Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Story: Part 1

{My experience with life, death, and Jesus}

If I had to use 2 words to describe my childhood they would be: happy & healthy. I grew up with 2 parents that loved each other, respected one another, and made their family priority. I knew that when my parents said something, they meant it. So whether it was love or discipline, it was consistent and that made me feel safe.

I kind of think I was a weird kid. There was probably no other child who organized their playtime as seriously as I did. Every morning, I fed my babies, changed their diapers, and put them down for a nap in my closet before I left for school. At school, I was definitely teacher’s pet. I delighted in things like textbooks, post-its, and overhead projectors. When problems would arise with classmates, my teacher would ask me to mediate and try to make peace or befriend people who were being teased. I begged to teach a lesson to my class in 5th grade, and my teacher let me! When I got home, I played school in my backyard every.single.day (just ask my little sister who had to sit and listen to me teach and/or yell at “Joey” the imaginary naughty kid.) If I wasn’t teaching school, I was organizing neighborhood clubs (making up all the rules and assigning our friends their roles) or choreographing roller-skating routines for all of us to perform for our neighbors at the end of our cul-de-sac.

A big part of our lives as a family was softball. We were traveling to someone’s game nearly every weekend. I had the BEST memories of growing up on the softball field. Playing with the other kids, barbecues after the games, playing in the park, so fun! The only thing with growing up on the softball field is that you’re gone on the weekends. Which means we didn’t spend much time in church.

I did not grow up going to church. The only experience I really had in church was when my aunt took us to Sunday School and all I can remember is people yelling and crying, running up and down the aisles banging on their tambourines, and falling to the ground. Needless to say I was a little confused and afraid about what it meant to be a Christian.

In Jr.High, I met some “Christians”. All I knew of them was that they told my Jewish friend she was going to hell for not believing in Jesus. I couldn’t believe people could be so mean, so judgmental, and so narrow-minded.

I remember people telling me all of the time “Don’t you know Jesus died for you?” To which I’d think “He died a long time ago. He didn’t even know me! What does him dying have to do with me??” I thought it was so weird; people always telling me about Jesus and how he died for my sins. Me, sin? I was “such a good person”, how offensive that someone would tell me I’m a sinner! Ugh . . . ignorant, close-minded, judgmental people.

I remember going to church with my boyfriend and his family in high school, and wanting to have a relationship with “God”. I tried. I had one Christian friend, sort of. We eventually caved into peer pressure and began a life of partying. The desire was there, I just don’t think I really knew what it meant to be a “Christian” and I don’t think I even knew anyone who had a real, authentic relationship with God. From then on, I really didn’t think much more of God.

Until one night in September 2002, when everything changed . . .

Monday, January 30, 2012

Meditation Mondays: Journey Through the Sermon on the Mount

I often choose one book to study deeply for a few months at a time. In the past it’s been Romans, Ephesians, 1 &2 Samuel, and Ruth. I give myself absolutely no timeline. Sometimes I’ll read through the entire book each day, sometimes I’ll read a verse a week. I have no end time either. For someone who is usually caught up in checking the boxes, this brings me great freedom and delight to studying and read the bible this way.

I strive to be in the Word daily, but I get so much more out of studying the bible slower and meditating on it throughout the week. I find the the slower I go, the deeper His word implants into my heart and renews my mind.

So in January I found myself asking a lot of people “What do you go through with people who are new believers? A curriculum? Scripture? A book? I must have asked 20 people, okay or the whole staff at the church, and got lots of responses.

That’s when I realized, why wouldn’t I go through exactly what Jesus took His disciples through, His own words! I decided to spend time studying the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) for the next few months.

So for the next few Mondays, my hope and goal is to write about what I’m learning as I journey through the Sermon on the Mount. I’ll call it Meditation Mondays.

Meditation: continued or extended thought; reflection; contemplation. The Eastern philosophy of meditation is to empty your mind. The biblical philosophy is to fill it . . . with God's word, with truth, to transform and renew your thinking (Romans 12:1-2)

I will post what I’m learning from Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount and what I will be thinking about and reflecting on for that week.

Come back and visit on Mondays and share what you are meditating on for the week! Or better yet, join me on the journey and read along in Matthew 5-7.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2)

“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.” (Joshua 1:8)

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:9-11)

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. (Psalm 119:15-16)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Confessions of a Grumbling Grumbler

{Redeeming My Time & Being Faithful Where He Has Me}

A few weeks ago I mentioned how God used Nehemiah to rebuild the wall in just 52 days. I began a journey of intentionally seeking Him and asking Him to search my heart over these next 52 days.

