people will grumble. Please tune them out.” The sad fact is that I see this everywhere I turn. And I find myself falling into these traps when I surround myself by the “religious” of this world. What do we have to gain by giving up everything to discriminate those who don’t know Christ? Absolutely nothing, except judgment from The Eternal. And the Pharisees are the people Paul Speaks of in 2 Cor. Chapter 10:12, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves – they’re not wise!”
When we place ourselves on our own little christian idealism of perfection, and not on Christ's standard alone, we fall prey to the lies of the evil one. He uses anything to get to us, especially our own pride and fear. So beware when you find yourself tuning out those around you because of some superiority complex. For you never know who's life you'll touch just by a kind word or a smile. Look at every person you see as an opportunity to shine light, love, and eternity. You won't regret it... for you may be the only Jesus someone ever sees. Make a good impression!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
What I long for, what I desire is not found on the pages of Vogue or Cosmo. No, what I need more than anything in this world is companionship. I’m not talking about the companionship of friends or even that a boyfriend. No, the companionship I long for is more fulfilling and fruitful than what is found in the faces of those I pass on a daily basis. The companionship I dream of is deep, intimate knowledge that only comes from time and trust. The companionship I desire may not even be possible this side of heaven – it’s a companionship of being fully known and overwhelmed with fullness – to the point of bursting.
The trouble is, this companionship is utterly unattainable, nearly meaningless. Because the everyday problems of fame, money, sex, addiction, pain, loss, job, family, friends, drama, and everything in between prevent our forward movement towards all encompassing companionship. The road blocks, the hurdles of today are what stand in our way of fulfilling this desire. And the truth of the matter is: our attention is quickly diverted by the seen, while the unseen sits patiently waiting, wanting the all fulfilling relationship. Until we give up the earthly distractions, the sins that so easily invade our lives, we’re unable to experience the incredible joy, love, and deep friendship of a Savior who so often seems so far, but is really right beside us every step of every moment of everyday.
And understanding finally falls on the words of King Solomon in the book of Ecclesiates. We can gain the whole world but forfeit our souls in a matter of seconds in comparison to the grand scheme of eternity. “Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless”. Now I know what he means, for though I could have whatever I desired if I worked hard enough, I don’t want any of it. Yes, I get ahead of myself on many occasions and get overly excited for something, but the second I finally get that something I’ve longed for there’s something else, something bigger and better, which distracts me from the gift already given. Constantly searching for the next best thing, I realize now that there is never going to be a “next best thing” on this earth. There’s going to be disappointment in the things, and frustration at the loss of relationship because of them along the way.
Does this mean we give up everything we have to gain a deeper, fulfilling relationship with the only Perfect Love? No. But it does mean that we get our priorities straight. It means seeing a need in someone else’s life and fulfilling it. It means giving up the addictions, the cults, the fame, the drama, the obsession with celebrities, and even the distraction of friends/family. An overflowing, all consuming relationship requires that the things of the world not take precedence over companionship. It’s a choice; freely given for us to decide.
So what will it be? Sacrificing a little here and there for overflowing, rich relationship, or giving every part of your being to the things that will never satisfy? And how do we even begin changing?
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I’ve realized a few things in the past week or so (since I turned the ripe old age of 24) that I never really took the time to think about before. For much of my life I’ve been “too busy” for just about everything. I guess that’s what a girl's life becomes when she’s worked since the age of 13, and has rarely had the time or the money to really go and experience many adventures. As I sat in LA on my birthday this year, it hit me, “I’ve been wasting my life, running around like a chicken with my head cut off, worried about everything under the sun – and what do I have to show for it? Wrinkles, stress, and a body that’s practically falling apart at 24.” As I continued pondering this dilemma on the plane home from my favorite sunny place in the US, I was hit with a ton of bricks: I haven’t been living my life! I’ve been slowly, grudgingly dragging through it. I decided, this year is going to be a different story – no more “too busy” or “too over committed” for anything. Prioritizing the important, the things that last, the memories, has become my goal. And Ecclesiastes has knocked my socks off...
The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the most depressing books in the Bible, at least for me. However, recently I’ve read it with a whole new light, thanks to the insight brought by Matt Chandler at The Village Church. Conviction swept over me as I realized that so much of my own life feels so incredibly “meaningless”. There seems to be no direction, no reason for my existence. I’ve become dissatisfied with my everyday, boring life, and have craved some kind of new adventure ever since the “daily grind” started. The thing I didn’t realize is that no matter where I am, no matter what I’m doing, there’s going to be some slight sense of “everyday”. No matter how many quotes I do at work, or how many loads of laundry I do at home, or how many meetings, practices, coffee dates, etc. I have - there’s still going to be another one tomorrow, another month, another year. “Everything is meaningless!” to quote the great King Solomon. And I'm stuck with my thoughts...
Realization #1: Life sucks sometimes – deal with it! Wow, talk about a Debbie Downer moment – but it’s true, right? Life has a tendency to throw us some curve balls every now and then that leave us thinking, “what the heck was that?!”. On the positive side, every bad situation that comes our way, usually leads to something good in the end. When the pains and frustrations of life come our way... what are our options? Well, we could just sit around, moping about how sad and stupid our lives are, or we could…
Realization #2: God gives us others for a reason. There’s this verse in Ecclesiastes that says, “Eat, drink, and be merry”. Let me clarify that this does not mean get drunk and party all the time. No, this is something deeper, more fulfilling, and utterly delightful. This verse is pretty much telling us to go out with friends, have dinner together, do coffee, bake, have movie nights, meet for Bible Study, whatever you do in life – share it with friends. For at the end of a long, tedius, frustrating week isn’t it an incredible blessing to be able to meet up with someone wonderful for Happy Hour, or have a movie night with someone near and dear?
And I say… it’s time to start living our lives Ecclesiastically! Not in the mode of being too busy for friendship, too overwhelmed for relationship with others; no – what we need to do is start planning more outings, scheduling more dates, and really getting to know those around us. For we get to take the memories and the friendships with us when we leave this world… but everything else (the house, the money, the cars, the techy toys, the designer fashions) all get to stay here. He with the most toys still dies with nothing.
So as I enter into my 24th year of life, not quite where I expected I’d be, but on my way to something incredible, it’s time for me to start living my own life Ecclesiastically. Living for the memories and the friendships, and not worrying so much about the stresses of the everyday. No, I choose today to go to the Pumpkin Patch (because I’ve always wanted to and never had “time), invite friends over for dinner/brunch/coffee/whatever, meet with new people and really try to connect with them, live up the Holidays for everything they are (I’m talking Nutcrackering, gingerbread house making, decorating up a storm, Christmas cookie delivery service, giving to those in need, and remembering the Reason for the Season daily), and truly making the 24th year of life the brightest, richest, most edifying year of my life.
24 – here I come! :-)
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Today as I read Luke 24 it hit me again - the incredible ability of a God that's bigger than my finite mind can fathom. In the end of the chapter it describes Christ ascending into heaven, but one verse that caught my attention big time was verse 51 where it says, "While he was still blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven."
