Friday, December 28, 2012

When I Don't Understand God

{Scriptures to Meditate on When God Doesn't Make Sense}

Just when I feel like I've got everything under control, life is good, and it's all making sense, God comes along and reminds me . . .

I'm not in control
Life is unpredictable
God will never make sense

If I can figure out God, and keep Him in a box wrapped in a bow, than He is not God. He is not beyond me.

And there is something both terrifying and peaceful about that.

He is greater than my thoughts or understanding.
He is beyond circumstances.
He is still good, even when life doesn't feel good.

And it's a glorious confusion.
I am limited. He is limitless.

I cling to these verses as a reminder . . . that even when God does not make sense, He is still in control.

There is more to life than what is seen . . .
"16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

It is when I'm emptied of myself and broken, that He is near . . .
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3)

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18)

He is beyond my understanding . . .
"8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Our hard is for HIS good . . .
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Trusting Him during confusion and pain . . .

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bag Sale #2 at Aynesworth Elementary

Last June, a bunch of us put together a bag sale at my school, Aynesworth Elementary, in southeast Fresno. It all started because I was working in a classroom and noticed one of the students wearing soccer cleats at school. When I asked why he had those on, he said "because it is my only pair of shoes".

Another of my students came to school hungry. I asked why he didn't come to school early for the free breakfast and he said because his "dad was drunk on too much beer and was sleeping on the couch in the morning" so he had to walk and didn't make it in time for breakfast.

Yep. You're probably feeling the same way we were feeling. Devastated, angry, confused, heart-broken, and eager to help feed and clothe children right here in our city!

We read some good books that had stirred us and help us understand the best way to serve those in need, and learned hand-outs weren't the answer. So we decided to host a bag sale where we'd collect tons of clothes, food, and hygeine products and discount them so parents could come and shop and fill up a grocerty bag of whatever they wanted for just $5!

Here's the story from last June: Bag Sale #1

We're hosting another bag sale Saturday 12/15 from 9-11am and we need your help!

We are in need of the following:

Food: perishable/non-perishable

Hygeine Products: soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, diapers, pads, lotion, dish soap, laundry soap, etc

Clothing: ALL sizes, especially elementary age (5-12yrs). Coats, sweaters, pants, underwear (new only), socks, shoes
Misc: blankets, towels

Christmas gifts: new toys, clothes, shoes, household items, etc. (These will be sold seperately at a discounted price and we'll also include free gift wrapping).

If you can help in any way, please let me know. We have this week left to gather items for hopefully 100 families!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Beyond Christmas

{Being a Christian is so much more than celebrating Christmas}

Our friends recently decided to host a foreign exchange student from Vietnam. She has lived in the country for 3 months. We just met her a few days ago for the first time, at our annual couples Christmas party (where we play fun/hysterical games and have a white elephant gift exchange).

While we were laughing and doing ridiculous things, of course my deep/reflective side looked over at her and wondered what she was thinking about all of this? She was laughing and even participating in a few games, but I wondered what she was thinking? Are Americans crazy? What is this “Christmas” they celebrate? Why are they giving each other Sponge Bob coffee mugs and weird framed pictures?

Which made me wonder . . . does she even know the true meaning of Christmas? Does she know we really gather to celebrate Jesus, not just have a fun evening with our friends (thought that’s a bonus). Of course this was not the intention of the night, but it did make me wonder . . .

If people look into my life, do they know the true meaning of why we celebrate Christmas?
Do they understand why Jesus was a gift to the world?
Do they see me imitating His incarnational living?
Do they feel loved by me?
Do I shine my light brightly?
Does my life proclaim Christ, even if I don’t say a word?

How much of our Christmas is really about CHRIST?
How much of our life is really about Christ?
We all say Jesus is the reason for the season, but how so?
Would people know you as a Christ follower all year round or just because you insist on “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”?

It reminded me of my friend asking the question someone asked her:
“If the government came to your house to arrest you for being a Christian, would they know you were one by looking at where you spent your time, your talent, and your treasures?”

If they looked at your weekly schedule, would they see a Christ follower?
If they looked at your bank account, would they see a Christ follower?
If they recorded your conversations, would they hear a Christ follower?

I know. Gulp.

I honestly think that if this foreign exchange student doesn’t understand the true meaning of Christmas or know the gospel, she will by the time she leaves this country. Maybe not because of the games we played that night, but because the people hosting her proclaim Christ in their home, in their marriage, in their finances, in their lives . . .

They know Jesus is not the reason JUST for this season, but the reason for every season. I want my life to proclaim that. I want people to be able to look into any part of my life and see a Christ follower. I want people to see Christ in me by the way I speak to my husband, by the way I handle my finances, by the was I treat the poor and oppressed, by the way I serve the lost AND the found.

I want Him to be known.

I want to give honor to the King with much more than lip service. I want to celebrate the incarnation of Christ every season, not just in December. I want to do it in a way that is generous, courageous, obvious, and loving.

I want to be known as Christian not just because I “celebrate Christmas” and speak of Christ one day a year, but because I follow Christ and proclaim Him with my life 365 days a year.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Temple Mount {Jerusalem}

The most significant, sobering, and profound place we went during our visit to Israel was The Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It is the center of all things religious, the center of all things between Jews and Muslims, the center of all things past, present, and future for us as Christians as well.

While we were there, our group was standing in front of the Western Wall taking pictures, smiling, talking, carrying on. And I just couldn’t.

I stood in the back almost paralyzed considering this place. It was just too heavy for me, too dark, too upsetting. It was the place I longed to see the most during our 10 day tour, and the place that left me most devastated.

What is it about this place?
The reason this land is so significant for both Jews and Muslims goes all the way back to Abraham. Abraham had 2 sons. One born between Abraham and Hagar (an offspring of the flesh/not trusting in God) named Ishmael. The other born between Abraham and Sarah (his wife, whom the LORD chose and blessed) named Isaac. Muslims believe that Ishmael is the true chosen son of God . . . the first born. Jews believe that Isaac is the true chosen son of God . . . Can you see why there is animosity? War? Division?

The Temple Mount
The Temple Mount is built on top of Mount Moriah, the place where Abraham took Isaac (Isaac, his son, his only son whom he loved, to be sacrificed). The peak of the mountain was a Holy Place. It is the place where Solomon built the first temple, so that the people of Israel would have a place to worship and offer sacrifices. It was destroyed in 586 B.C. by King Nebuchadnezzar. It was reconstructed by King Herod, adding walls/roads to make it more of a flat place rather than mountain top, and was destroyed again by Romans in 70 A.D. After Romans destroyed the temple a 2nd time, Jews were expelled all over the world and Romans changed the land from Judea to Palestina to remind them of their enemies the Philistines. The fighting over the land in Israel still goes on to this day.

