Monday, November 23, 2015

Love Like Jesus?

I was standing in church on Sunday during our worship time singing God's praises.  And, as I looked around at all the people engaged in worshiping God, I asked myself "Do we believe what we are singing?", "Can we take the passion and love that we are experiencing right now & take it outside these doors?", "Or, are we just interested in soaking up all the goodness that God has for us personally without the willingness to share that with others?"

My heart been heavy this last week or so.  After the attacks in Paris, the whole war on terror & Syrian refugee crisis seemed to come to a head.  We are faced with the fact that terrorists can strike anywhere at any time.  And, we are afraid.  And we have spilled that fear over into how we respond to the Syrian refugees.

So many many Christians have said "No.  We don't want them.  We aren't taking that chance."  And, those folks have good reasons, rational reasons for saying that.  "Terrorists could sneak in posing as refugees.  We need to protect our families, our country.  We have so many in need in our own country - we need to take care of them first."

I get it.  I do.  All those reasons resonate with my own thoughts & fears.

But, do they resonate with what Jesus taught us?  Do they?

Jesus - who told the story of the Good Samaritan, an outcast to the Jewish people, who stopped to help a wounded Jewish man.  The Jewish people would not have associated with Samaritans.  They hated them.  They considered them dogs.  Yet, the Samaritan helped a man who he knew in any other circumstance would have spit on him & hated him.

Jesus - who said the greatest commands are 'To love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, & all your strength.  And, to love your neighbor as yourself.'  And, when he was questioned on who our neighbor is he shared the story of the Good Samaritan.  Our neighbor isn't just the people who will appreciate us & return our kindness.  Our neighbor is also those who spit on us and hate us.

Jesus - who also said (because he knows we're stubborn of heart & need further clarification) "You have heard it said - Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But, I tell you LOVE your enemies & pray for those who persecute you.

Jesus - who didn't just love the unlovable from a distance, but who welcomed them into his embrace.  The tax collector, the adulteress, the Samaritan woman, uneducated & loudmouthed fisherman - they all encountered Jesus personally & came away transformed.

Jesus - who was willing to go to a bloody, torturous death for us - while we were still sinners, still enemies of God.  He went to that death knowing that not all would accept him, that many would reject him & even mock him.

Friends, I don't want to live a comfortable Christianity.  I'm 45.  I'm middle-aged...most likely even past the midpoint of my life.  Why am I here???  Am I here to go through life as happy as I can?  Or am I here to be the hands and feet of God?  To see His kingdom advance?  To sacrifice my own life & my own desires for His glory?

Sacrifice.  We don't like that word.  We don't like denying ourselves or making ourselves uncomfortable.  We feel blessed when we're warm & well fed & we can afford that summer vacation.  We feel blessed when we have good jobs that pay well & nice homes & family surrounding us.  We feel blessed when we have health and security.  We feel blessed when things are going our way.

And, don't get me wrong.  I'm thankful for all those things.  But, what does Jesus say about blessing?
Blessed are the poor in spirit
Blessed are those who mourn
Blessed are the meek
Blessed are those who hunger & thirst for righteousness
Blessed are the merciful
Blessed are the pure in heart
Blessed are the peacemakers
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.

I don't know about you....but some of those don't line up with my American idea of blessing.  Some of those sound...hard & uncomfortable & undesirable.

But we are called to a counter cultural kind of life.  We are called to something beyond what we see as the American dream.

"And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."  Luke 9:23
Take up my cross?  Lord, that's hard.  I don't like denying myself & my wants & my ideas of how my life is supposed to go.

"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." Matthew 7:13,14
Oh Lord.  I'd rather stay on this easy path.  Don't ask me to take the difficult path.

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."  Romans 12:1-2
There's that word sacrifice again!  Do you really mean sacrifice sacrifice?  Like something that is hard & difficult & painful at times?  Or is it ok that I gave up tv & caffeine for Lent?  Those were sacrifices.  Those were still hard.  I could barely do those.  Please don't ask more of me Lord.

I've felt convicted lately that the American church is missing the mark.  We are missing what being The Church means.  We are missing our calling.  If The Church mobilized & truly started reaching out into this dark, hurting, messy world I believe we would see miraculous transformations in hearts & minds & souls.  We would see the most wicked of the wicked overwhelmed by the Power of a Mighty God's love.

Do we believe it?  Do we believe that love is more powerful than evil?  Do we believe that perfect love casts out fear?  Or, is it just a nice sentiment to tell ourselves when we're feeling a little blue or discouraged.