And I realized something rather intriguing... being a Christian is about action. So often throughout the gospels we see Christ acting to save a life, restoring health, and speaking truth into the lives of those around Him. It's true in the story of the woman who was subject to bleeding for over 20 years - when Christ was healing one person, He was also healing this woman and he "felt power go out of Him".
How do we ever expect to be the change in the world if we don't act? What are the burdens that God has laid on our hearts that we keep pushing to the side? And why, oh why, can't we act when we're told to - stepping out in faith?
And I realized... so many people today wander around life with conviction on their hearts and the mindset of “I’ll get to it later”. The underlying question here is why not get to it NOW? Why not make the choice to change today? What are is preventing us from action?
As we see in Luke 24, Christ was, and always will be about action. Even though He does not walk with us on the earth any longer, He now lives in us - thus requiring us to take action for Him. We're called to be His hands and His feet while on this planet. The fear that overwhelms us is only holding us back from our true potential through Christ. So I encourage you today- listen to what actions Christ asks you to take and go after them without a moment's hesitation. Don't analyze and push the burdens laid on your heart to the side any longer - step out in faith believing that something will happen through those circumstances.
Action takes faith. Action takes trust. Action is not for the faint of heart. So what's it going to be?
Thursday, September 10, 2009
The question that keeps arising is, "what am I doing here?" or "Am I doing what I know I'm called to be doing?" or "Is this the life I've always dreamed of/desired to have?". The answer has been a resounding "NO!". Every question that comes to mind lately is about me living in my "safety zone" and refusing to push myself to take a risk. And I'm frustrated daily with the fact that I doubt my ability to do the great things that have been laid on my heart. I hate the fact that I often don't believe that God is big enough to provide for me and get me to where He has called me to be. So I sit, lingering on life, thinking, "well, once this happens, then I'll go" or "when my prayers are answered I'll have the courage to risk.". I've realized that all my worrying about the future is only holding me back from taking the steps necessary to even have a future in the first place. The baby steps along the way are often the milestones of a life forever changed. I was reminded by a dear friend of mine that sometimes I need to just sit, wait, listen to the Lord, and work diligently towards what He's called me to -instead of planning everything and hoping it happens all at once one day.
Christine Caine, from Hillsong, said it best in her sermon at LifeChurch, "We often get too busy to stop and see what's staring us in the face." And that's what I see my life as... this constant rat race to get here or there, and filling my life with busyness instead of purpose. Stop and listen to what's going on around us- and we may be surprised at the opportunities that lie in our own life. We, as Christians, get ourselves so busy that we don't want to get involved in the needs of those around us because we're just too overwhelmed with the everyday. But I ask, what would Christ have us do? What did He do in His own life on this earth? He stopped... He listened... He cared for the needs of those around Him. His schedule was flexible - if He saw a need He took as much time as was necessary to fulfill it. No matter what the circumstances, even if it meant Christ staying up all night or walking for days - He gave His very life for the good of others, that they may be healed and uplifted.
The most incredible part of history that we should all learn from is that the Greatest People of Influence were not people who sat back and lived the "safe" life. Look at people like the Apostle Paul, Abraham Lincoln, Billy Graham, Ronald Reagan, C.S. Lewis - to name a few, people of ordinary position who decided to take life and make it extraordinary. Thus, World Changers are invariably Risk Takers. Pushing themselves beyond what's comfortable toward what shakes them to their core - what brings them alive - what keeps them awake at night because of the injustice. World Changers choose unwavering determination when fear so often grips them - actively pursuing great things, saved lives, and changed destiny's.
There's a choice to make - we can live the safe, predictable life with the 3 car garage home in the safe neighborhood, with the good schools, and the 1.5 children that we'll have, never really growing beyond what the social world deems "normal". OR, we can set out in determined faith to the life of adventure, danger, and opportunity. The enemy tells us that risk is scary, not not step out in faith but to sit back in crippling fear of failure. But the truth of the matter is that we can't live the safe life if we want to make a difference. So we have a choice to make...
Safety bubble or Risky Business?
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." - Eph. 2:10
"But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." - Rom. 8:24-25
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and HE WILL MAKE YOUR PATHS STRAIGHT!" - Prov. 3:5-6
Monday, August 31, 2009
People pleasers, like me, often do things that just don't seem to make sense. Many of these little issues have come up again and again in my life, and I've started to ask myself, "am I making my decisions for me or for everyone else in my life?" The question arises because I find that too often I listen too much to the advice, or rather, opinions of my friends and family members - instead of going to Jesus first and asking myself second, what may be best for my life. The fear of having someone disappointed in me paralyzes me from taking the risks that I KNOW in my heart that I need to take. Whether it's in relationships, job situations, or even just up and moving out of my house and on my own - the fear of disappointing those that disagree with me prevents me from living the life I'm called to live.
And recently, I've been bombarded by second thoughts. Thinking about the reality of the decisions I've made and how many of them have been total mistakes, based on what other people wanted me to do instead of staying true to myself. Now seeing the choices I've made I'm SO incredibly frustrated with myself, because I've been living in a state of Limbo for 24 years - always doing what I don't want to do. There's a verse in Romans 7 that speaks to this: "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." Why does it matter so much to me what other people think? Why do I feel 'stuck' all the time? Why can't I just speak up and be honest about things?
I've been absolutely convicted of my people pleasing self - to the point where I've had to come clean with people on stories and, in essence, exaggerations that I've said about circumstances in my life that I've lied about in order to "keep the peace". Seriously?!? I know I hate confrontation, but I'm really disappointed in myself for allowing it to get this bad. It's a humbling experience to go to your closest friends and family members and say, "okay, so about that story, yeah... here's how it really went down." But do you want to know the greatest part about coming clean? It's absolutely freeing and it shows that I'm imperfect - simply a sinful human. And by the Grace of the Lord and the love of my friends and family they're able to sit by me and and encourage me to be me, not anyone else.
So here I am... with second thoughts... and I have a choice to make. Do I own up, and face the choices/mistakes I've made or do I go back into my caccoon of comfort and let the old me take over - never confronting, never admitting my faults? I'll go with Option A. It's time for me to step up and allow God to work through the circumstances in the way He wants. That probably means disappointing people, but it also could mean new opportunities of relationship, adventure, and just living life to the fullest. And who knows, maybe I've got a lot more growing and "being called out" to go through. But if that's what it takes to make me into the person I'm supposed to be, then bring it on!
