Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Step by Step

If you are following my posts much (which of course, I pray you are), I hope you haven’t grown weary of my ramblings related to running. As I shared on my About Me page, although I acknowledge that God is always speaking to me, it is during my runs that I tend to be most tuned in to Him. It is during this time that I am able to put this world and its cares aside and ponder Him, His voice, His Word. I am thankful for this time with Him!

So today I reflect on rejoicing in the moment; directing my attention on the day at hand because this is the day the Lord has made (Ps 118:24). One thing I have been learning about myself is that I am rarely in the ‘here and now,’ but rather in the ‘there and then.’ In other words, I am so consumed with my destination that I neglect the very place God has me in at this moment.
A quarter of the way into my run today, I realized I was losing energy all too soon. The reason? Simply put, I was so engrossed in finishing that I was not paying attention to my speed and started out too fast (story of my life). However, as I slowed my stride, attempting to focus on each step, I began feeling less winded, as though I would finish the full course, and I did.

God’s Word tells me to press toward the goal by reaching for that prize (Phil 3:14) and running hard for Him (Heb 12:1). However, if I don’t count the cost, I may stop short and be unable to finish (Lk 14:28-30). How embarrassing is that? Who starts a race they are not convinced they can finish? Certainly not me.
I desire to take these small lessons and apply them to my daily walk as a wife, mother, friend, and daughter. I desperately long to relish each moment I have. I yearn to appreciate the ‘little’ things in life, to focus on each step, to slow down my pace, and to see God’s hand at work. These are the things that nourish and strengthen me to finish strong tomorrow. These are the things that allow me to fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith, and grab hold of my crown (2 Tim 4:7-8).

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it- lest after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘this man began to build and was not able to finish’?
~ Luke 14:28-30

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Distracted Much?

I got to have my nephews (ages ten and eleven) over for the weekend after Thanksgiving. You know my son hardly spoke to me the whole time they were here! He scarcely even looked my way! No hugs, no “Good morning mom,” no complaints of dire boredom. Not even an annoying plea for attention by spontaneously throwing himself off the couch. I even left the house for a thirty minute run and I’m absolutely positive he had no clue I was gone.

Sometimes I anticipate these times, calling up friends and pleading for them to send their child over so I can have a moment’s peace. But this weekend I felt utterly invisible and useless. Of course, that feeling was quickly replaced with the old desire for solitude after the boys returned home and my son was again deathly bored, hungry, and in need of my full attention.

As I sat in my quiet, lonely house, watching the boys play in the backyard, I thanked God for my nephews. Of course I also shared with Him my feelings of insignificance. Sinking into self-pity, my heart was convicted of doing this exact thing to my Father. Wow! How often am I distracted with busyness: family, friends, school, housework, my mother/taxicab service, all really important things! There have been times in my life that God surrounded me day in and day out with dear sisters in the Lord. As I look back on those times, I thank God for them! What a blessing my sisters are. I also reflect on the countless times I took my cares, frustrations, hardships, even my moments of excitement to those sisters rather than to my Father.  I am so easily distracted.

Jesus was a busy, busy man, but even He knew He needed time alone with God (Mark 1:35). Whether it was before the sun rose, late into the night, or in the heat of the day, Jesus took time to acknowledge His Father; to cast His burdens upon Him (Matt 26:36-44), to thank Him (Jn 11:41-42). Just as I noticed the absence of my son’s presence in my bed the next morning as he went running for the Wii with his cousins, my Father is fully aware of the countless times I pass Him by, heading straight for my ‘to do list’ or the exciting book I’m currently captivated by (that darn Kindle).

As my son came back into the house to move onto their next grand adventure, I pulled him aside and gently reminded him of his obligation to hug his mom every day. He quickly obeyed, squeezed my neck, told me he loved me, and was off and running once more. I was immediately restored as mother again! Is your Father pulling you aside today? Is He gently reminding you that He is there, waiting to spend even a moment together? I hope that I will be quick to acknowledge His tug, tell Him about my day, my cares, my worries, my joys, and most of all that I love Him.

Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you;
And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the LORD is a God of justice;
Blessed are all those who wait for Him.
~Isaiah 30:18

Monday, November 28, 2011

Going Nowhere

Before I knew it, it was after two in the afternoon and I hadn’t gotten my run in for the day. Korrie’s basketball game was only a couple hours away so I knew I needed to get to it. I also knew my chances of not having to run in the rain were slim, since it had been pouring nonstop most of the day. I made the decision and stepped onto the dreaded treadmill. Ugh. And dreadful it was! I tried reading my Kindle while running, tried tuning into the video Joe had playing (too sci-fi for me), even tried distracting myself with Korrie’s iPod. Nothing worked! The crisp, cool outside air kept beckoning me. The smoldering heat of the woodstove made breathing nearly impossible. Over and over I found myself pressed up against the bar at the front of the treadmill, my body desperately trying to GO somewhere. Did I mention it was dreadful?

After about fifteen minutes, the rain ceased, and I couldn’t resist taking that chance. I flung myself off the treadmill, threw my jacket on, and escaped out the front door, quickly hollering at the kids, “be back in a few!” The outdoors never felt quite so refreshing! What a relief! There is nothing else like the sound of feet on concrete, the icy winter wind on one’s face, and the feeling of actually GOING SOMEWHERE! After all, running is NOT meant to keep you in one place.

The apostle Paul refers to the life of a child of God as a race (2 Tim 4:7). We are designed to go somewhere. We are made to do something. We have a calling. We have a purpose, and that purpose is not to stay in one place. I’m not necessarily referring to the need for every Christian to ‘GO’ to a foreign land as a missionary (unless you are called to do so, of course). I am referring to the simple act of obedience and growing in Christ. What has He called you to do? What is the desire of your heart? What do you long for? Are you doing it? Or are you staying comfortably in one place, suffocating in the stagnation of it all? Don’t you long to get out there and experience the freedom that comes from obedience? I know I do! I also know it’s not always easy. However, when we make that choice -when we put those shoes on and step out that door, pushing ourselves even though it’s so hard- this is when we feel accomplished.
Now, you might be arguing that the dreaded treadmill is not all bad; and you would be right. It actually offers me a GOOD workout. However, I want to strive for a BETTER workout. No, I want to strive for the BEST workout.  Just after I reached my house after my run that day, it started pouring again. I laughed out loud and thanked God for my fifteen minutes of clear weather. When God see’s our willing hearts, our desire to run hard for Him, He will hold back that rain and bless us beyond belief.

What desires has He placed in your heart? What do you so desperately yearn to obey Him in? Please share so I can pray for you.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Green Eyed Monster

Someone recently said something shocking to me: “Your hair looks good like that. You look good no matter how you wear your hair. I bet people hate you.” Now, please don’t think I share this to boast in the compliment. I share this because I was speechless at the words “I bet people hate you.” People hate me because of my hair? Really?  Who would come up with such a thing? Surely this isn’t true! No, I don’t think anyone hates me because of my hair. I’ve seen luscious locks worth hating over, and my two inches are not! However, this comment forced me to examine my own heart. Do I have a heart that would hate someone for something so small? Am I capable of such a thing? My quick response was yes! I absolutely have a heart of jealousy. I hate women that don't have to wash their hair everyday! There, I said it and it’s out there. Now I am utterly and completely transparent before you, and I don’t like it one bit!

Regardless, it’s true. I was immediately reminded of my own jealousy toward others in my life. How I’ve been envious of God’s people: His amazing musicians and singers, His incredible teachers, His missionaries, His super wives and moms. How I’ve been envious in the smaller things such as the beauty or physique of a woman, a high paying or high status job, a beautiful house, or the character and abilities of other children, wishing they belonged instead to mine. Do you see how wretched I am?! Rather than view them as what they really are- God’s gifts (1 Cor 12)- and praise God for those gifts in others, I have allowed my heart to fester with anger, greed, envy, and resentment.