The Dome of the Rock
This is the location where Christians believe the temple will be rebuilt again. The temple must be rebuilt before Christ’s second coming. Even though Muslims (Sons of Ishmael) don’t believe in Christ as Messiah, they have sealed up the gate to which the Messiah is prophesied to return with stone and defiled it by making a cemetery out front. They have also built this giant Mosque on top of the Temple Mount to show the “new power of the new religion” (Islam).

This was the darkest, heaviest place for me the whole trip. Our tour guide could not speak about anything other than Islam. We were not allowed to bring bibles here, men were arrested for praying with their Jewish prayer shawls, children were marching around chanting to Allah. Dark. Heavy. Unreal. True oppression here.

Western Wall
On the other side of the Dome of the Rock is the Western Wall. I had heard of this place. A place where devout Jews come to pray. They touch the wall because it the closest place Jews have to the Holy of Holies (where they still believe God’s presence resides).

It was here that I just couldn’t take it anymore. Here we are, idiot American Christians laughing, being loud, taking pictures with smiles in front of the Western Wall and I felt like I was standing in the center of a religious war zone.

There was nothing joyful or happy about being here. On one side, I saw children being trained to worship a false God. On another side I saw devout Jews praying for mercy on the nation of Israel, when Mercy has already come and they rejected Him.

I have stared at this picture often. In the middle of this picture there are 2 young women from the Israeli army.

They are bold, courageous, and devout defending their country with both guns and prayer. Would you be willing to defend God like this? I sat back and realized we know the ONE TRUE LIVING GOD and don’t even worship like this! We barely get in bible reading and prayer, and even then it’s only out of guilt. We slap God on to our lives by going to a Sunday service or saying a quick prayer before a meal. And here there are people devoted to false gods and false religions . . . the point of living and walking in fear and even death for some. We know the One True God and don't even realize the gift we have been given.

I just couldn’t bring myself to smile here. It was too heavy. It’s the weirdest thing, but it’s like I left part of my heart here. I ache for both Jews and Muslims to come to know the True God, the God Most High, to see Christ as the fulfillment of all prophecy. This place broke my heart, opened my eyes, and yet I long to go back.

We have been given too much with ease in our country. We have 10 bibles in our home, and never pick them up to read. We don't have to fight for anything, others do it for us. As women, we have freedom to choose whatever profession, political party, religion we want to follow . . . the young girls growing up under Palestinian control have no choice.

It was here that I learned we are a part of a much bigger story. We are grafted into the nation of Israel and get to share in their inheritance. We have forgotten that God is not a part of our lives. He is our life. This is HIS story. We get to be a part of it. We ought to worship, study, pray, love, and live in gratitude because of it.

Friday, November 16, 2012


{Lessons from Psalms and Paul}

I have had some wonderful conversations about prayer recently.

What does prayer look like?
How do you make time for prayer?
How do you balance prayer for yourself vs. prayer for others?
How do you pray?

To which my glamorous answer is “I could write a book on prayer! It’d be 3 words: JUST.DO.IT.”

It’s that simple, carve out time to pray and just do it.

If it’s that simple, then why is it SO HARD??
Really why is my prayer place the hardest place to find?
If God has given me enough time in the day to spend with Him, why can’t I ever find time to pray??

I constantly feel like my prayer time is lacking, not enough, I didn’t ask the right thing, etc. I probably confess prayerlessness more often than any other sin.

And that’s when I remember the simplicity of prayer . . . it’s simply talking to God. It’s a gift from the Father to communicate with Him, lay our burdens down, petition Him, thank Him, delight in Him, and grow in Him.

When I read through the Psalms, I see David’s prayers. They didn’t always start out with “adoration, then confession, then thanksgiving, etc”. They were honest, heartfelt, and genuine. Sometimes begging the LORD for His presence, sometimes pleading for deliverance from His enemies, and sometimes praise for who God is!
So I learned from David and the psalmists that prayer can be honest, authentic, real, full of fear or full of hope, full of petitions and full of praise.

I have often wondered why my prayer life feels like I was asking Santa for my Christmas wish list rather than asking the Most High God for His will to be done in my life. Then I remember Paul’s chapter 1 prayers in most of his letters.

He would pray for things like this:
“9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)

“9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” (Colossians 1:9-12)

Paul prayed for people to be filled with knowledge and wisdom, to bear the fruit of righteousness, strength, thanksgiving, etc.

I wonder what would happen if our prayers started to sound like this? What if instead of asking for things to be added/removed in our life, we started praying like Paul did . . . asking for knowledge, for our love to grow, wisdom, discernment, to bear good fruit? What if we were more intentional about our time with the LORD and honest in our prayers like the psalmists?

Prayer can be so much more than asking God for stuff. It can be a place we go to God to give praise, thanksgiving, confess, and be strengthened. It’s a place we can lay our burdens down and surrender our fear in exchange for hope.

This week, I’ll work hard to get to my prayer place. I’ll use the Psalms and Paul’s Chapter 1 prayers as my guide. Will you?

Sunday, October 14, 2012


{Lessons from the Life of Solomon}

1 Kings 3: Solomon seeks wisdom and discernment, and it pleases the LORD!
"9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” 10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this." (v.9-10)

1 Kings 8: Solomon builds the temple and praises God!
"22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven, 23 and said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart" (v.22-24)

1 Kings 3-8: Solomon builds high places and compromises.

1 Kings 11: Solomon takes many wives and follows after other gods.
“For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.” (v.4)

"So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done." (v.6)

Solomon, who was the wisest man to ever walk the earth, who pleased the LORD with his prayer request, who built the temple, ends his life . . . following after other gods?

It is painful to see the progression in Solomon’s life from 1 Kings 3 to 1 Kings 11; from Proverbs to Ecclesiastes, from wisdom, to indulgence, to cynicism. What went wrong?

Solomon had high places. Places of compromise.

Compromise is subtle. It creeps in just a tiny bit, and a tiny bit more. Like a boat that gets off just one degree and ends up far away from its destination, so it is with compromise.

It takes just a little compromise, a high place there, self-indulgence here, taking another daughter of the king as your wife, and before you know it . . . you’re writing cynical books and following after other gods.