Christians, if we BELIEVE it - really believe it - we need to LIVE it.  And, it's going to hurt & it's going to cost us....and some of us might even have to sacrifice our lives literally.  Paul said 'For me to live is Christ & to die is gain.'   If we really believe everything that we sing about, teach about, read & pray, then we need to grasp this.  Our lives are to reflect Christ.  And, if we die because of it - we still win!

This is not our final destination.  We are passing through this life.  We are ALL passing through this life.  We get to keep nothing that we value in this life.  "For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."
I want to share one more thing.  I had begun a time of prayer & fasting a few weeks ago.  As it turns out there was conference at our church that happened about a week after I'd started this fast.  What I didn't know is that the speaker who was there has a ministry that specifically focuses on prayer & fasting.  The conference was called 'Open Wells' & it focused on God's spirit springing up like an open well...that there is an abundance of spiritual water for those who thirst.

That first night of the conference I went home & went to sleep but woke up around 3 in the morning.  There were words resounding in my head.  I woke up & thought those are pretty powerful.  I should remember them.  I felt compelled to get up & write them down.  I did.  And as I lay back down, more words started coming.  I got up again, wrote them down & went back to bed.  But, when I still felt like there were more words coming for the third time, I got up & went downstairs so I wouldn't disturb John & I could write down everything I felt God was saying.

It's not easy for me to share things like this.  But, I feel God is calling us into something deeper than a comfortable Christianity.  And, these are the words he laid on my heart.  I don't think they're just for me....

"You cry out, "More Lord!"  And, I say "It is enough."
What I have given is sufficient for the plans & purposes I have set before you.  It is time to stop just taking in & start giving out.

I won't pour myself into vessels that only sit and receive ...with my precious living water running out uselessly on the ground.  They must be willing to pour themselves out and share my water with those dying of thirst.  Then revival will come.
Yes, fast!  Yes, pray!  Yes, praise me!  Yes, ready my word!
But do not just be hearers of the word but doers of the word.  

And I say, "Go forth!"
You are a mighty army that has assembled & prepared itself.  And, now it is time to advance.  Even the strongest & mightiest army is useless if it does not engage the enemy.
So I say, it is time to move out & fight!

And this battle will be fought with unusual weapons -
with love
with mercy
with justice
with a holy passion
with forgivenes

And I will go before you.  And the enemy will have to flee.  He will leave behind his wounded & you will pick them up.  You will care for them, tend their wounds, & bring them into your camp.  
And so your army will grow & will continue to advance the kingdom of God.  
It is time to advance!"

One other thing..... we know that God's heart is for ALL the nations.  This link has a really good list of the many, many Bible verses that speak of this...

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Moving From Negativity Into Thankfulness & Joy

(I decided to remove the original post I made on insecurity & envy that this post refers to.  As I mention in this post I was pretty deeply embarrassed that I shared some of the negative thoughts & assumptions that I had made.  I am worried that some of the things I said in that post, made out of my owns feelings of inadequacy may have actually been hurtful to others.  In retrospect it was probably never a post I should have share publicly and I should have dealt with some of the complicated emotions privately - working through them with God's help.)

I'm not sure how to begin this post or how exactly to say everything that I feel I need to say.  But, after my last post God's really been challenging me & bringing to light issues in my spirit that I need to deal with.  He's done this through His word & time spent with Him, and through the words of others.

I have a tendency toward negativity.  There are two major contributors that I see to this tendency.  The first is learned behavior.  There's a bit of a generational thing that seems to have been passed down through the women in my family.  It certainly isn't an intentional thing...but it's there, this tendency to see the darkness more easily than seeing the light.

The second stems from the fact that I'm extremely introspective and I feel things deeply.  Often this introspection can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed by all the BIG emotions pressing in on me.  The state of world, all it's problems, the struggles of others.  It can sometimes seem like the enemy is winning on every side.  And, that's a pretty big recipe for the negative.

All this to say, that when I start experiencing negative emotions or thoughts, it can be very easy to forget the greatest ways to combat negativity - thankfulness & joy.

I'd say that was pretty evident in my last post.  I had gotten so wrapped up in my own insecurity & envy that I allowed thankfulness & joy to be stolen away.  In fact, I practically gave them away.

Frankly, I'm pretty embarrassed by my last post.  While it accurately described how I was feeling at the time, I'm not sure that it was something I needed to put 'out there'.  And, even though the people who I had expressed so much envy over probably didn't read my post, I still feel as though I owe them an apology.