I sought Him.
He found me.

I have been struggling everyday over the fact that I have to drive out to Aynesworth. For lots of reasons . . .

1) I don’t really want to work in a classroom anymore.
2) It’s far. 30 minutes there, 30 minutes back.
3) I’d rather be in the Word, praying, meeting with people for coffee, or let’s be real honest, sleeping in.

I usually keep the radio off and practice silence. I try to spend time thinking, listening, and praying. Though I intend to do those things in my mind and with my lips, deep down in my heart I’m grumbling.

God, why? Why do I have to make this meaningless 30 minute drive out into Southeast Fresno, to flip ABC cards for 3 hours? Why do you have me here? God this feels so purposeless!

This past Monday while sitting in silence (and stewing in the stench of grumbling and ingratitude) I’m asking these things of the LORD. When I feel a subtle nudge from His spirit, a whisper in my heart...

For my purpose.

I often pray, LORD I want to surrender to Your will for my life, to be in obedience to Your plan. I want to proclaim You from whatever platform you give me, serve you with all that I have, wherever you’d place me.

So He places me here . . . part time at Aynesworth, still in a classroom, and my heart says “Oh but just not there, just not doing that.” I say with my lips I want to serve Him, and with my heart I secretly whisper "your will, but according to my plans. LORD I’ll serve you and proclaim You, within my parameters and preference."

Have you been there? Saying “LORD, your will be done” but really meaning “but do it my way.”

So after coming to grips with this, I repented, I confessed I’ve been trying to get out of what He’s placed me in.

I don’t know if your in a season where you feel called to something else and yet God has you in a place where you can’t leave. It’s like you’re stuck in the meantime, or better yet, between time. Always trying to get over there but for now, God has you here.

I’m reminded of when David was anointed King, and then had to go right back into the fields to shepherd. He was called out, but had to remain in the mundane. It was His calling, it just wasn't His time . . . yet. He knew He was going to be king, but for whatever reasons he had to stay in those fields. My wise pastor said "God had to refine His skills to slay those giants."

So here’s to blooming where you’re planted, being faithful to what He’s called you to do, and redeeming your time. Instead of always trying to get over there, being faithful to right here.

"Next to faith this is the highest art -- to be content with the calling in which God has placed you." - Martin Luther

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Poor in Spirit

{Matthew 5:1-3}
"Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
As I walk through Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount, I see how upside-down His kingdom is. He teaches opposite of what we feel, think, or have been taught to believe. The guy on TV says I’m blessed when I’m healthy, wealthy, and full. Jesus says we’re blessed when we’re poor, mourning, humble, hungry, and thirsty.

Which is it? Why?

Why would Jesus tell us the starting place is a lowly place? A place of poverty? Brokenness? Spiritual bankruptcy? Why would God want us poor?

When we are poor in Spirit, we are brought low. We see God for who He is and we see ourselves for who we are (sinful) and who we are not (righteous).

When we are poor in spirit, we are awakened to see our position before God. A position of lowliness, dust, nothing, poor, spiritually bankrupt, lost, and far off.

Arthur Pink said “To be "poor in spirit" is to realize that I have nothing, am nothing, and can do nothing, and have need of all things. It issues from the painful discovery that all my righteousnesses are as filthy rags. It follows the awakening that my best performances are unacceptable, yea, an abomination to the thrice Holy One. Poverty of spirit evidences itself by its bringing the individual into the dust before God, acknowledging his utter helplessness and deservingness of hell. It is the Spirit emptying the heart of self that Christ may fill it: it is a sense of need and destitution. The one who is poor in spirit is nothing in his own eyes, and feels that his proper place is in the dust before God. {Pink, A.W. (2011-06-28). An Exposition of The Sermon on The Mount (Kindle Locations 241-242). Unknown. Kindle Edition.}

Don’t you see being poor in spirit is a blessing? As long as we think of ourselves more highly that we ought, we are filled with pride and have yet to taste of His grace. When we see ourselves as sinful, we see The Cross more clearly. God is not interested in us trying to clean up our own mess, He is interested in being our cleansing flow.