LORD please keep me from ending up like Solomon. Please show me:
Where do I compromise?
What are my high places?
Where am I following after other gods?
How do I guard my heart from the pollution of self-indulgence?
How can I keep my mind from cynicism?
How do I keep from ending my life like 1 Kings 11:4?

Help me to stay close to you, on Your path, in obedience to Your ways.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Cure for Hurry Sickness

When life feels chaotic, overwhelming, frustrating . . . what do you do? Who do you turn to?

How do you find calm in the midst of the storm?
Or better yet, how do you find calm, stillness, quiet . . . in the midst of busyness, rushing, and noise?

“When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” (Psalm 94:19)

What consoles you?

Isn’t it strange how FULL life can be and yet our souls are EMPTY?

I can’t help but want to scream to the world to “STOP. SLOW DOWN. BE STILL.

And not because I’m an introvert and I think we should all lock ourselves up in silence.

But because I see the pain and the emptiness that comes from filling our schedules with things that don’t matter, to the neglect of things that do.

And because in the last 12 years I’ve worked with hundreds of children. And I see the effects of what this hurry sickness and busyness is doing to the next generation. Children can’t sit still. They need constant entertainment, they lack self-discipline, they think everything revolves around them and I’m pleading for us to say “enough” already!

So what’s the remedy? How do we fix this? How can we go from chaos to peace? From rushing to slowing down?

Throughout scripture you see the importance of Sabbath. You see from Genesis to Revelation God has designed life to have a rhythm. A rhythm of work and rest. A time where we shut down, slow down, sink down. To rest from the LOUD and retreat to the LORD.

In fact in Isaiah 58, God rebukes the nation for looking like they do religious things and yet missing the point of it all. “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; 
if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (v.13-14)

If you read from the beginning of this chapter you see, even his people were busy with “churchy” things and they were neglecting the LORD.

Being busy does not equal being fruitful.
Being busy FOR God does not equate time WITH God.

Did you know that when Jesus teaches about the 10 commandments in the New Testament, this is the only commandment that doesn’t change or get further explanation?

So you see what brings delight? It's not more work, activity, busyness . . . it's rest.

When was the last time you honored Sabbath?
Do you have a day (or even a few hours) this week to slow down and rest?
To share a good meal and spend time family?
To read through some scripture together and remember what this life is all about?

Slowing down is the only cure for hurry sickness. And I’m begging you for your own health and the health of the next generation, would you consider making Sabbath a regular part of your week? Would you consider even just a few hours of slowing down and abiding?

“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

“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)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What Pleases God?

{Psalm 51:16-17}
"For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."

Contrite: Feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming

We think God wants sacrifice from us . . . that He is pleased with our religious activity . . . that our busy hands win His approval.

All our religion does is make us proud, makes us feel higher than we really are. God doesn't want us high and proud, he wants us low and humble.

God does not want religious activity, he wants repentant hearts.

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

Monday, September 17, 2012

Have You Considered My Servant Job?

I honestly think this might be the most bizarre thing in the bible.

6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” 9 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. (Job 1:6-12)

Satan, roaming the earth looking for a man to destroy.
God offers up His most faithful servant.

We think our faithfulness will bring us comfort, safety, and riches.
In God's economy, it brings us . . . suffering.

How do we consider it all joy in our suffering? Because our suffering, though painful as it may be, glorifies God. More than our safety, our comfort, or even our bible knowledge.

Our suffering is momentary. God's love is eternal.

When we can praise God through the pain, He is glorified. When the world sees us hurting, it can lead them to hoping.

Hoping in a God that is bigger than our circumstance, our pain, our understanding.

If there is one thing I've learned through studying Job it's that I don't understand God and His ways.
And I like that.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 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)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Surrender of the Schedule

It’s amazing what can happen when you surrender your day, your week, your time to the LORD.

It’s amazing to see him go through your schedule and your agenda, take things away that busy you, that keep you from Him, and add things that HE wants for your time.

How often do you take your schedule before the LORD and surrender it?
How often do you ask of God “What do you want of me today?
This week?
This month?
This semester?
How often do you slow down enough to hear where and how you can serve Him?

I sometimes wonder if all the “doing” I’m doing is His doing, or my doing?
Is the reason I’m so exhausted because I don’t go to the one who sustains?

Where am I too busy to abide?
Too tired to serve?
Too overwhelmed to grow?

What in my life can I eliminate so He can illuminate?

{Yep that’s right. Straight up wrote a Jesus riddle right there!}

Really though . . . this week I surrendered my schedule to the LORD. He wiped a lot away and added in things I wouldn’t have placed on my calendar.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My Father knows me so well.

Will you go to Him this week and practice the surrender of your schedule?
Let Him guide you and direct this week?
Walk in the works that HE has prepared for you?

“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)

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

“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)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Preaching the Gospel: Work & Reward

As I prepare my heart and mind for entering back into 1 Corinthians at church, I decided to go back and reread the book on my own time . . . just me, my bible, and the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 9.

I can’t stop thinking about Paul’s perspective on preaching the gospel.

“15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. 16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:15-18)

Paul was not being paid for his work in preaching the gospel, though he should’ve been. He had a right to be! But, he wanted his ministry to be one of purity and simple devotion to just one thing . . . proclaiming Christ. Paul ministered freely and willingly from his heart. He did not want to be accused of preaching for any.other.reason. Not money, not fame, not popularity. But solely for the purpose of making Christ known!

That’s all he wanted to be said of him. A man faithful to proclaiming Christ.
Paul preached because he wanted to. He tells us even if he didn’t want to, he would still be entrusted with the stewardship of sharing the gospel.

Have you ever considered your stewardship of the gospel? You have been given the greatest gift on this earth, with freedom to share with everyone. How sacrificially generous are you being toward others by sharing Christ?

When I was teaching full time, I used to think that was my job . . . teaching. To teach kids how to read, learn math, be organized, etc. I realize now . . . No it wasn’t. That was my side job. My real job was to love and share Christ with 25 children 180 days out of the year!

Our real work is to be a good steward of the gospel. The LORD has given us our workplaces, our neighborhoods, and our family rooms to do just that.

Paul viewed preaching the gospel as both his work and his reward. Do you?
Do you work hard at proclaiming Christ?
Or is it something you view as an obligation?

Do you find your reward in getting to tell people about Jesus?
Or do you find your reward in success, home, money, family, or other things?

Isn’t that a beautiful and mysteriously simple purpose for life? To proclaim Christ. To view preaching the gospel as your work and as your reward?

