Saturday, December 31, 2011

Highs & Lows of 2011

I was challenged this year at our staff retreat to reflect on the “highs and lows” of 2011. I’m usually pretty reflective, but not over a 12 month period. It was such a good discipline to think about your year in that way, and see God’s hand in it all.

Interestingly, we realized that out of all of our “lows”, came a “high”. It reminded me of Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

So in all the pain, all the heartbreak, all the change, all the confusion, all of the mess of 2011; we looked closely and we were able to see all the good, all of God, in it too.

I’m sure there was much more that I could record, but these were the few highs/lows we came up with for 2011.

-Low: Santino’s Grandpa Frank was like a second father to him. He grew up 5 houses down from him, taught him how to shave, how to cook, and how to pee in the backyard. Grandpa Frank’s health took a turn for the worse. He grew weak and sick and eventually, just couldn’t fight anymore. He passed away in the spring. It was devastating.

+High: Out of this, grandpa knew his time on earth was coming to an end. Over the past year he started asking questions about God, religion, heaven. He wanted to be close with God all of his life, and just never was. Santino got to lead His grandpa to Christ and teach him many things about God. Such a sweet time.

-Low: The state’s budget was cut drastically, which meant FUSD had to make major cuts like never before. I received a pink slip after teaching for 5 years. I was struggling in this profession and the pink slip felt like confirmation that teaching in a public school just wasn’t for me. It was very hard realizing a dream I had all my life, may have just been that . . . my dream.

+High: Because I was “getting fired” anyway, I started praying and asking God what HE would want me to do with the last 3 months with my students. His answer was simple “Love them. Share me.” So I did. I started preaching the gospel, kids starting putting their faith in Christ. 11 of them even went to church with me! We gave out bibles, prayed together, read the word together. Truly one of the best experiences of my life (I can share more of the story about who sponsored the bibles and God’s hand in all of it, but another time.)

+High: Another high that came out of my pink slip was getting to work at The Well. I jokingly prayed a long time ago that I wish I could find a job where I get to lead bible studies, meet people for coffee, and pray for the church. Well guess what? That’s pretty much what I do there! It is a dream to work with such wonderful people who are all like minded, in pursuit of God and His kingdom.

-Low: We’ve been trying to get pregnant for over a year. We thought that in getting my pink slip, this was the LORD opening a door for me to be a stay at home mom. Well what a great plan, minus the one little detail . . . a baby! So we’re still trying but decided since we aren’t pregnant yet, we’ll fulfill another life dream that probably won’t happen once we have kids . . .

+High: We’re going to Israel! We decided life won’t slow down after we start a family and we both would love to walk in the land the LORD chose, so why not now? That’s a huge journey of faith for me because of the cost, I hate flying, I hate traveling, I hate eating weird food, and I hate not sleeping in my own bed but . . . I love Jesus and I want to be near to Him more than anything, so what better place to experience my Redeemer’s nearness than Israel?

So that wraps up 2011. Highs and lows, and everything in between. In the midst of highs and lows, ups and downs; is a God who never changes, who is consistent, who is stable, and who is near.

Happy New Year! Bring it on 2012.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas 2011

{Christmas Eve}
We spend Christmas Eve with Santino's side of the family. It is so much fun! Did you know Italians have a tradition of eating and enormous amount of seafood the night before Christmas? It's insane! Seriously, his grandma cooks for days before. Crab soup, mussels, shrimp, squid, homemade pizza, everything! I of course, contribute the salad. It's so fun spending time with his wonderful family.

That's us. Santino is probably on his 3rd plate of shrimp ;-)


We may have regifted this gingerbread cookie to his cousin Jessie.


Cousins Chris & Laurel opening our annual family Christmas calendar. They're 3 months pregnant, next Christmas we'll celebrate with a little baby!


{Christmas Day}
We travel to Stockton to spend the day with my family.

Nephew Jackson, Sister Jenny, Cousin Michelle, Aunt Vicki, Me, Sister Teri, and Nephew James


Grandma & Aunt Vicki


Sisters


My sister Teri & nephew James laughing at Uncle Tino. Seriously, James is all about Uncle Tino. He was the only one that could get him to smile for pictures.


Mom & Jenny (She doesn't want us to call her Jenny anymore because she's a grown-up, but that's Jenny.)


James playing with his new Leap Frog iPad thing. He's pretty much a genius.


Auntie Jenn & Baby Jackson


Our pictures are kind of random (and blurry). We're not the best at capturing moments, but perhaps due to a new year's resolution, 2012 will be much better!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

His Promise. My Hope.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

We love to think of this verse as the promise of fulfilled dreams, desires, or answered prayer. As I've been pondering this verse, thinking of what it truly means, I see that it is much more than the hope of "things" we want.

The HOPE we have is not that God is going to give us stuff, answer our prayer, or bless us with riches. The HOPE we have is that His word is true, His death was sufficient, the Cross is real and we will stand before Him, cleansed, new, and in fullness of joy.

What if instead of using this verse to “claim” His promises, we’d hope for God?
What if what we hoped for was not stuff, or wealth, or blessings, but Him?
What if the conviction of things unseen, meant beholding Christ?
What if we believe more than earthly happiness, our God desires to give us eternal bliss?
What if we wanted that more than anything else?

The things unseen are not the fulfillment of dreams on earth, but the promise of salvation! What we hope for is the presence of God.

That all this belief, trust, faith would excite us because in the end, the promise we get to claim, the blessing we receive, the thing we’d get . . . was God?

I fully ask that question as someone who has been asking the LORD for an earthly blessing for 14 months. Broken hearted, eagerly waiting, hoping, longing . . . knowing He can bless me at anytime.

In conviction I ask “Do I want God more than I want ________?”
What if I asked for Him to be near, more than I asked for Him to open my womb?
What if I longed for Him, the way I long to hold a baby in my arms?


What if HE was enough?
My all in all.

What if He is what I hope for? And my faith, my trust, my confidence, was in knowing someday . . . I will see Him.

“One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: 
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, 
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Celebrating with a Broken Heart

So much to be thankful for this time of year.
So much reason to have JOY and PEACE because we are in Christ.