And hopefully, after all the second thoughts, all the regrets, and all the mistakes - there may be some second chances along the way :-)
A few verses that have come to mind lately:
"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grown tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." - Is. 40:29-31
"Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them." - Jer. 1:17
"Leave your country and your people,' God said, 'and go to the land I will show you." - Acts 7:3
It's time. It's time for me... to go so that I may grow.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
We've been living in an unrealistic fantasy for our entire lives - that's our problem. Yes, I'm all about motivation and encouragement (heck, look at my last blog post), but I believe that we've kind of hit a wall when it comes to living life when we can no longer function as humans because we have these ideas of what we "deserve" to have. Talk about entitlement! We expect everything to be laid in our laps immediately - the car, the job, the spouse, the house, the family, the money - everything. But the fact of the matter is that our parents worked their BUTTS off for years in order to be where they're at today. They went through the cycle of having the crappy jobs but waiting and working patiently as they strived for the promotion or better opportunity. In this generation of instant gratification, we could learn a lot about life and gain much wisdom from the generations before us. Gaining work ethic insight, encouragement on how to save wisely, and even just mentorship in daily living - all of which comes directly from the past generations. One of my favorite people in the world is my psuedo grandmother, who always reminds me of the days past and how to work diligently for the things I desire in life.
It's no wonder that we're the generation of unwavering debt. It's no wonder that we're the generation on anti-depressants. It's no wonder that we're the generation that goes from one relationship to the next, over and over, looking for the satisfaction that only commitment and working through the struggles can bring. And it's certainly no wonder that we're the generation of the disatisfied, the selfish, and the severly dillusioned. Ouch - that hurt - BAD! But do you ever feel that way? That you're never good enough? Often asking the question, "what the HECK am I here for?" or "life is not at all what I ever expected it to be". Welcome to the club my friend... because thousands of us are struggling with the same issues right now.
And after all this rambling.... I ask myself... What if that something big that I've always been told I'll do isn’t something I'll actually ever see? What if I’m just a stepping stone placed in the lives of those around me to influence the change? What if I’m one small piece of the ever changing mosaic of human history, and what I have to give to the painted portrait would cause complete destruction if I never was. There’s a process to everything under the sun – as the Bible describes in I Corinthians 12:14-31 - without the eye, how would the body see? Without the ear, how would it hear? For each part of the body is essential to the overall wellbeing of the whole. And that’s the way I choose to see the Christian history – without one person, without one influence, without one measure of hope given to another – people would be doomed to an eternity of misery and pain.
I leave you with this encouragement: Even though life seems so mundane and lacking of substance sometimes, take a look at the bigger picture that is being painted. Step back and away from the struggles of your everyday life and choose to see the incredible Mosaic that is being painted in and around you by your touch, your love, your encouragement, and your support in the life of another. For without you, the Mosaic would be incomplete – lacking in some way. Without you, the world would be different. Without you we are an incomplete picture.
Don't give up, but work hard, work diligently, love others, see opportunities to bless and utilize them. And above all, don't let the worry of what you don't have take over the life of blessing that you do have right now. For in everything there is something to be learned.
If you want to take a look at the article I read on the Quarter Life Crisis, check it out at: http://www.eyeweekly.com/print/article/55882 - It's worth the read. :-)
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The gift of encouragement is not given to those faint of heart. It is not given to those whose walk on earth is easy. No, the gift of encouragement is given to those who have walked through the valley of the shadow of death. It's given to those who have seen, first hand, the power of looming death, extreme heartache, and almost constant disappointment. Encouragement is bestowed on those who have lost the loved ones, who have been abused, who have trudged through the most depressing and life draining circumstances of life. It is because of the trials, the valley’s, the temptations of this life, that those with the gift of encouragement are able to cheer on those facing similar obstacles. The encourager knows, from experience, how difficult life is, how out of control it can sometimes feel, and that the only way through the valley is leaning and relying on Christ as the root of our lives.
Sadly, those who don’t possess the gift of encouragement rarely understand, appreciate, or even get why the encourager is always so optimistic and happy. Often, the encouragers are avoided – pushed to the side because everyone doesn’t want their “cheery, peppy” attitude around them. People would rather wallow in their self grief than allow someone to come along side them and pick them up, dust them off, and give them the words and hope to carry them through their struggles. Thus, the encouragers are often those that live the lonely life or are told to quiet their words. The encouragers are downtrodden by those who cannot appreciate the gift of a friend who will love them no matter what, carry them when they can no longer walk, and have the deepest loyalty to those they love.
Another trait about those with the gift of encouragement is that they are often some of the most patient and forgiving people in the world. I look back on my 23 years, and I see mostly valley’s along the way with a few grassy knolls, but never the view from the mountaintop. So often I’m told that “life’s not fair” or “life sucks” or “you can’t get to that level”, but I refuse to believe any of it. For God did not give me a spirit of timidity – but of LOVE. And if encouraging others is my way of showing love, then I will continue to do so without ceasing – which means that I will lose friends, I will have people who despise me, and I will even have family members that just don’t understand me. But I can’t stop believing that God has something great around the corner. That the Lord is going to bless those who patiently endure their hardships and keep their faith in His promises.
Forgiveness is another factor for those with the gift of encouragement. I’ve been asked numerous times why I’m friends with certain people, or how I could forgive a family member who has hurt me in the past so much. The answer? I see them as the person that God has created them to be. Although it’s not easy sometimes, I find that forgiving someone and moving on from the past of hurts and fears is far easier than wallowing in my self pity for letting someone who has hurt me still have a strangle hold on my life.
And after learning all of this, it’s sad for me to know that people don’t like me because of my peppyness and optimistic attitude. However, I know that when someone needs a cheerleader or someone to carry them through the storm, I will most likely be able to be that person for them, encouraging, building, and edifying the person into a stronger man or woman in the end. And I'll be the one waiting with open arms for anyone who needs the love and support of someone when it feels like the whole world is crashing in around them. Thank you Lord for the gift of encouragement - although it's often not an easy gift to possess - it's one of the most rewarding and generous gifts I could ever want.
Encouragement – you can’t live with it… and you certainly can’t live without it.
Romans 12:6-8 “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us… if it is encouraging, let him encourage.”
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Today was another one of those random days where I got punched again with the realization that life is short. My brother and I have been playing phone tag for awhile now, and we finally connected on my commute to work this morning. We were chatting about everyday life, the possibility of buying new cars, and how our family was doing. I got to work, and he said, "hey sis, I've gotta go... I'm at the emergency room - I love you!" and click.. the phone went silent. Talk about the way NOT to end a conversation with your little sister - mother of Sam a huge sense of worry came over me. Come to find out, my brother went to the hospital with severe chest pains that his doctor thought was the beginning of a heart attack. He's 33 years old, but my family has a long history of the men having heart attacks in their 30's and suddenly dying. You can understand the fear factor that I was dealing with this morning...
I sat at my desk absolutely dumbfounded. Twice in one week BAM! and I'm reminded of the importance of living life to the fullest. And I started thinking about my life - why am I so selfish and focused on what I need do to for me? Why can't I see that I've never been willing to venture to Michigan to visit my brother? And why don't I see the needs and struggles of those around me? Why do I run from problems instead of facing them head on? And why in the world do I live my life for the everyday worries, instead of reacting to the prompts and desires of my heart?