“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)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cleaning the Junk Drawer

Praying this prayer is like cleaning out the junk drawer.

You need to do it.
You’re not sure what you’ll find.
It’s easier to keep it closed and pretend like it’s all okay.
You’ll find things in there you never knew you had.
In the end, you’ll have lots to throw away and you’ll feel better.

{Psalm 139:23-24}

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
 Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
 and lead me in the way everlasting! (ESV)

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
 test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
 and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (NLT)

Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about;
See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life. (The Messge)

How often do you ask God to search your heart?
How often do you ask God to point things out in your thought life that offend him?
How often do you let God reveal things hidden in your junk drawer, only to straighten it out again?
How often do you go to God in repentance and humility asking Him to reveal sin you are unaware of?

How often do ask God to search you? Know you? Test you? Reveal you? Guide you? Forgive you?

Go now . . . the Good Shepherd is waiting.

Friday, August 10, 2012

What is Faith?

I’ve been doing a little word study on faith.

For some reason, the story in Mark 5 just wrecks me. It is the only time Jesus calls someone “daughter”.

“And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (v.34)

Her faith has made her well.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8)

By grace through faith we have been saved!

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

By faith we finish the race.

Faith: Human belief in and reliance upon the divine.
Faith: Dependence upon, confident trust, reliance

Faith is more than belief . . . it’s reliance.
It’s not passive, it’s courageous.

It is faith, this dependence, confident trust, reliance upon the LORD that
Makes us well
Saves us
Gives us peace
Helps us continue on

When I’m facing trials . . . do I have a reliance upon God? Do I have confident trust, dependence upon Him? Will I be able to say “I fought the good fight, I finished the race, I have kept the faith?”

I hope so. By the power of the Holy Spirit oh LORD I hope so!

Oh how I long to hear the words “Daughter . . . your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Christian Life & Suffering: Finish the Race

{When running the race feels more like walking with a limp.}

I run (okay, fine, I walk) the same 3 mile route every time I exercise. I have a bad hip, and I can tell you exactly when my hip will start bothering me. But I press on because I can also tell how far I have to go before the journey is over. Then I’m home, I can put my feet up, take some Aleve, and feel good again.

If only suffering and the Christian life were the same. If only we knew the exact distance we had to go before the journey of suffering were over. But we don’t.

If the Christian life is running the race, let’s face it . . . somedays it’s just.plain.hard. Your hip hurts, it’s too hot outside, you're dehydrated, you’re lonely, etc.

The friend who prayerfully waits for a spouse has no idea how long she’ll have to wait.
The wife who longs for baby has no idea how much longer until God to opens her womb.
The man who seeks relief from a stressful job has no idea how long he’ll have endure.
The widow who is still alone after 10 years has no idea how much longer until the loneliness lifts.
The friends who lost their baby have no idea how much time will pass between heaven and earth to hold him again.

But that’s the thing . . . we can’t just give up. We can’t stop, we can’t stand still and just “wait”. Scripture tells us to run. Keep moving . . . keep pursuing. . . press on toward the goal.

When my body aches I can’t just sit on the corner of the street and call it day. I have to push through the pain to get back home. Even if it means limping the rest of the way home.

And that’s just it. Sometimes the Christian life is learning to walk with a limp. It may not be easy, you may not be the fastest, but you’re continuing on. We don’t know how long until we’re home, we don’t know if the weather will heat up or cool down, we just have to keep going.

We may not be the first to cross the finish line, or be in the best shape, but that’s okay. Keep going. Keep running. Keep walking. Keep limping.

Because let’s face it. Which story is more inspiring? Usain Bolt that fastest man in the world who wins the gold because of his own strength and training?

Or Oscar Pistorius, the man with prostethetic legs who trains and runs the race anyway?

He probably won’t win, he may even finish last, but His perseverance is inspiring.

I don’t care what “place” I come in, I just want to finish the race. I may be limping now, but I’ll press on.

*PS For those of you who are sprinters . . . those of you who are strong, who are healthy,who’ve got it going on, if you don’t mind slowing down to run along side us who are limping, that would be great. We could use the encouragement, the friendship, and the extra hand.

“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, 2 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)

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Why "Try Harder" Won't Work

{My Journey Through the Sermon on the Mount}

I always wonder how Jesus taught the sermon on the mount? Did he just go up to the mountain and start blurting all of this stuff out? Were his disciples asking him topical questions and these were his responses? Did he know that the pharisees were listening, defending their prideful religious behavior by saying "Well it's not like I've committed murder or adultery Jesus. Why are you making me out to be so bad?"

Can't you just imagine that conversation among the disciples and pharisees and this is Jesus' response? This is how I imagine the conversation going down:

Pharisees: Jesus, you're always saying we've broken the commandments, when we haven't. You're always warning us that we're hypocrites, that we only appear to be righteous. How can you accuse us of such a thing when we are working so hard at keeping the Law?

Jesus: 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

You guys think you're so "good" at keeping the law? Well how about your heart? Have you ever had an impure thought? Have you ever looked at a woman with lustful intent? If so, it's your thought life, the deep recesses of your heart that declare your guilt before the LORD, not just your actions.

Pharisees: Okay, you got us there. Well, I guess we'll just try harder in our own strength not to even let our minds wander. We'll do everything within our own power to stop sinning.

Jesus: Really? You'll do anything. You think that you can just beat sin in your own strength? Okay . . . 29 "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell."

Do you see Jesus' point here? We can't defeat sin in our own strength. We'd have to mutilate our entire body! We can't be "good enough" on the outside, because even our hearts are deeply sinful.

This issue of sin, religion, try hard, etc is a battle that we can't fight on our own. The act of sinning starts long before the hands, it starts in the heart. We can (and should) take drastic measures against sin. We should be willing to do whatever it takes, to keep our hearts from wandering. But, that still won't be enough. We have to allow Jesus to work in us and through us. We have to rest in His promise of Matthew 11:30 that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.

That's the beauty of the Cross. We no longer have to fight sin on our own, because the battle has already been won! We can't keep trying harder, because we will never be able to try hard enough. We must accept the grace God has given us through Jesus and the Holy Spirit to pay the penalty of sin and free us from its power.

We don't have to work at being good, because He is good. We don't have to put sin to death, because He was put to death. We don't have to do enough, because He is enough.