Yet . . . the reality is this season can be so hard for people. Thinking of many who will celebrate the holidays with a feeling of loneliness, emptiness, and a broken heart.

Joyful, yet longing for those we’ve lost.
Those we miss.
Broken relationships to be healed.
Dreams of what could be.

Mothers whose children are in heaven.
Wives whose husbands have passed away.
Daughters missing their fathers.
Mothers missing their sons.
Brothers feeling distant.
Friends longing for a spouse.
Couples longing for children.

For those feeling that way, you are not forgotten. This whole season represents a God who loves you so much, HE came to you. He left Heaven on high, to dwell among you, to call you to Himself, and offer you a hope and a future.

While our hearts long for what was, or what could be, that we would remember this kind of love . . . and long for Christ.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalm 73:25-26
)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Called Out & Invited In

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (1 Peter 2:9-10)

I have been thinking about this verse all month. It's where my identity is found. I am called out and invited in . . . to proclaim HIM.. Telling all that HE has done in my life, what He has brought me out OF and what He has grafted me INTO. From nothing to something.

I decided to reread 1 Peter 2 from the Message this morning and felt like blogging. But HIS words are better than my words, so would you join me today in reading, meditating, and delighting in what is found in 1 Peter 2?

"So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You've had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God's pure kindness. Then you'll grow up mature and whole in God. (1-3)

The Stone
Welcome to the living Stone, the source of life. The workmen took one look and threw it out; God set it in the place of honor. Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you'll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God. The Scriptures provide precedent:

Look! I'm setting a stone in Zion,
a cornerstone in the place of honor.
Whoever trusts in this stone as a foundation
will never have cause to regret it.
To you who trust him, he's a Stone to be proud of, but to those who refuse to trust him,

The stone the workmen threw out
is now the chief foundation stone.
For the untrusting it's
.. . a stone to trip over,
a boulder blocking the way.
They trip and fall because they refuse to obey, just as predicted. (4-8)

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God's instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted. (9-10)

Friends, this world is not your home, so don't make yourselves cozy in it. Don't indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they'll be won over to God's side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. (11-12)

Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God's emissaries for keeping order. It is God's will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you're a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government. (13-17)

The Kind of Life He Lived

You who are servants, be good servants to your masters—not just to good masters, but also to bad ones. What counts is that you put up with it for God's sake when you're treated badly for no good reason. There's no particular virtue in accepting punishment that you well deserve. But if you're treated badly for good behavior and continue in spite of it to be a good servant, that is what counts with God. (18-20)

This is the kind of life you've been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.

He never did one thing wrong,
Not once said anything amiss.

They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you're named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls (21-25
)

We have been called out of darkness, and invited into Christ and His kind of life.

We exchange chains of sin, to be bound to Righteousness.

We are called out to proclaim Him.

In our abundance . . . and in our suffering.
In our blessing . . . and in our pain.

Our lives should shout Christ and what HE has done for us.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

JOY. Unspeakable JOY!

{Finding Joy in the True Reason for the Season}

JOY: the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.

I’m reading through Luke 1-2 this month, meditating ON and rejoicing IN what we TRULY celebrate this season. The Savior of the world has come.

The King of kings came to earth to dwell among us, to call people from darkness to light, to adopt them into His kingdom, to clothe them with all the riches of Heaven, and invite them to dine at the Master’s table. Though we were once far off, we’ve been brought near!

The JOY of the world has come . . . JOY. Unspeakable JOY!

After all, shouldn’t we (the ones who have been grafted in) be the most JOYFUL of all this time of year?

Shouldn’t our hearts sing with gladness, just like Mary’s in Luke 1?

Shouldn’t we shine so brightly because our hearts overflow with His glow?


We can easily let errands, lists, gifts, busyness, late nights, and long lines consume us during this season. What if we let the words below consume our hearts and minds instead? What if we we truly celebrated the Reason for the season and found JOY in Him!

He loved.
He came.
He reconciled.
He adopted.
He delighted.
He is enthroned.

He is the Reason.
He is our Gift.
He is our JOY.
Let us REJOICE in Him!

And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior (Luke 1:46-47)

I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. (Psalm 138:1-2)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)

More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:11)

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly (Psalm 138:6
)

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Most Influential

I recently read the article"Who Is the Most Influential Christian Leader in the US?

It listed many famous men and preachers in our country . . . and of course, some names on the list I was surprised by. Some of the names on this list, some of the most influential people of our faith, don't preach the same gospel I've come to know, learn, and live. But then again, it doesn't say some of the most "faithful" it said, the most influential. That translates to people with the most popularity, the most celebrity, and the most media exposure. These men are considered "influential" because of their celebrity or their power.

What about all of those people who are influential, but go unnoticed?

One of the most famous pastors (and a personal favorite of mine), Chuck Swindoll, wasn't on the list. But I would still consider him influential. I heard him tell a story about his mother. He talked about how much he learned from his mother even when he was just a wild young boy. He can remember her locking herself in the bathroom and hanging a sign on the door something to the effect of "Do not disturb, having my quiet time with Jesus". He talked about how he remembers his mother loving one of their neighbors, bringing her meals, always helping her, and eventually leading her to Christ. He was influenced by His mother's love for Jesus, and love for others. He was influenced by her faithfulness to preach Christ in her actions and words to her family and neighbors. So one of the most influential pastors, was influenced by a woman who would've never made this list.

I think of all of my friends who are raising up the next generation of godly men and women. They may not be leading a church of 40,000, or preaching the gospel to 215 million people, or writing best sellers every year. Their pictures aren't on billboards, their names aren't found on covers of magazine.

Their day is filled with waking up early, changing diapers, making meals, wiping faces, cleaning up messes, disciplining for the hundredth time, snuggling, praying as they rock their child to sleep.

If that's you, you may feel unknown and unnoticed, but be encouraged. You are faithful and influential.

You just might be the momma influencing one of the next "most influential Christian leaders" of our time.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful for Crumbs

A few months ago, I posted about the story in Matthew 15 where the woman begs Jesus to heal her daughter and the disciples are bothered by her.