It is only from this place of emptiness we can be filled by the One who satisifies.

It’s only from this place of brokenness that we can be made whole by the One who heals.

It is only from this lowly place that we can be lifted high.

It’s only from being poor in spirit that we will receive riches in Christ.

Poverty of spirit leads to mourning, humility, hunger, and thirst for God. Poverty leads to gratitude . . . gratitude of His life, His death, His blood, His resurrection, His grace.

It’s this lowly place that leads us to His grace.

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

“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 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 4:6-10)

"Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.
(Isaiah 66:1-2)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

When God Doesn't Remove, Remain

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

Yesterday, I mentioned that I came across this verse in my prayer time recently. I asked the LORD for some Living Water {expectantly} and He provided.

I found hope in this verse, trusting in the character of God, that HE does heal the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. As I continued to pray for people and meditate on this verse, I kept thinking about the verbs in this scripture.

He heals.
He binds up.

I was asking God to take away. Take away the pain, the suffering, the hurt. If He could just remove the pain, then we could continue. We could see clearly, everything would be fine.

But would it?

It feels like we’re always trying to clean up the mess in our lives, but is the point ever really to have everything tidy? Is that the only time when we’re content? The only time we can truly rest, when we have it all together, nice and neat, free from pain or trial? Will it ever be like that on earth?

What if our circumstances never change? Does that mean our hope in God disappears, dries up, wears out?


Is it when we’re in the midst of our mess, we look to God, the one who makes us clean?

I asked Him to take away, He offers to heal.

If all of our prayers are focused on Him removing,
how do we remain?
How do we continue to pursue Christ, if we feel stuck?

How do we love the LORD when our hearts are weary?
How do we delight in the midst of suffering?
How do we hope when we feel so hopeless?
How do we seek Him when we can’t see past the pain?
How do you press on when you can barely stand up?

So maybe I learned about a bit about life and about prayer through this scripture. Maybe it’s not about asking Him to remove, but asking Him to see us through? That we would go to Him not just to take away, but to heal our broken hearts and bind up our wounds.

Friday, January 13, 2012


It has been a hard week for me. Walking through painful stuff with people. Lots of trials, lots of hurt, lots of brokenness.

Because I just don’t know how to pray for people, especially in times like this, I often read through the Psalms before my time of prayer.

Sometimes I look to the Psalms to guide me, anchor me, teach me. This time I came looking for comfort . . . hoping for some Living Water to nourish my dry soul and weary heart.

I came
To the Throne of Grace

And found this:
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

Simple little verse reminding me that God hears, His word is living and active, and renews our hope. I came expecting to hear from the LORD. Expecting like a daughter who needs comfort from her daddy, to be comforted by our Heavenly Father. Expecting to be heard, nourished, and led to still waters.

And He did. With a sweet little verse.
He comforted.
He reminded.
He heals.
He binds up wounds.

Whether you come to God in delight or in despair, do you come expectantly?

“In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. (Psalm 5:3)

*More on this little verse tomorrow . . .

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Super Woman vs. Abiding Woman

Thank you Pinterest for this beautiful reminder . . . I'm not called to do it all, I'm called to abide.

Friday, January 6, 2012

52 Days

Last semester at Academy, on the final night, Rick talked about Ezra and Nehemiah. He brought to light how broken Ezra and Nehemiah were over the condition of Israel in regards to their relationship with the LORD. It led them into a time of confession, repentance, grief, mourning, fasting, prayer, and ultimately, action. Renewing their relationship for the LORD by opening His word, studying it, teaching it, and putting it into practice.

Rick shared how the wall was finished in just 52 days.

52 days. If God can use His people to finish the wall in just 52 days, what could He do in my life, in our church, in 52 days? What if I humbled myself, in mourning-prayer-fasting, for the sake of His kingdom for the next 52 days . . . what could He possible do?

So my question to all of you . . . would you be interested in joining me for a time of prayer over the next 52 days (about 8 weeks)? I'm talking confession, repentance, and "pushing on the gates" type of stuff? Starting out 2012 in a season of prayer . . . personally, for our church, and most of all for His kingdom?

Praying daily on our time, and then gathering once a week to pray with others for our church?

Let's push on the gates together . . .

"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18)

"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." (Nehemiah 1:5-6)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Hurry Up and Slow Down!

I just finished The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows by James Bryan Smith. It addresses many of the false narratives we’ve created or learned about God and replaces those with truth from God's word.