I can recall numerous examples of jealousy throughout the scriptures:

·   From the beginning of creation, Eve was jealous of God’s ability to know good and evil (Gen 3) and ate of the forbidden fruit.
·   Shortly after, Cain became jealous of his brother Abel’s offering and acceptance by God, resulting in his brother’s murder (Gen 4).
·   A second murder took place when David, jealous of Uriah’s wife, had Uriah killed in order to take her as his own (2 Sam 11).
·   I recall Miriam and Aaron rallying together and speaking against the leadership of their brother Moses, conferring that the Lord did not only speak through him, but them as well (Num 12). Their hearts of envy aroused the anger of the Lord leaving Miriam a stricken leper.
·   We can’t leave out Joseph’s brothers, selling him as a slave to Ishmaelite travelers because they were jealous of their father’s love and favor toward the chosen brother (Gen 37).
·   Possibly the greatest example of jealousy is found in all four of the epistles: the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Jealous of His miracles, jealous of His countless followers, jealous of His prophesied rise to power, Jesus was betrayed and offered up to be crucified.

Now we know that not all jealousy is of the evil one because God is a jealous God (Ex 20:50). We also know that God is not self seeking and the envy I speak of is completely selfish, and demonic (Jas 3:16). So why do I ramble on? Because jealousy is real and it is everywhere, even in our churches, and jealousy births anger, resentment, even murder. Rather than allow jealousy to rule our lives and divide the body of Christ, we must ask God to search our hearts, to reveal to us any wicked jealousy, and lead us in the way everlasting (Ps 139:23-24). Please don’t let something as simple as hair, or God’s gift in a brother or sister stir up jealousy in your heart.

Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent, but who is able to stand before jealousy?
~Proverbs 27:4

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Beloved Bride

Going about my Thanksgiving Day, I pondered my hubby’s question to the kids and me: “What are you thankful for today?” As I repeatedly asked myself and the Lord, I came up with the same old stuff… I am thankful for God, for my eternal salvation, for my family, for the freedom to worship, for things to share on my blog, for our health, for God’s provision… you know, the usual ‘Thanksgiving list.’ While forming this mental list, I began to focus in on just how blessed I am by my family, specifically my husband.

I was reminded of a time in Mexico, years ago. Our family drove to what is called ‘El Rancho.’ It’s a large piece of land being made into a family camp by members of the church we were working with. Upon arrival, we found no one there, and I proceeded to get out of the car and explore. However, I was completely unaware of the massive dog the church members use to guard the place. As I naively entered the gates, the monster instinctively charged me. With fangs drawn and eyes blazing, he was after nothing less than my complete destruction, and I froze.

Praise God for my husband! Without a second thought, he stepped between that beast and me, and with all authority, commanded he leave. Would you believe that horrid creature actually obeyed?! He immediately turned and went on his way, not bothering me again. Of course, I stayed by my husband’s side the remainder of the day. I knew without a doubt that dog was watching me, waiting for an opportune time to finish what he started (Luke 4:13); to finish me off for good.

Oh how thankful I am for my husband! He did not even take a second to question what he should do in that situation. All concern for himself vanished the moment he saw his bride in danger. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him speak with such authority or seen that look in his eyes. So, to answer my husband’s original question- Yes, I am thankful for all the usual things on my ‘Thanksgiving list,’ but I am overwhelmingly thankful for my amazing husband. He works hard every day to provide and take care of us. He is the type of daddy to our children I never expected. His passion for God and His Word is rare and wonderful. His devotion to me is more than I anticipated. He is the image of a Bridegroom I desperately look forward to spending eternity with. A Bridegroom with all power and authority, holding Satan at bay, not considering His own life, but offering it up for me. I thank God for my wonderful husband, and my amazing Bridegroom. What a beloved bride I am!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Hidden Beneath

Is this a familiar sight? Please say yes. Please say I’m not the only one with mold consistently seeping through the paint on my bathroom walls. Tell me it’s in your bathroom too! We’ve painted over it, scrubbed it down with bleach (several times), made sure to run the fan and open the window during showers, it just keeps seeping through. And, truth be told, it’s embarrassing! Whenever company drops in I think, “I hope they don’t have to use the bathroom, I haven’t scrubbed the mold away lately.” Is that not ridiculous? I can’t even believe I’m telling you this! You are never allowed in my bathroom again.