"And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon." But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." And he answered, "It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table." Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly." (Matthew 15:21-28)

She begs for just crumbs from the master’s table. Do you hear the desperation in her plea? The hope in her Healer? Knowing that she is not worthy to have her request granted, but believing only Jesus can grant her request.


This Caananite woman recognized she was not a part of chosen Israel, the nation that was set apart, she was a dog, a gentile, a nobody. In her humility, she recognized Jesus was somebody.

This woman recognizes that Jesus is the Son of David. She knows He is powerful. She probably doesn’t have all her theology down or know all of the right answers, but she has heard of His healing power and knows that He is the One who can heal. He is the only one who can free her daughter from oppression.

There is humility, exaltation, faith, and desperation.

Our LORD does not require us to have it all figured out before coming to Him. We do not have to be clean, just a confession of being dirty. We don’t have to be sinless, just honest faith that He is the One without sin. It is not so much about how we ask, but what we believe about the One we’re asking. He is waiting to heal, He is waiting to free us from oppression, if we believe. So comforting.

Our God is like none other. In a time when Gentiles were referred to as dogs, and women even lower than that . . . He grants the request of a Gentile woman.

Jesus is inviting His chosen nation to dine with him and they reject his invitation. This woman is thankful to receive just his crumbs. I love that.

Are you thankful for crumbs from the master’s table? Or do you feel worthy of more? Do you understand that He is the only One who can heal, or do you turn to other things first? Do you understand that we are not Israel, a part of God’s Holy nation? But, because of Israel’s rejection, we are accepted. We are invited to dine at the table, grafted in to the nourishing root.

Today . . . I am thankful for being a part of a much bigger story. I am thankful to be grafted in. I am thankful for crumbs.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Living on Mission

{How do you love and serve, without enabling and hurting?}

I read an article this morning that spurred my thinking on what it means to "be missional".

Years ago, I visited Poverello House and Fresno Rescue Mission each in the same week. They’re literally a block away from each other and they both serve the homeless and desire to help people out of their poverty and/or addiction. During my orientation at Poverello House it was very clear that we are not to talk to, interact with, and limit eye contact with their clients. In other words, prep the food, serve the food, and leave.

Fresno Rescue Mission’s message was quite different. Their message was "That's fine if you want to help in the kitchen, but you know what's better? Take a tray of food, go and sit and have a meal with some of the families."

See the difference? Same type of service, serving the same population, very different intention.

In my own life I’ve had some pain and experience in helping what Jesus would call the “least of these”. Once, we bought a bunch of gifts to “bless” a family and provide for them a wonderful Christmas. We were told this family was in need, very poor, didn’t speak much English, etc. So we wrapped gifts, loaded up the bags, and drove over. We got there to find the father and 4 of his buddies drinking a case of Budweiser on the front lawn in their somewhat new home. When we asked for the “man of the house” he pretended it wasn’t him. My husband whispered to me “do you realize we just completely embarrassed him and disrespected him in front of all of his buddies?” I left feeling terrible, as if we were the “white people to the rescue”.

Although we did bring the kids some new clothes and toys, we also brought shame and humiliation upon the father . . . which I don’t think brought glory to our Father in heaven.

I once had a mother in my classroom that had 4 children, all of whom were exposed to drugs in the womb. She was barely clean and sober, barely surviving. She shared how she did not have a lot of money to buy things or feed her children. I of course offered help. Sent her son home with clothes, with food, etc. One day, I left during my lunch break to run to the store quickly. I look up to see her walking out of the liquor store and lighting up a cigarette from her new pack. Not enough money for food, but enough for booze and a smoke.

Can you hear my pain, confusion, frustration in all of this? I hope that we as the body of Christ don’t (as the article says) “Undertake charitable projects or missions endeavors that make us feel good but don’t actually help those we serve and may actually take away their dignity or foster dependence.”

And yet, I know sometimes we have to be tent makers. Working alongside, for a long time, in hopes that someday we’ll be able to proclaim the gospel. The article also mentions “they do not want to partner with teams or agencies that do not allow evangelism.” Well that would be a public school, right? I have personally seen God penetrate the hard soil of a public school and provide opportunity to share Christ. I had to work for 5 years as a teacher before the LORD opened the door for me to send children home with bibles!

Through all of these experiences, I’ve learned that being missional takes patience, endurance, hope, compassion, and discernment.

In all of this I ask . . .
-How do you help serve, without enabling?
- If we always provide, always give, when will others look to the LORD as their provider?
-How can we let our lights shine in such a way (that it's not just to make us feel good) but to truly GLORIFY our Father in Heaven?
-How do we serve with patience and hope?


Perhaps this is just part of the frustration of finding balance in this. How do you love without worrying about being taken advantage of? How do you serve, without enabling? How do you discern, but not stifle the Holy Spirit? I never want to miss an opportunity to be his hands and feet, but I also don’t want my blessing to keep them from relying on the LORD.

Do I believe God can use all things for good? Yes. Perhaps those who serve meals to the homeless will be able to cultivate relationships and the LORD would open the door for the gospel to be proclaimed! Perhaps those children from the story above will remember a time when these people who love Jesus brought them gifts for no reason and it will point them to their Savior. Perhaps the mother who took all of my donations will be overwhelmed with love and conviction, and that will lead her to repentance.

So in this season when we are thinking more about what it means to live on mission, to be an intentional blessing, my hope is that we would pursue the path Christ has chosen for us, with hope, discernment, and patience, to be His hands and feet to those who are hurting and shine our lights before men!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reputation

Thinking of Abigail’s story in 1 Samuel 25.

It says she was “beautiful and discerning, had discretion, and a servant”.

Just one short chapter.
A few short words.
Here’s Abigail’s story.
Her reputation.

I’m wondering and reflecting . . .

If my life story was summed up in one short chapter, what would it say?

If God had to pen words about my character, what would they be?


If your life story was recorded for generations to read,
what would it say?
What is your legacy?
How will you be remembered?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It's Never Enough

I constantly feel like I can never do enough.
I constantly feel that I’ve missed the mark.
I constantly feel like I’m in the wrong place, wrong job, wrong neighborhood.
I contantly feel like I’m stifling gifts the LORD’s given me or I’m not using them to my fullest capability.