We just have to believe, trust, rest, and be thankful.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Anger: Why We Can't Worship With It

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny." (Matthew 5:21-26)

Oh Jesus, why are you always making things so hard?! It's so much easier to separate my real life with my church life and pretend like the two have nothing to do with one another.

Are you really trying to tell me that it dishonors you when I'm at church trying "worship" and I have anger in my heart and unresolved issues with my brother or sister? Are you serious? Being angry, speaking insults, and calling someone a fool is the same as murder in your eyes??

Are you saying not having the last 10% of the conversation with friends in the church is a sin against you?

Are you really saying that if I can't be reconciled to my brother, it will be difficult to be reconciled to our Father?

I'm starting to think that the peace we have with others is directly related to the peace we have with you. If we don't have right relationship with our own neighbor, how then oh LORD, can we have right relationship with you?

Is there someone, a brother or sister, a neighbor, a friend, a co-worker you need to be reconciled to? Is there someone in your life you need to have a conversation with? Go and be reconciled first . . . then come and offer your gift.

Let's stop pretending, let's stop gossiping, let's stop letting anger fester. It causes division between one another and most importantly division between us and the LORD. Go and have that hard conversation and worship Him all the more!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Book of the Week: Counterfeit Gods

Want to read along with me?

"What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give."

"A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. An idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought."

"If I have that, then I'll feel my life has meaning, then I'll know I have value, then I'll feel significant and secure."

"If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol."

And that's only the introduction!

What in my life is more important to me than God?

What is bringing meaning to my life other than God?
My social calendar?

Where do I seek "identity" from somewhere other than God?
My job?
My relationships?
Where I live?
What I wear?

If you're prepared to let God answer those questions, then join me in reading this book!

Please LORD reveal what in my heart displeases You and what You would like to renew.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mary of Magdala

{A Blog Post I Wrote in Israel}

We visited a “bonus” site today. One that was recently excavated, a town called Migdal or what we would refer to as Magdala. The archeologists are finding that this was no small town as once presumed. It is quite possibly much larger than it seems, with lots of history waiting to be uncovered.

But it wasn’t the site that the LORD used to teach me a lesson today.

It was the person in the bible who came from this town, Mary of Magdala or whom we would call . . . Mary Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene is mentioned in all 4 gospels and is the most consistent person present with Christ. There are no stories shared in the gospels about Mary Magdalene other than the fact that Jesus cast out 7 demons from her. She is so insignificant that her lineage isn’t even given, just the town from which she comes from, Magdala.

She was a nobody. She was a demon possessed women who was healed by Jesus and remained close to him ever since. She was obscure, in the background, with very little of a story.

This nobody would soon become the first witness, the first believer, and the first one to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. She was the one who went to the tomb early in the morning, grieving the loss of her LORD. She was the one who would recognize Jesus and run with all of her joy and excitement to share that “He is risen” with Peter, John, and the rest of the disciples.

Mary Magdalene, this nobody, followed closely to the LORD, served Him, and proclaimed him. That is her story in the bible. She was not a great bible teacher full of knowledge like Paul, or a prophet who would tell of the future like Isaiah, or a mighty queen like Esther. She was simple, plain, in the background. She was a woman of gratitude, of devotion, and of faith.

Mary of Magdala should’ve been an outcast because of her demon possession. Instead Jesus casts out the demons to welcome her in. She should’ve been considered a nobody but because of her devotion to the LORD, she is somebody.

Mary Magdalene’s life was spent doing 3 things . . .

Following Jesus.
Serving Jesus.
Proclaiming Jesus.

She is famous for her gratitude, her devotion, her faith, and her love for the LORD.

Today in Magdala, the lesson is much more than archeology. This God we serve is the kind of God who would choose a nobody, out of a village in Israel, heal her, restore her, and lavish his love and grace upon her. Our God looks beyond our reputation to call us to Himself to make us sons and daughters of the King. He gives us a new reputation, and new heritage, a new life. And our response should be just like Mary Magdalene’s, one of devotion, one of gratitude, and of love. Let our response to God’s gift of salvation be just like hers, that our lives would be defined by:

Following Jesus.
Serving Jesus.
Proclaiming Jesus.
Let us live like Mary of Magdala in devotion to our LORD and our Redeemer . . . Jesus.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Secret Pharisees: Pretending or Performing?

We all know the language. We all talk about how we "can't earn God's love" and he saved us through grace. We say it, we know it, but if we search deep down in our hearts, do we really believe it?

As the book "Gospel Centered-Life" would say: we're all secretly pretending or performing.

We're pretending that we're not really as bad as we seem.
Or we're performing to try and seem better than we really are.

And neither of these are for the LORD . . . they're for others.

Why are Christians in a constant game of compare and contrast?

Because we’re secretly all Pharisees. We've all added on our own "laws" to what makes a good Christian, or a better Christian. We're all a lot like the disciples who argued with each other about "who is the greatest (Luke 9:46)". Secretly, we're all too worried about what others think and not consumed by who God is and what He's done.

"We have all constructed certain rules or laws that we live by, believing that if we keep them, we are more “right” before God. It is then only a small step before we start judging other people based on their performance regarding these rules or laws." (Gospel Centered Life)

You may be thinking . . . no, not me. I don’t have secret laws I live by. I am in Christ, I know I’m saved by grace! But search deep down, and think . . . do you compare yourself to others? Do you feel “proud” when you’ve studied the bible 5 days in a row and your friend hasn’t even opened the Word once this week? Are you a better Christian because you love and serve the poor daily, not just once in awhile? Are you more spiritual because you don't watch that tv show or read those books? Are you more “holy” because you have a consistent prayer time unlike your brother who “prays in his car on his way to work”. What a heathen. (*These are all examples from other people’s lives, not ever stuff I’ve thought in my own.)

But if you're honest and willing to examine your own heart, do you seek "righteousness" somewhere other than the cross?