And, that's rather awkward isn't it?  "Hey.  I'm not sure if you somehow came across something I posted on the internet or not, but I want to apologize for allowing assumptions, fears, insecurities, and envy to control my emotions and possibly to have hurt you."  I'm still praying about whether or not to have that conversation.
You see, I did get to spend time with them this past weekend, and here's the thing.....They are really fun, genuine, warm, welcoming, Spirit filled, great people.  And, I almost missed that.

How many things do we miss in life when we allow negativity to rule our worldview?

I am reminded that thankfulness & joy is supposed to be a way of life for us as Christians.

I Timothy 4:4 & 5  "For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer."
I Thessalonians 5:16-18  "Be joyful always: pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
Hebrews 12:28, 29 "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverance and awe for our 'God is a consuming fire' "
Philippians 4:4-7  "Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus."
Psalm 95:  1, 2  "Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.  Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song."
Thankfulness & Joy go hand in hand.  It's next to impossible to be thankful and not feel joy.

Here's what I was reminded of these past couple weeks....something the enemy would love for me to forget.  I am insanely, lavishly, incredibly blessed.  God has given me very good things indeed.

-I have an amazing husband who loves me in spite of my failings.
- I have four beautiful, crazy, funny, talented, smart, wonderful boys.
 - Our family has health
 - We are surrounded by family and friends who love us and support us.
 - We have an incredible church where we are continually challenged to grow deeper in our relationship and understanding of God.
 - We have a home that not only has all the essentials we take for granted (electricity, running water, a solid foundation) but is filled with memories and love.
 - I have a pretty amazing view in my backyard.  God's unspoiled & beautiful creation stretches out before us.
 - We have always been able to meet our financial obligations.  Even when things are tight, there has always been a way.
 - In addition to paying our bills, there has been extra that we've been able to spend on vacations, family outings, and hobbies.  And, there's been the ability to give & share when needs arise.
- We love our school district and feel confident that they have our children's best interests at heart.
- We live in a country of freedom!
 - We have transportation.
 - We have plenty to eat.

I could go on and on.  And, I should!  You should!  We all should!  While 'count your blessings' may sound cliche, it's so good for the heart and the soul.

A while back I read "One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are" by Ann Voskamp.  In it she delves into this idea of living a life of thankfulness.  She repeatedly uses the Greek word Eucharisteo which means thanksgiving.  She talks about three words that work together, go together -
Charis - Grace
Eucharisteo - Thanksgiving
Chara - Joy

I want to read the book again.  She has a beautiful way with words.  They penetrate deeply into the soul.  Because they echo the Truth.  They reflect God's words.

And, Thanksgiving & Joy are things worth fighting for.  Trust me.  It is a fight.  It's so much easier to give in to the negative, to the darkness.  But, declare today, that I will fight for Thanksgiving, Joy, and Truth in my life with the goal of being able to share those with others.

Monday, August 31, 2015


***Prelude:  I wrote this post several weeks ago and never published it.  Mainly because I felt like I was being a big whiny baby.  And, frankly, just writing down all my frustrations helped.  But, I came across it again tonight & thought.'Why not share it?'.  Oh, and as it turns out 3/4 of the things I was stressing about have come and gone & I'm none the worse for wear.  The kids are in school.  The back to school shopping got done.  Vacation happened and it was good.  Taxes got paid.  ***

The word of the day is Overwhelmed.  Being overwhelmed is something I frequently experience.  But, sometimes I reach that threshold where I'm SO overwhelmed that I start to break.  I'm breaking today....fighting back tears of frustration and a sense of being unable to take control of everything going on around me.

It's nothing major.  It's just a lot of little things.  Like the kids going back to school in a little over a week.  Still needing to do back to school shopping for supplies and shoes.  Like the fact that my oldest is going into middle school and that's a whole new learning curve for him and me.  Like the fact that my youngest is going into Kindergarten.  He's not my baby anymore.  This is the first year that all my children will be in school.  And a part of me is looking forward to the freedom and opportunity that offers....and part of me mourns.  I mourn the years of my children being little and needing me.  Did I embrace that time enough?  Did I give enough?  Am I embracing this time now enough?  Am I giving enough?

Then there's the fact that we waited until the last minute to do a family vacation this summer.  Yup.  We're doing it this week.  The week before school.  Because we're a bit crazy like that.  And I should be looking forward to it, but right now all I can think of is everything that needs done.