Not to earn God’s love, but in response to it.

Why? Is that normal?
To always feel like you need to do more? You’ve missed the mark?

To think . . .
If I could only foster/adopt all the starving and abused children in this town, then I’d be doing what God wants of me.
If I had people living with me who needed a place to stay, then I wouldn’t feel so guilty about having a 3 bedroom home.
If I could only write a bible study for new Christians, then I could encourage others in the LORD.
If I could only grab that microphone at the stadium and tell my redemption story and share about Jesus, then I would be proclaiming the gospel!

I don’t know why I constantly feel like I’m never doing enough. I’m not faithful enough. I’m not generous enough. I don’t proclaim the gospel enough.

And in the name of enough I don’t listen to the Spirit of God who says enough is enough.
I haven’t asked you to do it all.
I have asked to trust.
To abide.
To obey.
To rest.
To put on His yoke, for it’s easy and light.
To love out of an overflow and to continually seek wisdom and guidance from the Good Shepherd.

So then where does this message of you’re not doing enough come from?
The pit. The Father of Lies. My sin. My pride.
Keeping my eyes focused on the wrong thing . . .
The path, not the Shepherd.
The thirst, not the Fountain.
The hunger, not the Bread.
The circumstance, not the Sovereign
.

I recognize my sin of not doing enough is actually pride, that His “will be done” is actually dependent upon me. When I constantly feel the need to do things for God, I miss the point. I’m thinking that He needs my help, He needs me to do ___, because after all, if I don’t do it, who will?

Guess what? If I don’t do it, God is still God. His purpose still stands, His will be done. When I feel the need to do activity for God I miss finding rest in Him.

After all, God never speaks to us words of guilt, fear, demand, more. Isn’t it just like the enemy to make us feel guilty when we walk in abundance of blessing and joy? Isn’t it just like the enemy to rob me of my peace and delight, and replace it with doubt, fear, and guilt?? I guess if the enemy can’t confuse me about God’s love, He’ll make me feel guilty for having it.

So when I believe the lie If only I disciple more people, took meals to more people, prayed for more people, etc. I’ll remember this truth: the message of the gospel wasn’t do more. . . it was rest.
Rest in Him.
His promise.
His truth.
For His burden is easy and light.

"I accomplish more when I rest wholly in the labor of Jesus than I do when I frantically try to do the work for Him." AW Tozer

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10)

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1)

Friday, November 18, 2011

In Times of Pain & Suffering . . . You Are Our Hope

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." (Revelation 21:1-5)


You make ALL things and you will make ALL things new. Trusting you in all things, what is and is to come.

You are the God of ALL comfort, the Christ, the King of Kings, the Healer, the Prince of Peace. Oh that you would heal, comfort, reign with peace over those suffering, hurting, in times of trial and trouble right now. That they would be encouraged and strengthened by the strength of Your might. (Ephesians 6:10)

You're our Shepherd.
You're our Maker.
You're our King.
You're our Inheritance.
You're our Comforter, Healer, Redeemer.

You are able.
You are our Hope.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Prayer in Times of Pain & Suffering

Jenn . . . I'm praying this for you. Oh that He would refresh you with His healing power, surprise you with His strength.

Ephesians 3:14-21
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."


HE is able.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In Times of Pain & Suffering . . . We Are Not

2 Corinthians 4:7-9, 16-18
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."


In times of pain and suffering
we are

Afflicted
not crushed.

Perplexed
not in despair.

Persecuted
not forsaken.

Struck down
not destroyed.

We are to keep our eyes on what is unseen
not to lose heart.

We are not alone. He is our shepherd.
He is our Father. We are His children.
Blessed. Redeemed. Made rich. Loved. Renewed. Guaranteed.
We are in distress, but we are not hopeless.

Oh Father that you would renew Jenn's strength daily and remind her that this is not the end! Help her to feel the power of your presence every single day and be renewed by the HOPE of the unseen!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

In Times of Pain & Suffering . . . We Are

When going through trials, pain, suffering . . . who we are doesn't change. We are still in Christ. We are still His children, filled with His spirit, walking in the newness of life. This is our identity now, even in pain, hurt, and misery. The LORD promises these things to us, He speaks them over us, He fills us, loves us, chooses us, reassures us.

He IS still our Shepherd.
We are still His sheep.

Ephesians 1:3-14
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.


We are blessed.
Chosen.
Loved.
Predestined.
Holy & blameless.
Redeemed.
Forgiven.
Lavished.
Rich.
Purposed.
Heirs.
Sealed.
Guaranteed.

Oh Father that you will fill Jenn's mind and aching heart with these truths now! That you would reassure her of your presence, You are her Good Shepherd, the God of all comfort. That you would fill her with your peace, that she would rest in the words you've spoken here. That she would know she is chosen, loved, redeemed, and sealed. Thank you. You are the Healer of our wounds and the healer of our hearts.

Monday, November 14, 2011

In Times of Pain & Suffering . . . He IS

As I sit to write to a friend recovering from brain surgery, I realize nothing I say can comfort. I have no words. So, I look to HIS word, to the One whose name is God of All Comfort . . .

HIS words are better than my words.

Oh that we would listen as HE speaks over us.

Psalm 23
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.


He is my Shepherd.
He is my Provider.
He is my Guide.
He is my Sustenance.
He is my Restorer.
He is my Leader.
He is my Comforter.
He is my Protecter.
He prepares.
He anoints.
He Blesses.

He is my God.
He is near.
In times of pain and suffering . . . HE is.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

3 Little Words

{The Biggest Lie in Church}

We all do it.

Say these 3 little words . . .
Write these on people’s facebook status . . .
Send them a note assuring them we will . . .

Praying for you.

What a lie.

Sometimes we say this with good intentions, other times we know we never will.

This morning a friend text me at 4:30am to ask for prayer. I wanted to text back praying for you. But, really? Was I really praying for you at 4:30am?? No.

So I got up. To pray. During my prayer time, the LORD led me to repent of this small, common, well-intentioned lie I tell people all of the time. I confessed my sin, my neglect of prayer, and my apathy of not going to the throne of grace on behalf of others. I wondered . . .