In the last chapter, he addresses how we as Americans live so much of our life in a hurry.

We live under the “tyranny of the urgent.” This gives birth to the modern obsession with multitasking, doing more than one thing at a time. The mantra of our achievement-oriented world is, “You are only as valuable as what you produce.” This leads to the narrative that what we produce determines our value, and therefore the more we produce the more valuable we are.

We can be sure God does not call us to be overcommitted. We do it to ourselves by following the dominant narrative that success and achievement are more important than the well-being of our souls.

In a lifetime today’s average
person spends
• six months sitting at traffic lights
• eight months opening junk mail
• one year searching through desk clutter
• two years trying to call people who are not in
three years in meetings
• five years waiting in lines

In a single day an average American will
• commute forty-five minutes
• be interrupted seventy-three times
• receive six hundred advertising messages
• watch four hours of television

In our spiritual life we cannot do anything important in a hurry. When we are in a hurry—which comes from overextension—we find ourselves unable to live with awareness and kindness. Fortunately, God never calls us, as Richard Foster likes to say, “into a life of panting feverishness.” If we are overcommitted and in a hurry, we may feel like we’re being especially effective and that God is therefore proud of us. God knows quite well that our distracted and encumbered lives pull us away from the one thing we need the most

So what is the one thing we need the most?
One more hour on the job?
One more activity?
One more work out?
One more cookie?
One more tv show?

Jesus tells us in Luke 10 and John 15. The ONE thing we need is . . . Him. Sitting at His feet, listening, and abiding.

Let’s make this year a year of slowing down. Let’s commit to doing less so that we may know Him more.

A sitting silently at the feet of Jesus is of more worth than all the clatter of Martha’s dishes. - CH Spurgeon

Monday, January 2, 2012

Perfection in Resting

I love to evaluate and set goals. Perhaps that’s why I like New Year’s resolutions more than Valentine’s Day? The problem is, I set ridiculously high goals and then beat myself up for not achieving them! It is January 2 and I’ve already broken my new year’s resolutions! I didn’t exercise and I ate carbs at every meal (so much for no carbs 2012). Oh well, I guess there’s always 2013??

Now is the time I should officially say “Hi my name is Melissa and I’m a recovering perfectionist, a potential legalist, and a guilt addict.”

I’m just not sure I will ever “get my life in order” enough. Seriously, I feel like if I could just meal plan, exercise everyday, clean my floors more often, get ahead of the laundry, then life would be orderly and peaceful. I’m always striving for perfection in every area of my life, forgetting that Christ has made me perfect and learning to walk in that daily.

Yesterday, rather than listing out his new year’s resolutions and making sure he started his new year off “doing” these things, my husband took a Sabbath (a day of rest). He started his new year by skipping church, staying home, resting, and slowing down.

I started the New Year off with 6 hours of sleep, work, and guilt (because I ate carbs and was too tired to exercise). He started it off by resting. It got me thinking . . .

What if instead of starting the new year of with doing, I started it off with slowing down? What if I started the year off resting, remaining, abiding rather than listing, trying, achieving?

That must be why the Psalmist tells us “Cease striving and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)

Perhaps perfection is not attained in doing, but in resting? Resting in knowing that my perfection is in Christ and I am filled with His spirit.

Oh that my new year would be walking in that truth, not my flesh. That it would not be a year of frantic list making, busyness, goals, my will power . . . but slowing down and walking in His power.

Here’s to a year of letting go of perfection and resting in His perfection.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14)

Sunday, January 1, 2012


The Christian often tries to forget his weakness; God wants us to remember it, to feel it deeply. The Christian wants to conquer his weakness and to be freed from it; God wants us to rest and even rejoice in it. The Christian thinks his weakness are his greatest hindrance in the life and service of God; God tells us that it is the secret of strength and success. (Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray)

I thought this was encouraging, especially in context of the New Year. We are all reflecting on our weaknesses and “resolute” on what we'd like to change and improve. I'm reminded that some of those weaknesses we have are there to keep us dependent on the Lord. He wants us to grow and change by relying on Him for strength, not our resolutions, discipline . . . not will power, but His power.

Let's be open, honest, and authentic right where we are. He wants to use us, shine through us, for all the world to see. Let your light shine through your brokenness and weakness as you pursue Him.

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)