Did I mention that I forgot Kindergarten orientation?  Yup.  That was last week.  Missed it.  Did I mention that my oldest is in the process of getting braces?  Read:  Orthodontic appointments.  Orthodontic appointments.  Orthodontic appointments.  And,  I got the total cost for the next two years of orthodontic treatments.  Wow.  It's not cheap.

Which leads to other financial considerations.  Fall taxes on our home and our rental property are due.

Oh, what else?  It's soon time to start planning our next Vintage Sale.   We don't have a food stand coordinator this time around.  So, that's added pressure.  And, I'm just not feeling it this time.  I'm feeling like I want to take a step back & re-group....figure out what's next & how to organize my life.

Speaking of organization, that's something that I have as a goal once my children are back in school.  Because frankly my house is a huge source of my frustration and being overwhelmed.  It's a disaster area!  I don't mean  that in the sense of 'oh we have a couple things out of place'.  (Ugh.  If I read one more blog where someone takes before and after home organization pictures where their 'before' is way better than anything I could ever dream of...I will scream).  My house needs some serious attention.  And, I honestly don't even know where to begin.

But, you know.  I'm a stay at home mom whose kids are all going into school, so I  should have perfection in my home & my life, right?  I feel this sense of  judgement....from noone in particular, just a general societal judgement...that managing our home and our family isn't enough.  I should be able to do that AND hold a full time job.  I must be a slacker.

Which is evidenced by the fact that I've gotten fatter than I've ever been before.  Yup.  I weigh more than I did when I was PREGNANT!   No matter how often I try to get a handle on this area of my life, I fail..over and over and over.

There's more.  There's always more because I constantly walk around feeling like I'm not enough.  I'm not doing enough.  I'm not being enough.  I'm not giving enough.  And, that my friends is the perfect recipe for being overwhelmed.

How do I pull myself out of this?  I don't think I can.  I really don't.  I try to remind myself that God is our strength in the midst of our weakness.  But, how does this translate into living my life?  I mean I still have to DO things.

Anyhow, sorry for the pity party.  I feel better getting it out.  Sometimes I just need to get the stuff out of my head and written down, so that I can deal with what's bugging me.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Battle is His

I was feeling overwhelmed yesterday.  Overwhelmed by the hardness and callousness of this age.  When people can be confronted face to face with what abortion is.  When people can see plain as day that Planned Parenthood has been breaking federal law....when they see the casual-ness with which they discuss the sale of the body parts of unborn babies.  And not care.

But more than not care.  They defend.  They lash out in hatred.

And I feel helpless.  How do I respond?  What kind of difference can I make when hearts are so hardened?

And I came across this passage in 2 Chronicles 20: 15-17.  It felt like it was meant for me in this situation....

"He said Listen King Jehosophat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem.  This is what the Lord says to you.

  'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God's. Tomorrow march down against them.

 They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel.

You will not have to fight this battle.  Take up your positions, stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you O Judah & Jerusalem.

 Do not be afraid.  Do not be discouraged.  Go out to face them tomorrow and the Lord will be with you."

Jehosophat and his people responded with praise.  The day of the battle they sang and praised God.  And as they did, God began to defeat the enemy causing confusion among them so that they destroyed each other.  King Jehosophat's army never had to fight.

Verses 29-30
"The fear of God came among all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel.  And the kingdom of Jehosophat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on  every side."

God fought the battle.  And, God received His glory.

And I felt God was saying to me.....
The battle is not yours.  It is the Lord's.  Do not feel compelled to do what I have not asked you to do.  Do only what I ask.  And I am asking you to pray.

So stand firm.  Pray.  Praise Him.  The battle is His!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Fifty five million

Fifty five million.  Fifty five men, women, and children who should be here..standing beside us, a part of our lives. Sometimes maybe you can sense what could have been, what should have a whisper, in shadow & light, in a thought much like a memory.

Fifty five million people who WERE and then were not.  Can you feel them?  They should be here now.  They would be our brothers & sisters, our aunts & uncles, our friends, our colleagues, our spouses.  Today some of them would be fathers & mothers themselves.  They would be connected to us, an intricate part of our lives.  If you've ever felt that something was missing..someone was's because they are.  Fifty five million people are missing.

Entire generations, entire futures eliminated, erased.

Each life is unique.  We know this.  This is scientific fact.  The genetic code in each and every person is unique to that person.  There never was and never will be another person like the person introduced at the time of conception.