Does this little lie anger God? Grieve Him? Sadden Him?

How often do I actually pray for people when I tell them I’m “praying for you”?

Do we as a people offer prayer more than we actually pray?

Why? Why is the hardest place to be, my prayer place?

Why is it such a struggle to come, rest, listen, confess, praise, petition, and pray
?

Christ died to reconcile us to have relationship with the Father.
He died to give me a chance to enter in. So why do I stay away?

Why do I neglect my meeting time with the most important One?


“My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Matt 21:13).

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

“As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, "O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned . . .” (Nehemiah 1:4-6)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Exhausted, Yet Pursuing

“And Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed over, he and the 300 men who were with him, exhausted yet pursuing.” (Judges 8:4)

Exhausted, yet pursuing. Do you ever feel this way about your relationship with the LORD?

Exhaust: to drain of strength or energy, wear out, or fatigue greatly

Gideon who barely had enough faith to obey just a few chapters before, has been fighting battles on behalf of the Israel, in pursuit of the LORD. His time is not yet up, and so he presses on in obedience, exhausted yet pursuing. I love that.

Have you been praying a prayer for years, exhausted in waiting, exhausted from hoping?

Have you been on a journey that is taking every last bit of energy from you? Worn out, tired, ready to wave the white flag?


Keep pursuing. Don’t give up! And even if you don’t see the rewards this side of heaven, keep pressing on. Tired as you may be, keep pursuing. Soon the battle will be won and the LORD will grant a time of rest.

Fix your eyes on what is unseen.
Run with endurance.
Fight the good fight.
For great is your reward in heaven.


“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:12)

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven . . .” (Matthew 5:12)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Your Best Life Now?

I don’t know why I even go to the “Christian bookstore” anymore. Every time I do, I leave frustrated, hurt, and confused! This week upon my visit, I wandered the aisles (just to see what’s ‘new’) and found a new release from a famous Christian pastor. His previous book was titled “Your Best Life Now” and his new book has the subtitle “How to be happier 7 days a week”.

It made me wonder . . . when did Christianity become “self help”?

Since when is the gospel’s greatest goal “your happiness”?


I read throughout all of scripture and find that the men and women who were devoted to pursuing the LORD experienced a lot of pain and suffering here on earth. Their delight and joy came from knowing that someday, they will see the LORD face to face and be with Him for all eternity.

At what point did Christianity forget that? The goal of the gospel is not happiness. The goal of the gospel is not presents, it's presence.

“The aim of the gospel is not an easy life. It is deeper knowledge of God and deeper trust in God . . . Its goal is my being so in love with Christ and so passionate about his glory that when my suffering can highlight his worth I will bear it ‘gladly’ . . . The goal is not our ease or wealth or safety in this age, but our dependence on Christ and delight in his glory.” (John Piper, God is the Gospel)

So do we come to God to get His gifts? Happiness? Our needs met? OR
Do we come to God to get God? To find delight in Him?

The goal of the gospel is to reconcile us with our Maker, our Heavenly Father, so that we can experience the fullness of JOY for all of eternity! The goal of the gospel is not meant to drive us to delight in anything but God, not temporary happiness, not gifts, but the Giver. The goal of the gospel is not us, it’s Him.

God (not our best life now) is meant to be our exceeding joy. His presence (not temporary happiness here on earth) is meant to be all satisfying.



“Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God,
 to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
 O God, my God.” (Psalm 43:3-4)

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Scars

A few months back I went to a meeting for Samaritan Women. It’s a ministry for previously incarcerated women and women recovering from addiction. In this meeting, I met a lady that was previously a Samaritan woman and was now mentoring ladies in the program. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her as she shared her journey and how this ministry affected her. I’d like to say I was captivated by her speech, but I wasn’t.

I couldn’t stop staring at the scars all over her body.
She had slashes all over her arms, dents in her skin, all over.

She soon shared how she grew up abused, both physically and sexually. The man who raised her would violate her and keep her in a chicken coupe. She shared her journey from abuse, to success, to incarceration, to Samaritan women, and then to walking with the LORD. As she was sharing why this ministry is so important and why mentoring is so important, she said something that was so profound. She changed my perspective with just one sentence.

“We all have scars. I just happen to wear mine on the outside”.

All of us have scars, some of us wear them on the outside, most of us wear ours on the inside.

Scars that go unseen, unnoticed.

I’m reminded of a sermon that a former pastor of ours gave on suffering. He was sharing how Christ’s blood is like the healing balm for our wounds. However, once wounds heal, there are still scars. There is a reason they don’t completely disappear.

Our scars remind us of our pain and point us to our Healer.

Our scars are a way to share about our Redeemer and our Savior.
Our scars allow us to boast in Christ alone.

We want to cover up our scars, hide them so no one can see, pretend like nothing is there. The LORD wants us to wear them, as a reminder, as an opportunity to point people to Him and His restoring love. Our scars, our imperfections, our flaws, our hurt, our pain, are all used to bring us into a deeper relationship with the LORD and bring glory to His name.

So when I sit and listen to this woman who has scars all over her body tell of her horrific journey through life, I can’t help but wonder “How did you make it through? How did you survive?”
She says . . . In CHRIST alone.

Or when I sit before my friend who now has half a head of hair and a huge scar across her head and I wonder “How are you sitting up? How are you smiling?”
She says . . . In Christ alone.

Or when I think about my friend who misses her baby boy every single day. Who walks through life in grief and sorrow and I wonder “How are you still standing? How can you walk on? ”
She says . . . In CHRIST alone.

So whether your scars are on the outside or on the inside, let them be a reminder . . .

There is ONE who heals.
There is ONE who restores.
There is ONE who redeems.
There is ONE who makes all things new.

CHRIST alone.


The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:3)

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Joshua's Strength

There were so many lessons in the book of Joshua-it was hard to read in just one week! I felt like I was trying to drink water from a fire hydrant (or however that saying goes). I have to remind myself that I’m reading differently to see differently. But oh how I wanted to stop and savor every lesson in the book of Joshua!