JOB RIGHTEOUSNESS: I’m a hard worker, so God will reward me.
FAMILY RIGHTEOUSNESS: Because I “do things right” as a parent, I’m more
godly than parents who can’t control their kids.
THEOLOGICAL RIGHTEOUSNESS: I have good theology. God prefers me over those who have bad theology.
INTELLECTUAL RIGHTEOUSNESS: I am better read, more articulate, and more culturally savvy than others, which obviously makes me superior.
SCHEDULE RIGHTEOUSNESS: I am self-disciplined and rigorous in my time management, which makes me more mature than others.
FLEXIBILITY RIGHTEOUSNESS: In a world that’s busy, I’m flexible and relaxed. I always make time for others. Shame on those who don’t!
MERCY RIGHTEOUSNESS: I care about the poor and disadvantaged the way everyone else should.
LEGALISTIC RIGHTEOUSNESS: I don’t drink, smoke, or chew, or date girls who do. Too many Christians just aren’t concerned about holiness these days.
FINANCIAL RIGHTEOUSNESS: I manage money wisely and stay out of debt. I’m not like those materialistic Christians who can’t control their spending.
POLITICAL RIGHTEOUSNESS: If you really love God, you’ll vote for my candidate.
TOLERANCE RIGHTEOUSNESS: I am open-minded and charitable toward those who don’t agree with me. In fact, I’m a lot like Jesus that way!"

(Gospel Centered Life by World Harvest Mission, Lesson 2)

Honestly, until I came across this list in the book, I probably would have said "no" too. I have realized that I too have constructed laws in which I compare myself to others.

And I hate it.

This is a battle. Daily. To be consumed with Christ and His goodness, not me and my own. Or worse, me and my brothers and sisters. This is no way to live. And it's certainly no way to live as Christians who have been bought with a price and freed form this kind of life!

Are you willing to fight against pretending and performing? Comparing and contrasting?

Are you willing to be consumed with Christ and gaze on his goodness rather than consumed with self and comparison to others?

"Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:2-3)

"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What Defines You?

Jacob was a liar.
Moses was a murderer.
Rahab was a prostitute.
David was an adulterer.
Paul was persecutor.
Matthew was greedy.
Mary Magdalene was demon-posessed.
The Woman at the well was promiscuous.

God takes messed up, sinful, broken people . . .
Makes them new . . .
And uses them for His Kingdom.

Know what their reputation reads now?

Same as yours. Same as mine.

In Christ, our past does not define us.
His does.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

He IS our Fulfillment

{My Journey Through the Sermon on the Mount}

v.17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
This section presents the heart of Jesus’ message, for it demonstrates His relationship to the Law of God. Jesus was not presenting a rival system to the Law of Moses and the words of the Prophets, but a true fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets—in contrast with the Pharisees’ traditions. “The Law and the Prophets” refer to the entire Old Testament.

a : to put into effect : EXECUTE
b : to meet the requirements of (a business order)
c : to bring to an end
d : to measure up to : SATISFY

v.18 "For truly, I say to you, . . .
I tell you the truth is literally, “Surely (or Verily, KJV) I say to you.” “Surely” renders the word “Amen” (Gr. amēn, transliterated from the Heb. ’āman, “to be firm, true”). This expression, “I tell you the truth,” points to a solemn declaration that the hearers should note. It occurs 31 times in Matthew alone.

. . . until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished."
Jesus’ fulfillment would extend to the smallest Hebrew letter, the “jot” (lit., yôd), and even to the smallest stroke of a Hebrew letter, the “tittle.” In English a jot would correspond to the dot above the letter “i” (and look like an apostrophe), and a tittle would be seen in the difference between a “P” and an “R”. The small angled line that completes the “R” is like a tittle. These things are important because letters make up words and even a slight change in a letter might change the meaning of a word.

Jesus said He would fulfill the Law by obeying it perfectly and would fulfill the prophets’ predictions of the Messiah and His kingdom. But the responsibility of the people was made clear. The righteousness they were currently seeking—that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law—was insufficient for entrance into the kingdom Jesus was offering. The righteousness He demanded was not merely external; it was a true inner righteousness based on faith in God’s Word.

*Thank you Logos for the information above.

Have you, like me, thought that the Old Testament, was well OLD and that Jesus is NEW?? It’s texts like these that remind me, Jesus was not “new”. He is not Plan B. He is not a different way, a better way . . . He IS the way.

Jesus is fulfillment.
All that was taught in the Old Testament points to Him. He doesn’t abolish, he fulfills. Like the missing pieces to the puzzle, he fits it ALL together to see the big picture.

While in Israel, they encouraged us on the last day to rip out the page in our bible that says “Old Testament”. We were taught to see Christ throughout all of the pages in our bible, not just the “new”.

He IS the fulfillment of our OLD Testament and He IS our hope in the NEW!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Grafted In

This morning I’m thinking of wild olive trees, what it means to be grafted in, and Israel.

This is a picture of us taken on the Mount of Olives. If you look closely behind us, you’ll see an Olive Tree. For me, probably the most symbolic thing I can find to represent my faith.

Once a Wild Olive Tree (Gentile), who has now been grafted in to a Cultivated Olive Tree (Israel), to share in the Nourishing Root (Christ) and be shaped and formed by the Cultivator (Father God).

This chapter is why I named my blog “Wild Olive”. Because of a program we completed called Residency at our church, I began to understand Romans 11. I began to understand the difference between the church and Israel. I began to understand that we are a part of a much bigger story, a much bigger God, with a much bigger plan than we can ever imagine!

God choose to graft us into His kingdom to make His chosen people, Israel, jealous.

Friends the only reason we get to eat the crumbs from the Master’s table is because Israel rejects them.

After walking the land of Israel, I love and understand this chapter even more!

Our only response to salvation should be gratitude! We are not worthy, we did not come to faith in Christ because we born in America, grew up in church, or went to camp and “believed”. We came to faith in Christ because God gave us the gift of grafting us in!

Our faith in Christ, His plan of redemption for us the gentiles, is for so.much.more. It is beyond coming to church and participating in bible study, to hear good music, to feel good about ourselves . . . it’s to work out God’s cosmic plan for His people!

God is not done with Israel. There has come a partial hardening because of their rejection of the Cornerstone, but he is not done with them yet . . . not “until the fullness of the Gentiles comes” (Romans 11:25). He will not rest until all who are going to repent will be saved! Until then we as the “Gentiles” get to receive the greatest blessing of all. We get to be grafted into the Kingdom, invited to dine at the Master’s Table, and live a life of worship in response to this gift of knowing the One True God!

Perhaps reading through Romans 11 will help you see it too! Grateful to be grafted in . . . asking the LORD to help me remember, and not forget (Deut 8), all that He has taught me and now shown me of what it means to be a Wild Olive Tree.

Romans 11:1-10 God & His People Israel
5 “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.”

Romans 11:11-24 Gentiles are Grafted In
17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.