What is more ridiculous is the fact that I do this constantly regarding the sin in my own life. I will paint over it, making it look as if it’s not there. I will attempt to scrub, scrub, scrub it away, leaving the impression of a clean, pure self. But on the inside, there it is, lurking, waiting to seep out. I desperately hope it doesn’t succeed when you come around. Oh yes, when I’m with you, I am sure to wear the freshest coat of paint! When I’m with my kiddos, now that’s a different story. Just as they catch sight of our moldy bathroom walls countless times each day, they also get to see the sin in me that so easily seeps out when I’m not on guard (Heb 12:1).

I once heard it told this way: You’re driving down the road, you hit a pothole, and your scolding hot coffee goes spewing all over the crotch of your pants. Immediately profanities come flying out of your mouth. Why did you just say those words? Was it the fault of the pothole? No, it was the coffee’s fault; if it hadn’t been so darn hot…. No, actually it was Starbuck’s fault for selling you such hot coffee- I see a lawsuit in the near future. Ridiculous, right! We all know those words came out of your mouth not because of a pothole, or the coffee, or the establishment that brewed it. Those words came out of your mouth simply because they were there to start with! That mold seeps through paint only because it is already in the wall. I cannot blame it on the shower’s steam, or the horrid fumes that are released in that room (and believe me, they are horrid!). No, it is simply that the mold is within the walls, growing, and waiting to show it’s ugliness! And the only way to be rid of it, is to rip out that wall. UGH. And this is something I am not doing any time soon.

However, I must attack the sin in my life immediately. I must rip it out! Jesus said if your foot causes you to sin, then cut it off because it is better to enter Heaven with one foot than to live eternity without Him with two. He said if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out! It’s better to spend eternity with Him in Heaven with one eye than to end up in Hell with both (Mark 9:45,47). Jesus takes sin seriously. Ought we to also. Praise God that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleans us from all unrighteousness (1Jn 1:9). When circumstances expose the ugly sins of your life, don’t cast blame, or attempt to cover them up, simply confess them to your Savior J

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
~Hebrews 12:1

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Thankful Heart

Do you have a favorite book of the bible? A favorite scripture passage maybe? I do, but they seem to be constantly changing. However, one of the Psalms I continually go back to and reflect upon is Psalm 95. I just love to read the praises of God; to be reminded that He is a great God, the King above all gods, the Creator of everything we see; that He is my God. These reminders encourage me to be grateful on this Thanksgiving Day. These truths stir my spirit to worship Him, to kneel before the LORD my Maker!

There is also a warning within this Psalm that I must heed: the hardness of my heart. Oh, I can look back and see so many Thanksgivings I spent being anything but thankful. How I sulked and moped about, ruining not only my Thanksgiving but that of my family. I remember the year I defrosted the turkey incorrectly, leaving it inedible, forcing my hubby to go in search of another one Thanksgiving morning. Have you ever tried to find a store open Thanksgiving Day in Douglas County? It's no easy task! I recall being so stressed and grouchy no one wanted to even be around me. Who wants to spend Thanksgiving Day with an unthankful, cantankerous wife and mother? Not my family!

The last half of Psalm 95 speaks of those who have seen the works of the Lord, yet during times of trials and difficulties refuse to remember those works, refuse to choose to worship God with a thankful heart, refuse to enter the rest He beckons us into. I know that I am not alone and that we all have burdens this morning. Today I am afflicted with thoughts of spending the holidays without my gramma, with tension about financial stresses, with worry that this day may not turn out to be the best Thanksgiving Day ever. Today I am busy. BUT... I am choosing to remember who God is. I am choosing to shout joyfully to Him. I am choosing to come before Him with thanksgiving. Today I choose to set my eyes on my King! On this Thanksgiving Day, I choose to hear His voice and rest in Him.

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the LORD is the great God,
And the great King above all gods.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture,
And the sheep of His hand.

Today, if you will hear His voice:
"Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
When your fathers tested Me;
They tried Me, though they saw My work.
For forty years I was grieved with that generation,
And said, 'It is a people who go astray in their hearts,
And they do not know My ways.'
So I swore in My wrath,
'They shall not enter My rest.' "
~Psalm 95

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Proud Parent

Got to watch Korrie play a great game of basketball today! She had some sweet shots, amazing passes, a trained eye for the court, and phenomenal team work. So very proud to call her my daughter! What parent wouldn’t be? They won the game 32-18, but not without shedding a few tears. On the way home we talked about her obvious disappointment. Isn’t it amazing that she walked away feeling like she let herself, her coach, and her team down! My heart broke as she talked about her frustration of passing the ball to the other team and knowing she could have done better.