Here are just a few of my favorite Joshua moments:

Chapter 5: Joshua sees someone he doesn’t recognize. Quickly rises up to confront him, to defend his nation. Soon he recognizes this is no man, it’s an angel of the LORD (preincarnate Christ). He is quick to his knees in humility, quick to worship, and quick to obey.

Chapter 7: He confronts disobedience and the sin of Achan, which led to defeat and death of many Israelites. He responds with quick judgment (stoning him and then burning him, yikes!) so that the name of the LORD is not profaned.

Chapter 10: Joshua cries out to God for help in battle and God answers in a miraculous way-causing the sun to stand still until the nation of Israel took vengeance on their enemies (v.13).

Chapter 18: He confronts and challenges the tribe of Benjamin, calling them into action to go and take what the LORD has promised them! What have you guys been waiting for??? Go get your land!

Chapter 24: Just before his death, he calls them out one last time. Now that the people of Israel know and have experienced God’s faithfulness to His promises . . . a question, a final challenge: So who will you serve? "As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (24:15)

Joshua is a man of action, intention, and great fear and love for the LORD. Joshua was quick to obey, quick to lead, quick to defend, quick to confront, quick to worship, and quick to point others to God’s faithfulness. But, if I am not careful, I’m quick to exalt Joshua rather than the LORD.

Remember chapter 1? The LORD kept telling him, be strong and courageous, do not be afraid.

"Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (1:6-9)

Kind of makes me wonder . . . perhaps maybe Joshua in his flesh was scared, afraid, weak. Makes me think that it was his obedience and faithfulness that made him strong, a man of action, fearless. It was confidence in the LORD, strength from HIS might that made him the man of battle.

So not only do I learn to be a courageous leader, a defender, protector, worshiper from Joshua . . . I learned that in my weakness, the LORD is made strong. When I obey, when I listen, when I am faithful to the One who is named “Faithful and True” (Revelation 19), I will prosper, I will have favor, I will have success.

Not in Joshua’s own strength, not in my own strength, but in YHWH’s.

"For the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught." (Proverbs 3:26)

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." (Ephesians 6:10)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Look Away or Enter In?

I have about a 30 minute drive to and from work each day. For 15 of those minutes, I drive up and down Maple or Chestnut between Mckinley and Church. Where is Church street you ask? Exactly. Far. Southeast Fresno.

Some of the things I see each day are heartbreaking.

-The child walking to school by himself (on Chestnut/Church).
-The people pushing their shopping carts (with what I assume is all of their earthly possessions).
-The man walking by, exhaling a thick cloud of smoke (the kind that isn’t from cigarettes).
-They stray dogs.
-The dead dogs.
-The children running across the street in between cars.
-The high school aged kids, not in class, “cuddling” each other in front of the apartment building.
-The grown-ups yelling and screaming at each other in the parking lot of the liquor store.
-The woman waiting at the bus stop with her 4 young children.
-The man puking in the gutter.

I drive home aching for the LORD to return and “clean up” this dirty city. I long for Him to come, to rescue, to make right, to free those in bondage, to heal those that are sick, to bless the poor with all the riches in Christ! And as I’m praying for this I realize . . .

Sometimes I look away from things with disgust that I should be seeing with eyes of compassion.

-Isn’t the man pushing his shopping cart the man Jesus would’ve talked to?
-Isn’t the man who was sick in the gutter, the man Jesus would’ve healed?
-Isn’t the woman at the bus stop the woman Jesus would comfort?
-Aren’t the children running in and out of traffic the children Jesus would’ve welcomed in?
-Aren’t these the exact crowds that Jesus would’ve looked on and had compassion, “for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd?”


Jesus didn’t look away in disgust. He looked on with compassion. Jesus entered in.

The sights that I see every day aren’t an accident. I don’t think the LORD intends for me just to look (or really, just to look away). He has shown me block after block that there are people all over this city that need to hear the HOPE of Christ and feel His love.

So why do I look away when I should enter in?

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Matthew 9:35-38)

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' (Matthew 25:35-40)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lessons in Numbers

I hate how much of myself I see in Numbers 14. The Israelites have seen the LORD do amazing things, provided in ways unimaginable, protected in ways unexpectedly. And by the time they get to the wilderness . . . faith subsides and flesh rises up.

Shortly after the miracles . . . comes whining . . . and complaining. Whining and complaining lead to rebellion, rebellion leads to opposition. Opposition of God’s plan, His way, His design . . . leading to God’s judgment.

So Moses and Aaron, a prophet and a priest, intercede for the people, pleading with God not to bestow judgment.

God relents.
Do His people respond with thanksgiving?
Of course not.
They respond with grumbling & complaining, continuing in rebellion.
They escape punishment, only to continue in disobedience.


So much so that God does not allow them to dwell in the Promised Land, the land that flows with milk and honey. Even after punishment for their rebellion, they continue to walk in it.

They continue to trust their own thinking, their own way, their own decisions to be right. God has warned them not to go into the land and fight, to stay in His provision, under His command, and they go anyway. They run from the place that God has intended for them to stay, right into the land of the enemy. Their disobedience leads to defeat. Their own thinking leads them to their own death.

Lessons I learned in Numbers . . .
I grumble. I complain. I rebel. God relents. God disciplines. And I still insist on my own way . . . and that never ends up pretty. Why don’t I trust that the LORD has so much more for my life than I can ever think or imagine?

Lessons I need still need to learn from Numbers . . .

Do not grumble against the LORD. We have no idea that the wilderness He is keeping us IN is keeping us FROM all sorts of danger. (Numbers 14:1-12)

God hears prayer. When His prophets and priests intercede according to His word, He hears. He relents. (Numbers 14:13-19)

God may relent from immediate punishment, but He is just. Sin does not go unpunished. (Numbers 14:20-38)

Do not fight battles the LORD does not intend for you to fight. Disobedience leads to defeat. (Numbers 14:39-45)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Greatest Gift

I am only a few pages into John Piper’s book God is the Gospel and already my mind is twisting and turning. A few years ago, I read His book Desiring God and he mentions that the best part of Heaven is that we get God. He says if you can picture Heaven full of blessings, streets of gold, reuniting with loved ones, etc. without Jesus, then you’ve missed the point. The whole point of Heaven is not where we get to spend eternity, or what we’ll receive, but WHO we spend it with.