Romans 11:25-32 A Partial Hardening & Mystery of Israel’s Salvation
25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

Romans 11:33-36 Our Response to His Plan: Worship!
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

(*This was talken at Qum'ran, on top of a mountain that looks out into the Judean Wilderness-similar place to where Jesus was tempted. We were to write a "Rock of Rememberance" a prayer, a life verse, etc. This was what I wrote on my rock. A prayer of thanksgiving for being grafted in.)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Living According to the Promise

Yesterday we heard that HE IS the PROMISE at church. Before Genesis 1:1 was ever written, God had you mind. Before Genesis 1:1 was ever written, He had the cross in mind. I know that you can’t truly understand John 3:16 until you understand Genesis 3:15. From Genesis to Revelation, the plan was always Jesus . . . Christ and Christ crucified.

God knew from the beginning that we would choose our own way, our own understanding, our own desires over His path, His law, and His plan.

And nothing has changed since Adam & Eve’s time.

I see the Promise in Garden. But you know what else I see in Genesis 3? I see my life, my struggle, my sin in Genesis 3:16 . . .

“To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. 
Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.

When my husband and I first got married, I thought it was going to be the fairy tale, romantic comedy, lovey dovey type marriage. Unfortunately, my husband had been living over a year in a different city far removed from church, community, and Jesus. Though he led me to the LORD, when we were finally married and living in the same town, he was far from the LORD.

He went to church because I wanted to. When church was over, he had no desire to talk about the message. During the week he’d come home to watch tv and never open his bible, never pray, not even want to talk about the things of God.

So in all of my efforts to lead our family, I decided to start reading my bible in front of him, so he would look to me as an example. I decided to leave sermons in the DVD player, scriptures on 3x5 cards around the house about how important it is to pray or study God’s word. I was going to lead by example and nag him or guilt-trip him to the House of the LORD!!

Friends, you can only imagine how this turned out, right? Not good. He told me “I know what you’re trying to do” and I acted aloof. I knew what I was trying to do too. And until I read Genesis 3:16, I didn’t realize I was walking in sin, according to the curse that came after the Promise, just as much as he was. My husband was being Adam: passive/apathetic and I was being Eve: usurping authority/desiring to rule over him.

The LORD was quick to rebuke me, and I confessed and repented. I stopped trying to lead, trying to nag, and it was one of the hardest years of my life. It was when I learned what it meant to be my husband’s helper, not leader, and when I learned to pray.

The good news is . . . God answers prayer! My husband now leads me, seeks after God, loves His word, serves in the church, and abides in Christ. However, none of this was because of my own effort. I had to realize my Eve-like behavior, repent, and walk in the Spirit.

I can’t even tell you how many women I meet with who share this exact same struggle and pain in their own marriages.
Husbands who won’t lead; husbands who don’t want to go to church; husbands who don’t delight in the LORD. And women who are trying everything to get them to love God.

And every single time I’m taken back to the garden. I’m reminded of the curse put on Eve . . . we will desire (to rule over) our husbands, and he shall rule over us.

Ladies, can I encourage you? Repent and be saved! If we look down deep enough we can all too often relate to Eve. Let us release our desire for control and surrender it to God. Let us stop nagging our husbands and begin praying for them instead. Let us stop trying to drag them out of our home TO church and instead BE the church IN our homes. . . serving our husbands, loving and respecting, and being evangelistic through our actions.

There is so much pain in marriages. Many of you who want to give up, walk out, and quit. We are believing the lie from the garden that Eve believed; our way is better than God’s way. We are walking according to the curse, not the promise. Let’s forsake our hopelessness for hope, trade our nagging for prayer, and our discouragement in our circumstance for delight in God. Let the Promised One empower you with His Holy Spirit to satisfy you and empower you to walk in a manner worth of the calling (Ephesians 4:2) to be his helper and not his enemy.

Let’s live according to the Promise in Genesis 3, not according to the curse.

“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)

Monday, June 18, 2012


We leave tomorrow for Israel!

I can't believe our trip is finally here! We'll be walking the Promised Land for 10 days and I can't wait to update when I get back. I won't be on this blog at all but if you'd like to follow our trip, please click the link below. It will have daily updates, pictures, reflections, etc from our sites.

GTI Tours

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Hope for Fresno

Every morning I read the news via Twitter with headlines about Fresno.

Yes, they usually report crime, poverty, how many drunk driving arrests were made in ___ part of town, failing education system, umemployment rates, the bad air quality, the 108 degree weather!!

The list goes on.

And yet today, I woke up so thankful for living here and so in love with this city more than ever!

I have so much hope for this city and see so many great things going on that don’t make the headlines!

I see this great organization Off The Front giving away hundreds of bikes to students throughout the city. Off The Front was born from a pastor's holy discontent over the poor physical health and poor academics among elementary age children in Fresno. Off the Front's goal is to encourage a healthy lifestyle and "give a bicycle to every 4th grade student in the impoverished areas of Fresno Unified who is able to achieve customized goals in academics, character, and service."

I got to attend my first gathering for No Name Fellowship, which is an interdenominational organization that gathers leaders from all of this city to help alleviate poverty and serve the city.

Every Neighborhood Partnership whose mission is "to equip churches to partner with and serve elementary school neighborhoods through their active presence in the community." Out of this, faithful volunteers who mentor elementary age children, help in classrooms, provide a Saturday Sports program for neighborhood children, etc.

My friend's blog I Heart Fresno who shares lots of GOOD things and GREAT places that are in Fresno! Updates on restaurants, events, shops, etc.

Rescue the Children our of Fresno's Rescue Mission. They exist to help heal and restore broken families and just bought a new facility for women and children! They are providing places for women to experience real life change and hope for the future!

I saw the pastor of the little church next to my school in the office yesterday, just saying hi and asking how she can be a blessing the school next year.

I see teachers on Pinterest throughout the week "pinning" great teaching ideas/strategies to help impact students with more meaningful instruction. Yes, for fun, teachers look through Pinterest for creative teaching ideas. That's love and dedication.

I've seen all kinds of people in small groups finding ways to love and serve our city as part of their lifestyle. Serve Dei

I know people who walk their neighborhoods to pray for their neighbors. I know people who reject safer neighborhoods, bigger homes, etc to move into parts of town that need hope and love.

I see this stuff all of the time and that's why I love living here! Not because the weather is perfect or because crime is nonexistent, but because there are many people doing great things in this city out of love and compassion.

And I think that's something to report on . . .

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Serve Dei 2012: Bag Sale at Aynesworth

Our hope with the Bag Sale was to bless families at Aynesworth, and really it all started because of a little boy who had no other shoes to wear to school besides his soccer cleats (Read here). We wanted to gather items like clothing, hygiene products, and food and discount it all waaaaay down to provide for families in need.