All I can say is that it's time for me to take a few BIG steps of faith - getting out of my comfort zone and pushing myself toward . It's time to go after those adventures, after those hearts desires that keep me thinking "someday". It's time for the someday to become today. So what am I going to do first? I have no idea... maybe I should start with a list of the important things in my life... and figure out where to go from there. So here goes...
Move out and on - Make the trek to Michigan - Travel More - Find the women's ministry to learn and grow from - Write the book - Buy the SUV - Camp, hike, bike, trail run - Pay off the debt - Invest more in those the Lord places in my life.
I guess what it boils down to is a complete renovation of my life. Stopping the crazy cycle of pleasing everyone else, and start living the life I've been called to. Which probably means me making some people sad or frustrated and even disappointed. The incredible part of it all is that the vision that I see is for the greater good of people outside my inner circle. I love those that Jesus has placed in my life (I wouldn't be who I am today without them), but I can't keep living in the safety bubble of my own little world. It's time to start taking the steps of faith, trusting in Jesus alone for my future, and following and doing whatever He says - not what the world and people say.
Mother of Sam this is WAY easier said than done... but I have to start somewhere and sometime - and no better time than the present!
Here am I Lord, Send me where you would have me be to grow, change, and become what you've called me to.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Dear Single Ladies and Guys visiting TenaciousInsights! In a world where we’re constantly told that we need to be in a relationship to be successful, the fact of the matter is that the season of singleness in our lives is actually a great blessing. For it’s the single that don’t have to worry about the responsibility of others, and it’s the single who are able to take the extra time in their lives and invest it in amazing opportunities that those who are otherwise attached may not have.
Pastor Mark Driscoll, at Mars Hill in Seattle, discusses what exactly the single can do while they live their lives before marriage. Here are some of his great suggestions:
1. Serve – whether it’s in the Church or in the Community, when we are distraction free we’re able to use the free time we have to serve. Think serving in the kids rooms at Church, hosting Bible Studies, helping clean the streets of your city, etc.
2. Invest in the lives of others – for me it’s at this time of singleness that I’m more able to love on the people that Christ places in my path. Whether it’s coffee dates with a new friend, Cheer practices with a dozen teenagers, or meeting and greeting new people at Church – it’s this time in my life that I have the ability and time to seriously invest in others.
3. Focus on paying off debts/saving/giving – for a lot of us that are single, we’ve racked up Student loans or other debts that actually entangle us more than we realize. It’s at this time in our life that we’re able to get the 2nd jobs to pay things off or save for a house or trips or even just save more to give more to others.
I really appreciated the light that Mark put on the fact that singleness is actually a period of time that we should feel extremely blessed to be a part of. There were a few more things that were brought to my heart as opportunities that single people could be a part of:
1. Ministry – think missions trips, service projects, etc.
2. Adventure – when else in our lives are we able to pick ourselves up and move across the country? Or what about traveling to those places we’ve always wanted to visit? Or how about just trying new things? Or opening that business that you’ve always wanted? As a single person.. there’s really nothing holding you back…
3. Listening/Hearing the Call of the Lord – I don’t know about you, but it’s in the time of singleness that I’m able to focus a bit more on Christ rather than on what’s going on in my dating life. It’s in the singleness that the Lord is able to speak to our hearts, to grab 100% of our attention and lead us in a path and direction in which He would have us go.
Overall, I think it’s absolutely VITAL that as someone who is single, that we should evaluate our lives – really looking at what needs to change or how we can be better using our time, this time, of singleness. Not worrying about Prince Charming or the Perfect Girl, but focusing our time and energy on the passions that the Lord has laid on our hearts. Earnestly, deeply going after the desires that only we have. Each and every one of us has a different plan and a different direction given by the Lord. What will you do with the gift of singleness? Where is God calling you to go? What is He calling you to do? What steps do you need to take to get your focus on the right track?
SO much to think about here friends… but hopefully you found this encouraging. God is so faithful and speaks specifically to us through those somewhat nagging feelings of “go and do this”. Listen to those desires… follow them with all your heart… let God be your centerfold… and you can’t fail.
Take a listen, if you’d like, to Mark’s sermon at: http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/1st-corinthians/single-like-jesus
Friday, July 10, 2009
I’m not going to lie – the breakups, the silly choices I’ve made, the loss of family members, my financial struggle while in college – deeply hurt and burdened me at the time I was going through them. But would I trade one hour, one minute of those struggles for a happier time? Absolutely not. For it’s in the trials, in the struggles, in the temptations of life that I fall flat on my face before Jesus and realize that living for myself and my selfish desires is no way to live at all. And I look back on the hearts I’ve broken, the people I’ve disappointed, and the pain that I’ve caused others to feel and I am saddened by my actions, but I’m grateful for the wisdom and love that I learned and gained through the experiences.
And then I look at my life now and realize that all the worrying brought me only anxiety. All the anger brought my only bitterness. All the sadness brought me only depression. But Jesus is bigger than my worry, anger, and sadness – and in the middle of each and every difficult circumstance of my life He has been the one to pick me up out of the miry clay and set my feet back on His firm foundation. He’s set my eyes and my direction on Him and Him alone, so that when my eyes wander to the ways of the world, He reminds me to stick close to His side for guidance and direction.
As I look at the people who have made rather large impacts on my life over the years, I’m reminded not of the bitterness that I harbored for so long or the hurt that struck me to my core, but I’m reminded of the lessons I’ve learned through relationship with them. My first boyfriend is getting married tomorrow – and it’s a weird feeling to think that he’s married (because he swore he was never the marrying type), but I’m so incredibly happy for him because he’s found the woman that is perfectly suited for him. My second boyfriend is dating someone new, and I wouldn’t change the fact that we broke up for anything. Although he was an incredible guy, he wasn’t the right guy for me. The best part of all is that I wish both of them only the best in their lives and I know that God has great plans for them. For through them I grew into the woman that I am today, and even though they don’t realize it, I’m grateful for the time they invested in me, and the lessons I learned through dating each of them.
The funny thing about reminiscing is that I wouldn’t change anything about my life today. God has spoken to my heart for years about the fact that He’s got plans for my future – and big ones if that. I was reminded of the importance of living my life for Jesus and forgetting about the “responsibilities” that the world lays on my shoulders by this great guy that I actually went out with last week. I'm really grateful to him because he actually shared with me that he felt it wasn’t the right time for me to have a boyfriend (which I now kind of agree with) and He really challenged me to stop living to make everyone else around me happy (I’m a people pleaser by nature) and start going after the desires that the Lord has laid on my heart. And it hit me… I’m holding myself back from the blessings, plans, and desires that God has for me. My human nature is hindering me from making the tough choices and going on the great adventure that my Father has been writing on my heart for years. And I finally realize that it’s time for me to step out in faith and make the changes that I need to in order to do the things that Christ has called me to. It’s time for a change. It’s time for the adventure to begin.