The greatest gift of Heaven is the Giver.

We get God. Face to face. Every day. We will worship the One who created us, redeemed us, saved us, rescued us, loves us.

“The gospel of Christ proclaims the news that he has purchased by his death ten-thousand blessings for his bride. But none of these gifts will lead to final joy if they have not first led to God. And not one gospel blessing will be enjoyed by anyone for whom the gospel’s greatest gift was not the Lord himself.” ("God is the Gospel", John Piper)

My engagement to Santino was one of the greatest times of my life. Planning the wedding, picking the place for our ceremony, going to showers, getting gifts, planning the honeymoon, oh so much joy!


But, the best part of all of this was not just that I got new pots & pans, or the idea that I’ll get to see everyone I love and care about at the ceremony, or even the location of the honeymoon . . . Those were indeed great, but not the highlight of it all.

The best part was that I get to spend the rest of my life with my husband. Every day, being with him, talking with him, laughing with him, growing in my love for him. It was HIM that was the greatest part of the wedding. To know that I chose to spend the rest of my life on earth with the man who CHOSE me!!


So it is with God and eternity. He provides us with much here on earth and in Heaven. Blessing upon blessing. Gift after gift. Grace upon grace. But the greatest gift of all His gifts, the most gracious part of His grace, is Him. The Giver.

When planning our wedding, what I delighted in most was WHO I got to marry. The rest was additional blessing, but not the best part. So it is with the Gospel. The best part of God’s love is that we get to be in His presence, forever. We are reunited with our Heavenly Father, His grace is lavished upon us, and we get to spend eternity with the One who died so that we might live.

The greatest gift is to get to be with the Giver of every good and perfect gift. The One who bestows grace. The Father. The Son. The Spirit. The LORD our God.


“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights . . .” (James 1:17)

“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” (John 1:16)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What’s Hiding in My Heart

{God’s Word Trumps Inadequacy}

Last week I was battling inadequacy. Unfortunately, this is something that comes up often in my life. It would come up as a teacher, trying to tell parents things to do to help their child learn (and behave). I would get the question “Do you have kids?” I’d respond “no, just these 25 I adopt into my heart each year”. Then I’d usually get, “oh well you’ll understand when you have kids.” (Implying, honey you have no idea what you’re talking about.)

Inadequate.

I’ve always felt inadequate in ministry. I am nervous before every life group, I feel inadequate to lead, shepherd, teach, guide, facilitate. When I meet with others who are more “seasoned” in life than I am, I feel well . . . inadequate. When I speak truth into someone’s life, inadequate. Trying to offer encouragement, words of wisdom, inadequate.

Last week I was nearly paralyzed by it. Like couldn’t move, felt sick, trapped, ashamed. I kept hearing the whisper in my ear “you’re not a teacher, who are you to tell someone a bible verse, who are you to tell someone what to do, you don’t have children, you don’t know what it’s like, you’re redemption story isn’t even that great, etc.” Satan, the father of lies, was whispering in my ear and not only was I listening to these lies, I was starting to believe them.

Until the Holy Spirit {my Defender} and Jesus {my Advocate} stood in the gap for me. I soon realized these whispers in my ears were lies from the enemy. My Savior would never speak to me this way . . . you’re worthless, you’re inadequate, are you sure you’re even redeemed? Nope. That was NOT from the LORD.

And I became more resolute on refusing to listen to these lies, I started to think “Yes! I am inadequate. I am nobody. But Christ in me makes me somebody and HE is made strong in my weakness!"

By the next morning . . . the LORD so lovingly, so gently, so directly confronted these lies with His truth. Scriptures I had hidden in my heart a couple of years ago . . .

“ . . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)


It is okay to fear and tremble when I am called to do more than I am capable of or feel worthy of doing because:

#1) It is God who works in me to will and work for His pleasure

and

#2) These are the works He prepared for me beforehand, so I’ll walk in them!


It's Him. All Him. His works for me. Him working in me.

And just as Jesus fought Satan’s lies and temptation with the Word, I will fight with the sword of the Spirit too.

And I will continue to hide the Truth in my heart, that I might not sin against Him (or at a minimum, become paralyzed with these feelings again.)

“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:16-17)

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Undeserving

{A True Love Story}



I love this picture. The meaning behind it.
What it portrays in my life.

A sinful woman, caught. Deserves punishment for her sin.

For no other reason, Jesus stands before her.

A God named Love
Defends her.
Rescues her.

Grace.

She is filthy, ashamed, undeserving, unworthy.

Her response:
To follow her Rescuer all the days of her life.
Closely.
Gratefully.

Worshipping in obedience and thanksgiving.

She was unworthy . . . for no other reason than love,
He saves her.

"For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth." (Job 19:25)

"He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me." (Psalm 18:16-19)

Monday, September 26, 2011

For Someday

{From Trying to Waiting}

I’m studying Genesis for Academy and love reading about the women in the bible. As I’m reading through the stories of our matriarchs (Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel), I see a common pattern. They all have trouble bearing children.

As we learned our first week in Academy, a woman’s ability to bear children was a big deal back then. It was identity for the woman and also, for the man. As I spend time reflecting on the lives of these women of our faith, I am confused, comforted, and hopeful.

I’m confused because from the very beginning, God tells Adam & Eve to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28). Seems as though the multiplying part is really dependent upon God, not them. (Then again, God’s covenant is always dependent upon Him, not us. It will be only because HE is.)

I realize that all of them really had no control over bearing children. In one verse it even says “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.” (Genesis 30:22) Not that God forgets, but thinking more like now it’s her time. He heard her cry, He placed that desire in her heart, He ultimately blesses her womb.

We have been trying to get pregnant since the end of last year. We’re not frustrated yet, but just in a place of disappointment. I am so comforted in these stories because no matter how old, how desperate, how crazy it seems . . . God is in control. He opens and closes the womb. It’s His say, His time.