Even now, just an hour after the game, I sense the heaviness she is carrying as she relaxes at home on the couch. I long to say the things that would make her believe what an amazing job she did. I yearn to bear that heaviness for her so she could bask in the excitement of the win! I want her to comprehend just how proud I am of her, how far she’s come, what a remarkable young lady she is growing up to be, what a gifted basketball player she is. However, I am learning as a mom that even though I tell her these things over and over again, it’s going to take time for her to accept and understand them as truth. It’s going to take time for her to let go of her mistakes enough to believe the love and words of her mother. And I will give her that time.

Being a parent is tough! Being a parent requires responsibilities I am often unable to fulfill. Being a parent is also the greatest gift God has bestowed upon me. I cannot begin to express how unworthy and incapable I am for such a high calling! I also cannot tell Him enough how thankful I am.  One thing parenting is teaching me: my Heavenly Father loves me more than I ever dreamed! The love and pride I have for my children doesn’t even compare to His love for me; His pride for this apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8). Just as I long for my daughter to let go of her own disappointments and receive the love I have for her, My Father longs for me to walk in His love; to be confident that He is a proud Papa!
One night years ago, as I watched my girl sleep, overwhelmed with love for her, a sense came over me that my Father was doing the same- toward me. And I was stunned! Thank you, Father for Your unchanging, unconditional, perfect love toward me. I do not grasp or understand it completely, but I know You ALWAYS love me. Please help me to show my children the love of God.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Not as it Seems

Our family wrapped up the story of Joseph last night.  What a man with a testimony! I pray for even just a measure of the faith he had in the God of his fathers. We joked about Jacob’s “last words” to his sons (Genesis chapter 49) concluding they sound far more like curses than blessings.  Oh how many of the twelve must have been dreading that moment! However, the final words to Joseph (the most favored) reflect not only his earthly father’s love, but his Heavenly Father’s approval, and intended purpose throughout his life.

One key thing sticks out to me over and over again
throughout the history of Joseph:

Joseph was a real man, with real parents, real brothers, real ambitions, and real problems. Most importantly, Joseph was a man who served a real God.  That living God gave Joseph dreams; dreams of rising in power over his brothers and even his own parents (Gen 37:5-11). Shortly after these dreams, Joseph was captured by his brothers and sold to a band of Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. He became a slave of Potiphar and was thrown into prison on false accusations by Potiphar’s wife. Some rise to power that is! Can you imagine Joseph sitting in prison, an innocent man, praising God and thinking “I am exactly where God wants me!” It’s happened before (Acts 16:25)! Is that the state of mind I would be in? I hardly think so! However, the scriptures reveal that Joseph was unlike most men. Over and over again they tell us the LORD was with Joseph, the LORD made all he did to prosper, the LORD showed him mercy, and gave him favor in the sight of those over him. Despite the hardship and pain Joseph experienced emotionally, physically, and spiritually, Joseph’s LORD was always with him, and Joseph knew it.

Have you been in a similar place? Has God spoken to you and given you a promise? Has He shown you gifts? Did He reveal that you would teach others, pray in tongues, journey to a foreign land, receive a gift of healing or intercession?  Perhaps He simply said that you would adopt, gain employment, receive a raise, or just that everything would be ok. Have things gone at all the way you expected? Maybe events have taken a turn in the opposite direction. I know I’ve been there: certain I heard God speak, then not seeing any sign of the promise, I doubted God, doubted it was His voice I heard, doubted His plans for me. I wonder if Joseph ever doubted. Possibly. Whether he did or not, He knew God was good, right, and perfect regardless of his circumstances. Just as Abraham knew that God would simply raise his son Isaac from the dead after the sacrifice (Heb 11:17-19), Joseph knew the God of his fathers was a God to be trusted.

I think Joseph’s heart is revealed as he comforts his fearful brothers - “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Gen 50:19-20). Joseph discerned not only dreams, but that things were not always as they seemed. Joseph trusted in His God.