And this time, I want to be able to look back at the pictures and think, “wow, I did it! With Jesus by my side, I did the things He called me to do. I broke the mundane mold of my everyday life... I did it!”. Lord, that’s my prayer today – take me on the great adventure… take me where you would have me go. Lead my steps, and let me not be hindered or distracted from the plans you have for me. Here am I Lord – send me!
I’m SOOOO excited right now!!!
“…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” – Luke 12:48
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘whom shall I send? And who will go fro us?’ and I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!.” – Is. 6:8
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
But what happens when you come out of the valley's of life - when things seem to get better, easier in a way? More often than not it seems as though there is a sudden, almost instantaneous silence between us and the Lord. The voice that once spoke so clearly, is suddenly muffled by the excitements of life. It's at this time of transition that it's as if Jesus feels distant... unreachable - to the point that we wonder if He ever really was there in the first place. We no longer hear the still small voice in the distance. Sadly, it's been replaced with the hum of the everyday - the screams for attention that the world so often throw our way.
Unknowingly, the noise of everyday life slowly makes us deaf to the calling of the Lord. It's in this place that our passions become distant memories, our callings become seemingly impossible to achieve, and the one thing in life that kept us solely focused on the eternal is suddenly replaced with "options".
The terrible part of all of this is that it's in this space - in this time - that the voice of the world overpowers the voice of God. And we have a choice to make - will we once again succomb to the pressures of the world (which leads to guaranteed failure and disappointment) or do we choose the road less traveled - the path of constant rededication to the calling of the Lord. Obviously the easy option is to choose the world - to choose what we can see, feel, taste, hear. It's the self sacrificing, daily taking up our cross, dying to self option that is choosing Life and choosing Christ. Then why is it so hard to keep on the track of the everlasting instead of the track of instant gratification?
As I was reading further in the book of Luke this morning (specifically chapter 18), Jesus describes what not to do when it comes to getting closer to Him - in the midst of the silence of life. In verse 10 Jesus begins to describe a certain Pharisee who prayed a prayer of thanksgiving that he was not like the "sinners" of the world (tax collectors, evildoers, robbers, etc) and that he was a "good" Pharisee and gave a 10th of all he had. This man shows exactly what NOT to do when it comes to following Christ sacrificially. For even though the Pharisee lived his "perfect" sinless life, in his "perfect" little world - he was actually sinning - cutting others down so he would be glorified.
The story continues with a tax collector coming before the throne of God and saying the simple phrase, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner". What faith this man has! What humbleness! He sees his faults before him, he sees himself slipping into the snares of the world, and he repents - asking Christ to have mercy on him and guide him in the path in which he should go. Out of these two men, the tax collector is the one Christ admires - the one Jesus teaches, grows, and sends out to change lives for him.
So again I ask, how do we stay on track with God in the midst of a screaming world? By admitting our faults- our sins - and begging for mercy as we walk this road of life. Earnestly seeking Jesus 1st and foremost in every circumstance, and trusting that His way - although difficult, rugged, and less traveled - is the only way to a life eternally fulfilled. Amen!
Monday, June 22, 2009
In Mary, we see a woman stained with sin, tainted with the ways of the world, and along the path of destruction she meets a man that completely turns her life around. Picking her up out of her slime, her shame, her disgrace - Jesus sees beyond the sin to the hurting woman within and calls her to follow Him. Trusting Christ as her shield and rampart when the rebukes of others came to her ears, the incredible friendship and care that Jesus had over her is amazing to watch.
However, the fact of the matter is that the night this dear, broken woman came to Christ to wash His feet with her most prized possession, those around her rebuked her - seeing the cost of the perfume rather than the sacrifice of love she was making for her Savior. The disciples were more worried about the worlds standards of money and power, instead of God's standards and appreciation for the sold out faithfulness of Mary. Christ's response to all this grumbling from everyone? " 'Leave her alone.' Jesus replied, 'It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.' " - John 12:7-8
The thing that gets me the most about this story is the fact that the disciples were in essence calling Mary crazy for offering the perfume as a sacrifice of love to Christ. How often do we do that to people these days? Making snap judgments instead of seeing to the heart and soul of the person that may be calling out for us to love on them as Christ loves them? How easy is it for us to get into our own little world of comfort and refuse to see the needs of those around us? And how often do we see women like Mary in our lives, working hard for the Kingdom, and call them crazy or ridiculous for their faith in the love and saving grace of Christ?
Isn't it amazing how often we get sidetracked from the calling of the Lord because of one, small issue, one small dot on the whole page that gets us to hone in on it, thus preventing us from seeing the "big picture"? In this particular story, this is SO the case. The disciples see the money that is being "wasted" and worry by the world's standards, instead of seeing the sacrifice of Mary and following her example.
And again I'm reminded - one issue can often derail us altogether. What is that issue in your life? What is everything in your life held up on? Is it Fame/Popularity? Is it success by the world's standards? Is it your friends? Is it money? How about your family, ministry, or work? What causes you to lose your focus on the eternal and live in the standards of today? What happens when that one thing that you treasure more than anything, is taken from you, as Jesus was taken from the disciples in this story? Will we be so focused on the minut issues of today, instead of seeing the eternal sacrifices we should be making? Why not let our lives be held up on Christ – having Him as our firm foundation and not the worldly desires?
Let's let our focus be on the eternal, refusing to let the little issues of life derail us from our calling. Let us rely solely on the power, grace, love, and mercy of Christ to guide and direct our paths. And let's work together to be the change that this world so desperately needs. Deal??
And last, there's this GREAT song called "Dress us up" by John Mark McMillan that chats about this very subject... to a certain degree. One of my all time faves! Go Jesus! :-)
Dress us up in your righteousness
Bring us in with a ring and a kiss
When you walk into the room you know we can't resist
Every bottle of perfume always ends up on the floor in a mess
You make us sparkle and you make us shine
Like the stars who sing on your chorus line
Through space and time we'll harmonize
Where deep meets deep like the ocean meets the sky
The sun and the moon
They come out of their grave just for you
The dead man and the cynical too
They're coming out of their grave
And it's just for you
Cause the love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
Than the power of death
Dress us up in the blood of a son
Who opened up his veins so that we would overcome
Hell and the grave in the power of his love
After three dark days he showed us how it's done
And he still does
You make us sparkle and you make us shine
Like the stars who sing on your chorus line
Through space and time we'll harmonize
Where deep meets deep like the ocean meets the sky
The sun and the moon
They come out of their grave just for you
The dead man and the cynical too
They're coming out of their grave
And it's just for you
Cause the love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
Than the power of death
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
In our society today so often men are imasculated and told to be more “feeling” or “feminine”. The struggle to push their masculinity aside and become more complacent in their daily lives than warrior-esque is everywhere. Men can’t even walk down the street without seeing some sort of advertisement for a better body, a better girl, or a better car. It’s no wonder that men struggle so much today with pornography, alcohol, substance abuse, and the fear of failing those closest to them. Their mindset is on what the world says and the worlds standards – which will absolutely disappoint them each and every time.