So how many unique opportunities, talents, skills have been discarded along with fifty five million people?  Countless.  Where would we be today with them beside us?  We will never know.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Thorn in My Side

I have a problem with food.  Well, actualy, I should point out that I LOVE food.  My problem is actually a problem with self-control.

So many of my Facebook friends seem to have gotten on the health boat and are sailing along so smoothly.
I've gotten on many health boats over my lifetime,  But, as the boat starts to pull away from the shore, food beckons me with it's siren song & I jump from the boat & swim back to my island of "I'm gonna eat what I want to eat when I want to eat" and "It's easier to just sit here & I don't want to exercise".

And, the thing is, I know from experience that being healthy feels good.  It feels so much better than the blobby ball of lethargy and blech that I am now.  But, even those times I've worked hard to get to a certain point and I feel good, I'm still eventually wooed back by the allure of eating greasy, fatty, salty, sweet, rich, decadent food.

I can't even imagine long term maintenance of weight loss....because I ALWAYS gain it back.
There's a part of me that has thrown in the towel and says that I just don't care anymore...that feels destined to always have a weight problem.

But, then there's another part of me that doesn't want to become what I'm becoming....I already see the toll that carrying around extra weight is taking on my body.  I have so little energy, aches & pains, it aggravates my varicose veins (which are a genetic trait passed down in my family, but which I think could be lessened if I wasn't so heavy).  I waddle when I walk.  I get out of breath quickly.  I DON"T want to get old before I'm old!

Looking at everyone else's successes actually makes me less motivated....if that makes any sense.  I see everyone tapping into something that finally clicked for them.  And, I've tried so. many. times.  Even when I think I've finally found my groove, I always, always, always fall back into my old ways.

Food in many ways is an addiction for me.  I hesitate to use that word, 'addiction' because I think it sometimes gets overused.  But, when I look back over my relationship with food I definitely see some addictive behavior patterns.  And, I know from my past and with other issues, it's very easy for me to fall into addictive behavior.

I'm frustrated.  I know it's going to take work.  And work is....hard.  It's so much easier just to not think about making healthy choices.  When I'm feeling discouraged & lethargic, where do I find that motivation to pull myself up by the bootstraps...especially when the boots feel so heavy?

I'm not sure what I'm looking for.  Not sympathy or pity.  I've written about this struggle often enough for it to sound like a broken record.  I guess I just needed to vent.  I needed to express what's on my heart and mind.  Sometimes, just writing it it a voice...helps bring me some relief and clarity.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Be Still

There has been a great heaviness on my heart.
I watch as this world spins out of control.
People consumed with a thirst for self-fulfillment and pleasure.
There is no room for authority.  No room for right or wrong.
Everything is relative.
They not only reject God, but scorn Him, spit upon Him, loathe Him.

And, it breaks my heart.
I've been saying that a lot lately.
But, it's true.  My heart is broken.
To know that so many refuse to see
There is more.
More than what running after their own passions can ever supply.

And, I feel helpless.
Any word I might speak in love
is misconstrued as hate, as intolerance, as oppression.
The blinders are on.
They can't see the chains binding them.
That God wants to free them.

I spent the afternoon listening to hymns, finding comfort there.
Be still, and know that I am God.
And in my stillness...a prayer, a word of faith rose up within me.....
Perhaps it will bring you the peace it brought me.

He is still sovereign  Isaiah 25:8

He is still sufficient  2 Corinthians 12:9

His great love & mercy endureth forever  Psalm 136:4

He is Alpha & Omega, beginning and the end  Revelation 21:6

He makes known from ancient times what is still to come  Isaiah 46:10

His compassions they fail not  Lamentations 3:22

Every knee shall bow & every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord  Phillipians 2:10

His mercies are new every morning.  Lamentations 3:23

He is my strength  Psalm 28:8

He is my righteousness  Isaiah 61:10

He is our fortress  2 Samuel 22:33

He is our refuge  Psalm 46:1

There is none like Him.  Isaiah 46:9

He is Holy.  Isaiah 6:3

His purposes stand.  Psalm 36:11

Do not listen to the roaring
   of the world
The wild clashing
   and angry refrains

It seeks to drown out
   His peaceful song
His sweet melody
   the world cannot endure

But Truth rings out
    soft and pure
In the hearts of men
    a remnant stands

Still yourself
     lest you cease to hear
the gentle leading
     in your soul
Related Posts with Thumbnails