Little did we know that this even would come at just the perfect time. Just 6 days before the sale, our Aynesworth community received some bad news.

The bad news . . .

Shortly after hearing this we didn't know what would happen. The principal thought this was the perfect thing to lift the heaviness and hurt in our community, remind people that our school is a positive light for the neighborhood, and they are loved. So we continued on.

The donations came in . . .

The line formed . . .

The people shopped . . .

The love spread . . .

The whole reason for this sale was to be able to bless families at Aynesworth with physical needs and show the love of Christ. We were able to serve over 100 families. We filled about 180 bags and gave away 115 bibles.

Thank you to every single person who donated items, donated money, donated time, and donated their love and prayer for this bag sale. The families were blessed and God knew just the PERFECT time and just the PERFECT way to show love to His hurting people.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Marriage Threat #3

{Reflections from "A Weekend to Remember" Marriage Retreat by Family Life}

Threat #3: Inevitable Difficulties

Understanding that each marriage will have difficulties can bring so much health when problems arise. I think many of us fantasize that marriage will be without conflict, and so when problems arise, we assume something has gone wrong. When we understand that difficulty/conflict are normal, and in fact healthy, we can begin to seek ways to pursue unity even through difficulty.

There are two failures in our response to difficulties
1. There is a failure to anticipate the certainty of difficulties and problems.
2. There is a failure to respond properly to difficulties and problems.

Difficulties do not mean something is wrong with your marriage.

Your response to difficulties will either drive you apart or bind you together.
-Some respond to problems by trying to suppress or escape the pressure.
-Others respond to problems by blaming or attacking others.

You must have a plan to move through these times without rejecting or withdrawing from your spouse.

We often think that if our spouse doesn't handles problems/difficulties the same way we would, they are in the wrong. The speaker at the retreat continually told us different doesn't mean wrong. It means different.

He held up a mug. He asked the audience "Which side of the mug is the handle on?" We responded "the right side". He said "Well from my perspective it's on the left side". Both were correct, they were just different . . . not wrong.

I think this brings so much freedom when encountering difficulty in marriage. We will see things differently, and that's okay. We have to be willing to work through these problems without feeling like the goal is "same" but unity.

They had us then circle which ways we most often respond to problems:
-blame others

This reflection piece was huge for me! Understanding the unhealthy way I deal with problems can help me to pursue a healthy way of dealing with difficulties. Knowing that we will most certainly have difficulty/disagreeements/problems in marriage also helps us see it as a growing point, rather than thinking something is wrong or broken.

What ways do you respond to problems in your marriage?
Are there steps you can take to pursue healthy problem solving instead?
What can you do to respond in a way that will bring you together, rather than drive you apart?

"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bring Good News to the Poor

{Isaiah 61:1-3}
1 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;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 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.

I woke up at 4am this morning. I am not a morning person, this wasn't planned. I woke up with Aynesworth on my heart. Today is our Bag Sale. We've had this planned for a few weeks and received hundreds of donations. I'm praying every single item will be given away, that we'd arrive with much and return with nothing. I'm praying for 100 families to come through the door, for every single person we make eye contact with to know they are loved and valued by their Maker.

Last week, the community of Aynesworth heard some terrible news. A gang member out on parole, running from the cops, was shot and killed on our school campus by police. The community has been heavy ever since.

And as I prepared for my day in prayer this morning . . . the LORD reminded me of His mission on earth, found in Isaiah 61 and what Jesus read in the synagogue in Luke 4:18-19

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

Last week Aynesworth received bad news. The community has felt unsafe and heavy ever since. It was a terrible tragedy and yet amazing timing. Just when many are feeling poor in spirit, God would have 20-30 of us go and serve, go and give, go and offer something positive, something uplifting, something . . . good.

As I read these words, I realized that nothing on this earth is an accident, not even timing. God knew what would happen last week and what will happen today.

Would you pray with us to proclaim the good news?
Would you pray that the families of Aynesworth would receive the good news?
That they would know they are loved and valued by their Maker?
That they don't have to walk in fear because Jesus has come to set them free from oppression?
That His spirit would captivate the families we will serve?

Would you pray that HIS light would shine through the darkness?

"In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

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

"Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved." (Romans 10:1)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Prayer Is . . .

{Meditation Monday: My Journey Through the Sermon on the Mount}

Prayer. Something I'm passionate about and something I struggle with.

When you mention the word "prayer" feelings of guilt usually arise, because we don't know how, we don't do it enough, we don't understand it, etc. It's an often neglected part of the Christian life, yet essential to spiritual growth, health, and intimacy with the Father.

I'm excited to be thinking on the following verses the rest of this week.

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

I think I could summarize my thoughts on prayer in just 3 words: JUST DO IT. A million things keep us from closing our doors, bending our knees, and talking to God.

So what are some things that keep you from praying?
What are ways that you incorporate prayer into your daily life?
Are there things you enjoy about prayer? Struggle with?

I'll take this week to examine my prayer life and then . . . pray!

Friday, June 8, 2012


I had a discouraging day yesterday. Nothing big, just lots of little things that left my heart feeling heavy.

I woke up today so refreshed and encouraged.

Because the LORD is the God of ALL comfort and He used His people to comfort me.

I didn't realize how many people from my past/present I would see yesterday.

I stopped by my old school to pick up things for our bag sale. I saw so many old friends who said over and over "I miss you". Not just the generic "I miss you" either, the kind that grabs your arm, looks you in the eye and says "I miss you seeing you and having you here."

My love language is words of affirmation, so I was feeling so uplifted.

My boss/mentor/friend pulled me aside to encourage and affirm me. That speaks love to me.

I got home to women in my lifegroup at my house organizing stuff for our sale. I love feeling like my home is open and welcome enough that people could be there even when I'm not.

I had a friend from highschool drop off a gift to say "Happy Anniversary" and wrote me the sweetest card. Again, words speak love to me, and her card and gesture meant the world to me.

I had another friend from life group come by and we chatted for about 30 mins.

Our favorite family, The Rumleys, stopped by with ice cream and stayed to hang out.

Our neighbors came over and we watched the kids play in the fountain in my backyard.


All made me feel loved yesterday.

It just reminded me that when the LORD puts something/someone on your heart, respond. Call them. Bring them ice cream. Stop by with a gift. You don't know how much that will encourage them!

The LORD uses people to comfort His people.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)