Call me a traditionalist, but after listening to this sermon series I’ve been truly convicted and encouraged all at the same time. Every man wants to be a warrior – he needs a battle to fight while on the earth. For some it may be a passion for the business world, for others it may be a desire to be in the ministry, and for others it may be just being a part of the lives of those around them or doing something remarkable for someone else. Every man has what it takes to be the man of integrity and character that he’s called to be. Did you hear that guys? YOU have what it takes to be the man of integrity, faith, and character that God is calling you to be! How exciting is that?!?
The problem is that often the fear of failure exceeds the faith in the power and ability of Christ and we end of hesitating in our faith, in our mission, in our work, in our goals – we hesitate because we begin to believe that we don’t have what it takes.
Of course, my favorite part of this sermon was the details on how the woman in every man’s life has the ability to make or break the man they are with simply with their words and respect. Look back in history at the great men of the centuries, in almost every case there was a woman by his side praying and encouraging him step by step, day by day. The thing is, Warriors will see conflict. Warriors will struggle to meet the goal and mission. Warriors will be persecuted – and it’s in the darkest hours that a Warrior needs a maiden to pick him up, love on him, tell him he’s worth it, and pray for his continued success. Even when it’s difficult girls, it’s absolutely VITAL that we encourage and respect the men in our lives. Whether it’s a father, a brother, a husband, a friend - whatever men are in your life they need your prayers, they need your encouragement, and they absolutely need your respect. How incredible is it that we, as women, have the ability to touch and bless the lives of the men in our lives so greatly!
My favorite story of a woman encouraging her man is that of Spurgeon who struggled everyday of his life with devastating persecution and physical illness. He knew his calling was to be a preacher to the masses, and to bring people to a knowledge and relationship to Jesus. The problem was, just like in today’s society, the people around him would hurl insults at him telling him he was ugly or that he was unproductive in his mission to change lives. People all around him would constantly mock this man, yet he persevered greatly in all that he did. One of the reasons for this was his extreme devotion to Christ, and I believe the other reason for his success was the encouragement, love, and respect of his wife. In his biography, his wife writes how her desire was to be her husband’s earthly comfort until he was able to be with his Heavenly Father forever. She made it her mission and objective in life to make sure her husband was uplifted, prayed for, loved on, respected, and encouraged on a daily basis. She was his earthly constant reminder of the great things he was doing as he changes the lives of thousands. She was the whisper in his ear each morning, “you can do it, I know you can, and with God by your side you cannot fail. I believe in you.”. Even as I write this story I’m overwhelmed with emotion realizing that I may be able to someday have that impact on the man I’m with. That someday I will be able to be the “earthly comfort” for a man who is doing great things on this earth. INCREDIBLE!
I leave you with this men – what is your passion? What is the deepest yearning of your soul? What is it that makes you come alive as a Warrior and want to fight for a cause? GO AFTER IT! Don’t let your fear overpower your faith and prevent you from doing the GREAT things God has called you to do. Find what you should fight for, and go after it with all your might. You will be successful with Christ as your anchor and centerfold in all you do. You can succeed, you will succeed, and you can do anything through Christ who gives you strength! Don’t ever give up on your goals and your mission in this life – Don’t give up!
And women, I leave you with these questions – how can you encourage the men in your life? What are the areas that you struggle with that hinder you from respecting them? Choose today to start respecting and encouraging – not finding fault but claiming success in the lives of men around you. Make the choice to stop bickering about what is missing, and start celebrating in what the men in your life are doing. Look for the good in the men in your lives, and challenge them to strive for the passions and goals that Christ has laid before them. Encourage them to be Warriors - to fight the good fight until the end. And yes, this is easier said than done – but I tell you great things happen to children with praying mothers, husbands with respectful wives, and brothers with encouraging sisters in Christ.
This is seriously, SO EXCITING for me!! God is SO incredibly good and has HUGE Plans for those who love him… it’s just a matter of taking that first step of faith toward the goals, passions, and desires that He has laid on our hearts. Remember – nothing is impossible with God (Mark 10:27).
And to the men in my life (specifically brother) - may God always guide and direct your every step, may He be the centerfold of your life and choices, and may you never forget how proud I am of you and your character, strength, integrity, and masculinity. I believe in you, respect you, and value you abundantly. Don't ever give up.
To take a listen to this sermon series... follow this:
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
You may want to sit down for this one… it’s going to take awhile.
Yup, you read that right, I’m talking Hell today. I have no idea why, but recently I’ve wondered a bit more about the power that satan has on this world and how he works to plot against those that love Christ and really, every human on the face of the planet. The interesting part of all of this is the fact that satan’s main mission, main objective, overall goal is to convince everyone on this earth that there is no God, no Heaven, and especially no hell. He plots and plans everyday how to put another stumbling block in the way of unbelievers and even Christians to set us up for failure, doubt, and inevitably unbelief. He is the master of lies and utilizes every kind of evil out there to gain followers of him and turn people from the one True God.
Over the past few weeks I’ve done a bit of research on this subject, and specifically how satan uses his lies to attack us with doubts and questions. I’ve come to the realization that the scariest, nastiest, most vile, despicable, evil thing I can think of does not even begin to compare to the power and lies that Satan carries around with him everyday. Think of the worst thing you’ve ever experienced, seen, or heard of - that one event or issue does not even compare to the myriad of evils that satan possesses. I think of things like the extreme poverty and AIDS issues of Africa, rape/molestation/human trafficking in Thailand, the Holocaust of the Jews, the abuse of father’s towards their children, the addictions of this world on porn/drugs/alcohol and how devastating the effects of the addictions are, and even the disgustingly perverse incest of father’s to their daughters around the world. All of this is absolutely sick, the idea that people can be so evil & cause such pain and suffering in the lives of others – all out of their own selfishness.
So what exactly is Hell? Well, the Bible tells us that it's a lake of fire (Rev. 20:15), an eteral abyss (Rev. 20:1), eternal darkness (Matt. 25:30), gloomy (II Peter 2:4), and eternal separation from God and everything good, as seen in the passage from Luke below. In essence, Hell is your worst nightmare coming true over and over and over and over forEVER. It's not going to be a fun venture or a time to hang out with all the "bad guys" from the world. It's actually going to be more like an extremely hot desert of darkness - solitary confinement where all you hear day in and day out are the screams of treachery and pain of those around you who you cannot see but can only hear. I can only imagine that Hell would be the worst agonizing pain you have ever expereinced times 10 and never letting up. Bleeding but never dying, agonizing but never relieved, alone and never encouraged, darkness without even a glimpse of hope. Hell is beyond what our finite minds can even comprehend, and like the rich young man depicted below... we only get one chance to make the right choice.