So as people ask us all kinds of questions like if we have kids, do we want kids, why don’t we have kids, can you have kids, etc. my answer has been “We’re trying.”

I think I’ll change my response from “we’re trying” to “we’re waiting.” Like Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel waited . . . I’ll wait. I will wait in faith, in confident expectation, assurance of His character, and hope in Him.

A friend of mine gave me a gift for our first child, a blanket she started knitting when she found out we were trying. She handed it to me with a small card with two very encouraging words written on it . . . "For Someday". So I cling to that. Perhaps not today, not now, but someday.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

“For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him.” (1 Samuel 1:27)


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cluttered

Clutter: to fill or litter with things in a disorderly manner.


Last week I had many things on my to-do list: finish Academy homework, finish my book, work on my paintings, craft, study, pray, rest, sit.

Instead, Sunday came around and I had done none of it! Now for some of you, that’s not a big deal, it happens all the time. I am 100% persister, 91% achiever. I almost never have things on my to-do list that go unfinished. I guess I could say I had a “busy” week but I refuse to use that word.

Being busy is a choice. I don’t like to be busy. I like to be simple. The reality is I wasn’t busy, I just didn’t manage my time well. I had lots to do and instead of doing them, I did other things. I gave myself a little too much “grace” in certain areas. I used my time in a disorderly manner.

I was confessing this to a friend and she thinks it’s because I’m not teaching anymore, I’m just not as structured. I wondered if this is what it’s like to be an energizer? Dreamer?

Whatever it may be, I knew I had just cluttered my week with things that didn’t matter to neglect the things that do.

So to simplify, this week I started with Sabbath-a time of rest and refreshment in the LORD. I started my day with extended prayer, caught up on my reading, and spent some time just being still, quiet, fixing my eyes on the LORD.

Cluttering is easy to do.
Simplicity is easier to live.


The formula for living simply is easy: ABIDE. Keep the main thing, the main thing.

The rest will fall into place (in our day, in our week, in our life) when the LORD is in His proper place.


“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Unnoticed

I took a part time job at the end of July teaching reading intervention to students who are below grade level in grades 1-3. Since I’m not really a full-time “teacher”, I don’t have a classroom. I sit in the corner of a room, by myself, waiting for my students. Some days I don’t even interact with anyone other than my students.

The worker bee in me likes being able to do my job and just leave. But, I am a people person, I like getting to know my coworkers, and chatting with others. I have felt like such an outsider. It’s a weird feeling wondering "do they even notice I’m here?” It has been so strange just coming and going, not knowing if I matter, make a difference, or am even valuable.

It has reminded me of how people may feel going through life. Who am I? What am I doing here? Do I matter? Am I valuable? Does anyone notice me?

OR how people might feel sitting in our big church every Sunday. Who am I? What am I doing here? Do I matter? Am I valuable? Does anyone notice me?

To which the LORD quickly, gently, and lovingly speaks to me . . . speaks to you . . .

You matter.
You are valuable.


Not only are you noticed . . .
You’re known.
You’re chosen.
You are blessed.
You are loved.




“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
(Psalm 139:13-16)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:3-6)

Monday, September 19, 2011

All aTwitter

I decided to check Twitter quickly this morning. It’s amazing how these little tweets can spur me on throughout the day to continue to believe on Him.

I wish these quotes didn’t leave a mark on my heart. But, they did. I wish they weren’t so relatable, so true in my life. But, they are. And so I pray through it. Thanking the LORD that He refines, He warns, He examines, He convicts, He purifies . . . and He can even do all of this through others and their tweets.

God uses the picture of physical food to point to universal spiritual hunger. Life is all about what we look to to fill us.
-Paul Tripp

Let me be filled by You . . .



God questions us, "Why spend money on what's not bread and labor on what doesn't satisfy." Sadly, many of us do that day after day.-Paul Tripp
Father . . . that You alone would satisfy.



Backsliding generally first begins with neglect of private prayer. -Mark Driscoll quoting JC Ryle.
Slipping away is subtle. LORD lead me not into temptation . . .



There is no way you will be able to grow spiritually apart from a deep involvement in a community of other believers.-Tim Keller
We need eachother. Let me be authentic, honest, and teachable with my sisters-in-Christ so that I may be encouraged to grow in You.



We never imagine that getting our heart's deepest desires might be the worst thing that can ever happen to us. –Tim Keller
Thank you for not giving me my idols. Oh LORD that you would change my desires to be your desires, holy, righteous, and pure.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Beautiful Feet

“As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" (Romans 10:15)

How often do we gather with others to talk about the gospel? Study the gospel? Learn how to share the gospel? How often do we get our feet dirty, walk outside, and share the gospel?

What good is it to know all about the gospel and never share it? Can we really KNOW the gospel without making Him KNOWN? If we truly know the gospel and have experienced God’s redeeming love, we can’t help but share the good news.

As we passionately pursue God, we should passionately pursue opportunities to share the good news. Sharing the simple truth: He died that we might live. Sharing our story of how we were grafted in. Inviting others to share in our Kingdom inheritance.

Our feet are beautiful when we go. Go and share. Go and make disciples. In your front yard. In the lunch room. At the dinner table.

Walk across. Enter in. Name Him where He hasn’t been named. Get your feet dirty. Beautiful.


"Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." (Matthew 9:37-38)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Filth

“There are those who are clean in their own eyes, 
but are not washed of their filth.” (Proverbs 30:12)

There are those who are clean in their own eyes . . .
“I’m a good person.”
“I go to church.”
“I give.”
“I pray.”
“I read.”
“I do community service.”
“I haven’t done _____.”
“I’m not as bad as ______.”
“I believe what I believe.”
“I.”

“I.”

“I.”

“I.”

but are not washed of their filth.

Our pride makes us feel clean. The way we view ourselves makes us feel holy. We forget, it’s not our standard of cleanliness we compare to. We compare to His Holiness.

Nothing we do makes us clean. In fact, it makes us filthier. The “doing” makes us dirty.

We can’t be clean until we recognize our filth.

There is only One that can cleanse. One healing balm, one cleansing flow. The blood of the Lamb.

I am filthy . . . thankful to be clean.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:8-10)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:9-10)