In Luke 16, Jesus describes, rather vividly, the afterlife of two men, and the choices they make while on earth and the consequences of their actions when they die. Take a read:
19 Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury (This guy was OBVIOUSLY a big deal) 20 At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores. 22 “Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham.[e] The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and his soul went to the place of the dead.[f] There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side. 24 “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames (I love how the guy still thinks of Lazarus as a servant, and that he should be served).’ 25 “But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’ 27 “Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. 28 For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’ 29 “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’ 30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’ 31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’”
After reading this particular passage, I find it pretty obvious that we get one chance to get the whole "is there a God?" "is there a Heaven and Hell?" and "how does Jesus fit into all of this?" thing figured out. Looking back at this passage we see that one man who seems to have everything while on earth - the fancy cars, the big house, all the toys - loses everything he deemed important on earth the second he steps into eternity. There's a similar story to this found in Matthew 19 - a rich young man comes to Jesus and asks him what he needs to do in order to enter Heaven, and Jesus responds:
" 21Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
You know what I think? I think Matthew 19 has this whole Heaven and Hell debate spot on. In our instant gratification society where we're the top 5% of the entire world's rich, it's no wonder that our society is often so easily swayed by the ways of the world rather than the calling of the Lord. Our hearts have slowly been hardened by the lies of Satan, "just one more look and I'll be satisfied", "just one more shot and I'll finally calm down", "just one more hour of work and I'll be successful". Our lives are run by competing with the Jones' rather than looking to Christ for our utter satisfaction. We, as a society, are so incredibly clouded by the world around us and the attacks of Satan that we don't even realize the lies we're being told until it's too late. We get no second chances when it comes to salvation. We only have one life on this earth, and one opportunity to choose what we'll believe. Will we work ourselves into an early grave so we can have the parties, the cars, the toys, and everything material that doesn't last? Or will we strive for Heavenly perfection, not comparing ourselves to others, but loving God and others along the way?
The choice is....
yours.Praying for you all tonight blogging community, that the Lord would show Himself to you in incredible ways. God is good, and despite what the world says, He still loves you no matter who you are, no matter what you've done - He loves you no matter what.
"17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and loving toward all he has made.
18 The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
20 The LORD watches over all who love him" - Ps. 145:17-20
Friday, June 5, 2009
As I was reading 2 Cor. 12, specifically the section on the thorn in Paul's side - I had a new perspective. Three different times Paul begs of the Lord to take the thorn from his flesh, what he calls "A messenger of satan". And you want to know what God's answer was? "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." In essence, God didn't take that thorn away from Paul, and Paul goes on to say: “that’s why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
I’ve always grappled with this particular set of scripture because how exactly is His power made perfect in weakness? And how in the world are we ever able to rejoice in hardships? Then I realized, it’s during the times of struggles, trials, and overall downfall in life - when we feel like we’re nothing - that we call out to Jesus the most… and in essence become stronger and more fulfilled in our faith that we’re able to face the next round of struggles because His grace carries us through, training us for what’s to come in the future. When we’re weak in our flesh, we’re strong in our spirit and faith in Christ.
The one part of this that we need to realize and learn from that sometimes, God doesn't answer our prayers the way we want Him to. Sometimes we don't get the job. Sometimes the marriage isn't restored. Sometimes the friendship is not saved. The people we love will die. The things we so desire won't fulfill us. And the worldliness we all so strive for (the bigger house, bigger car, better job, more money, more prestige, more fame, etc) won't give us what we long for and we'll never be completely satisfied - always feeling like we're running around on empty.
I truly believe the reason some of our prayers are answered as "no" is so that we may grow from the trials that will inevitably come with the no. We're walked through the valley's so we can remember that "His grace is sufficient". And it's in the valley's, the frustrations, the disappointments of this life that our Faith is strengthened, our hope is restored, and our desires for God's purposes in our lives are refined.
What are the things God's telling you "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness"? What is God calling you to change in your life? What desires has God laid on your heart to do, but you've never followed through on? God gives us the desires we have so that His kingdom may be grown and that we may have something to look forward to and work for during our time on earth. Go after those desires with the greatest passion you can muster, and God will bless you RICHLY for following what He has called you to do.
I just love the Lord! :-) Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!!!
Monday, June 1, 2009
As I said in my last post, the Lord has been speaking to my heart about one specific woman on my drive to work. Since I’m such a people person, why is it so difficult for me to pull over and help/bless this woman? Simply because I don’t have and I don’t ask for Christ’s eyes – I see through my own selfish nature and my own earthly eyes. And I realized – I would rather help someone I know and love than someone I’ve never met. I would rather gain better relationships with those I already know than step out in faith and meet new people that Christ places in my life. I like the comfort and the safety of my “bubble” and I would rather not venture too far from it.
Why is it that my priorities of loving others suddenly become so incredibly selfish? Because Christ calls us to serve each other and treat each other (and that means EVERYONE) as we treat and love ourselves – placing our own selfish desires on hold and replacing them with God’s eternal desires to love His people. That means asking Christ for his eyes in every circumstance and asking for His confidence to follow through on the calling He lays on our lives. It means getting out of our comfort zone.
As I reflect deeper on my priorities, I finally come to the realization of HOW exactly my relationship with Christ grows and develops. Just like any other relationship that we have here on earth, we make time for those we love and care for. We make sacrifices – whether it be time, money, goods, etc – for those we love. Our relationship with Christ should be exactly the same – but FAR more important. Making time in our always hectic, everyday lives is difficult. But think back to an incredible relationship you’ve been a part of – where you could never seem to get enough of the person – I can almost guarantee that more than time and money was sacrificed to watch that relationship grow and develop – I’d even bet that there were many nights of 2-3 hours of sleep, many days pining over that person, and many events and times with other people that were ditched or cancelled- just to be in that persons arms for a few more hours.
That is exactly how our relationship with Christ should be. We should make sacrifices, whether it’s getting up early or going to bed later, to make sure that we’re in His word and spending time with just Him – without the distractions of life. When was the last time you spent more than 10-15 minutes with the Lord? He SO desires some quality alone time chatting and teaching you so that you may grow into a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him. He wants your time, He wants your focus, He wants your heart and soul to yearn for Him as your heart and soul yearns for others on the earth.
I can absolutely guarantee you that you will be met by Jesus every time you make the sacrifices to spend time with Him. He speaks through His Word and His Spirit – simply refreshing our souls along the journey. He gives us clarity into the issues of life and gives us understanding and renewed hope and direction in this world. With Him by our sides, our biggest dreams, desires, and hopes will come true – and the best part? He’ll even give us MORE than we ever hoped for or imagined. Make a Jesus date and you won’t ever regret it.
God is SO good! Let’s all work on spending more time with the One who loves us far more than anything and wants to bless and care for us in all we do. Amen!!
Friday, May 29, 2009
Just the other day I was driving my usual route to work again, and the little old woman was again on the street corner, walking about dazed and confused. As I passed by her again, I heard the voice of the Lord prompting me, “go and buy her some new shoes, the one’s she has are falling apart. And while you’re at it, buy her a new coat. Put cash in the box, and the next time you pass her, give it to her.” Again my response goes, “Lord, I don’t even know what size shoes this woman wears, how silly it would be for me to buy her shoes! And besides, I’m running late for work again, I don’t have time.”
As I was reading my daily Word in Matthew 25 this morning, I was again reminded of the woman on the street corner, walking aimlessly, frightfully confused, and surely downtrodden. As it says in verse 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mind, you did for me.’”
The passage in Matthew 25 was long forgotten after I read it, until my co-worker and fellow Jesus lover came up to me and said, “Did I tell you about the lady I gave a ride to this morning on my way to work?” I replied, “no – who was that?”. As she spoke of this little old woman that she’s seen day after day wandering aimlessly about - my breath was taken away. That same woman that Jesus had laid on my heart over and over and over again that I kept denying was touched by my dear co-worker this morning. And I realized that I need to get my act in together and do what the Lord has called me to do for this woman. That I may clothe her, feed her, and love her during this time. That somehow her circumstances would change through the touch and care of my co-worker and I.
Talk about a word from the Lord! How He would put the same woman in both of our lives and really convict us to love on her and help her during this season of her life is amazing – an absolute miracle. And the fact that I kept pushing something so important aside and allowing my own selfish, sinful nature drive me rather than my Father’s calling, frustrates me to the core. He speaks to us on a daily basis… he prompts our hearts to action – and it’s then up to us to decide how we will respond. I should have responded a month ago to this calling, but I’m choosing to respond today.
Is there anything in your life that God’s telling you to do, but you just can’t convince yourself to do it? Is there a “little old woman” that is “the least of these” in your life that you just keep passing by? What is God prompting your heart to do right now, right away, today?? There’s a reason He’s called you to act and respond… respond faithfully.
God is SOOOO good!! And SO amazing at how He speaks and gives confirmation! Amen! :-)
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
As I was reading specifically in Chapter 15, I found that Abraham had his doubts in the promises of God. Let me clarify, Abraham had questions – not unbelief in that he didn’t turn his back on the promises of God, but honestly asks the Lord, “O Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will get it?”. The fact of our faith is that it’s normal to ask questions, it’s normal to not understand the ways of God, and it’s completely okay and acceptable to be honest with God and say, “what’s the deal? I want to trust you, but I’m not sure how to do this because it seems like things aren’t really falling into place here, Lord.” Asking God for clarity and understanding, patience and endurance, faith and trust – are absolutely necessary and appropriate.
However, we then need to do as Abraham does in verse 6, “Abram believed the Lord.” When God tells us something or lays a desire on our heart and it just never seems to come to pass, we need to trust in the promise he has spoken. It’s so hard for us in our instant gratification society to wait and do it patiently. But the thing is, with God ALL things are possible as promised in Phil. 4:13. He is able to pick us up out of any situation and give us anything and everything we desire, but sometimes He has something better for us to learn while walking through the valley’s of life.
There are three ways then, to go about facing the obstacles in our lives:
1. Passively – hence trusting in God’s sovereignty. Trusting the word/promise He has laid on your heart and letting go of it until it comes to fruition- thus completely relying on and trusting in Him. The story that matches with this is when Abraham allows Lot to choose his land 1st after they are kicked out of Egypt. Lot chooses the richer land, but it’s not the land God promised to Abraham. So Abraham sits back and waits, trusting that the land God gave him is the land of His promise.
2. Actively – we go after the things that He has called us to. This is the story of Abraham saving Lot – when Abraham says, “Lord, I need to go and do this, so I’m trusting that you will be with me as I fight for Lot.” Stepping out in faith and trusting that God will carry you through that circumstance.
3. Prayerfully – this is when we go to the Lord in prayer and ask for a miracle in a certain circumstance. This is when Abraham goes to war against the nation of Sodom and through prayer and petition he pretty much says, “God, you have placed me in this battle that I cannot win, you know I can’t win, but I trust that with you by my side I will be victorious. Please do a miracle here, for without you I’m nothing.”
Where, in your life, do you currently find yourself when it comes to God's promises? Doubting? Or faithfully waiting passively, actively pursuing His plans and Goals, or Trusting prayerfully for a miracle?
We need to always remember that there is nothing that's too big for God. He has the ability to do anything and take the impossible and make them possible in our lives. Miracles still happen, and each of them are to be testament's to the blessings and care of God in our lives.
Check out Genesis 12 & 13 for more on all of this... good words! :-)
Friday, May 22, 2009
The cemetery drew near, and I was amazed at the beautiful sight of Mt. Baker in the background, covered in snow and reflecting it’s incredible beauty to all that could see it. At that very moment I understood that God does walk us through the valley’s of life, and even in the middle of life’s struggles, He gives us a sight/view of what’s to come. As I looked off to that beautiful mountain I realized that the Lord has placed desires and passions in my heart to be the “mountain in the distance” during the times of trials in my life. And along the journey, I am blessed by his “flowers” along the way which are my friends, His “paths” who are my mentors, His “trees” who are my family, and His “water” which are His word and promises refreshing my heart along the way.
As I made my way to the area where grandma is now buried, I saw the gravestones of not only my grandma, but my great-grandparents, and even my great-great grandparents – all laid in the same place for their final rest. It hit me as I stood there looking at the generations of my family’s past - that without one of those people and their influence, love, and care for our family I would not be here today. If one link was missing, one person out of the lineage the entire family of Tenacious would have never been. Then I realized the traditions that my grandmother had passed along to me and her encouragment for me to “keep the family legacy going” came directly from her parents, and her grandparents – generation after generation. What an incredible legacy to leave! And what an incredible amount of work I have to do to preserve the family traditions. And what a GREAT honor for me to have my grandma pass this responsibility on. Truly amazing – and I can’t stop being excited and thrilled for my future... no, God’s future that He has laid on my heart.
The day progressed with many more blessings as the Memorial Service at Grandma’s church came. I walked in the doors of that tiny Lutheran Church and remembered all those Sunday’s spent with grandma and grandpa when I was young. The Church filled with people, and I was asked to be the one to give the Eulogy address for my dear, sweet grandma. As I stood before the congregation of about 100 people, I shared the memories and the legacy/responsibility grandma had passed along to me in her last days through the gift of her hope chest. And I described the last dear months I had with such an incredible woman. Tearily, I fought through my speech, and shared the very things the Lord had laid on my heart that one weekend with grandma, “I have you here for a reason, for your grandma’s time is short. Love her as I would love her. Spend time with her, for you won’t have her much longer.” God works in amazing ways!
I left my Northward home feeling relieved and incredibly blessed to have restored my relationship with a family once lost, but now found. My heart was sad for the loss of grandma, but rejoiced in the fact that she’s in a place of forever rest and protection. And in all honesty, I’m slightly jealous that she gets to see Jesus and be with Him as I am here on the earth. However, I was reminded that I still have work to do, I still have people to love, and I still have a legacy to leave to not only this generation, but the next.
Another life verse:
“Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.” – Ps. 71:18