Lord, I ask for Your help to walk by faith and not by sight. I pray You would remind me every day, every minute, every second if necessary of the promises You have bestowed upon me. Your Word says that all my days are written in Your Book. When things don’t go as I expect, please help me to trust that You know the end from the beginning; that You are not surprised, shocked, stumped, or unsure about what to do with my circumstances.  Remind me what a big God You really are; what a big God I serve, and help me to truly serve You.  ~Amen

Monday, November 21, 2011

A People Who Worship

Last night my family watched a National Geographic documentary entitled ‘Inside North Korea’ with reporter Lisa Ling. You can view this documentary on Netflix as we did or on YouTube by clicking here. You will be overwhelmed by the things you experience through this short, powerful video.
The citizens of North Korea live in oppression, poverty, and slavery under a dictator they fear, yet revere. They are allowed no communication with the outside world: no TV, no cell phones, no internet, and the only observed literature are books written by Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s preceding leader and father of the current leader Kim Jong Il. Reporter Lisa Ling enters the country with an eye doctor on a mission: to give sight to the blind by performing surgery to over one-thousand cataract sufferers in only ten days. Secretly she is attempting far more than to simply accomplish this medical feat; Ling hopes to get an inside look at the life, people, and leadership of North Korea.
During their ten days, the team is closely monitored and kept under strict supervision. Nevertheless, they are granted permission to visit the home of an elderly blind woman awaiting surgery. When questioned about her loss of vision and desire to see again, her heartfelt response is of her hope to again lay eyes on her cherished leader Kim Jong Il. This reaction is seen repeatedly as the documentary reveals suffering, wounded, stricken citizens of an impoverished country offering great thankfulness and devotion to an iron fisted dictator.  It is mindboggling to witness patient after patient receive their sight, then drop to their knees, hands raised, in worship and thanksgiving to a hanging portrait of Kim Jong Il, as if he himself were their god and healer.  

How can this be?  Why are thousands of uncared for individuals who suffer starvation and the risk of being captured and thrown into concentration camps for the simplest offense, honoring and worshiping the very man responsible for this neglect and terror? How can these men and women raise their children to love, respect, and advocate for a man of such evil intent? Is it because they know nothing else?  Could it be that these people have no idea what health, freedom, joy, or life is?
Scripture says God has placed eternity in their hearts (Eccl 3:11) and that all creation (including those of North Korea) groans for deliverance from the bondage of this life (Rom 8:21-22). Are the people of North Korea worshipping the only ‘deity’ they’ve ever known simply because their Creator fashioned them to do so? God has built within us a desire to worship and these people are doing just that. Sadly they are worshiping a false god while yearning for the true God; a God unknown to them. I pray the eyes of North Korea will be opened to turn to their unknown God, just as Paul proclaimed to the people of Athens: “I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:23-24).

I likewise pray that our country would turn from the gods of this life: riches, pleasure, pride, envy, sexual sin, murder, and turn to the true God, the Creator, the One who fashioned and formed us to love, worship, honor, and spend eternity with Him. I pray we turn from the gods that tear us down to the God that builds us up.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Forgetting and Remembering

This may sound like one long ramble, and I apologize ahead of time.  However, if you endure to the end, you will find I do reach a conclusion.  I anticipate reading your conclusions as well!

Today I am meditating on forgetting, yet remembering. In Isaiah 43:18-19, God instructs us NOT to remember the former things, nor to consider the “things of old.” Yet, a few chapters later He tells us we ARE to remember the “things of old” because He is God and there is no other; He is God and there is none like Him (Is 46:9). His Word commands both and we know there are NO contradictions with our Lord. Ugh, can you see why I become so confused? This is why we must take all of God’s word, chew on it for a while, spit it back up, and then chew on it some more.  Sounds not only tedious, but kind of gross, I know. However, the result is well worth the effort and risk. 

While meditating on this thought, I am lead to Paul’s words of forgetting those things which were behind in order to reach forward to that which lies ahead (Phil 3:13-14). So, maybe forgetting assists us in moving forward. Ok… if remembering keeps us from moving forward, is it because of the types of things we are remembering?  Is it that we are supposed to not remember the bad, ugly things of our past? No, that can’t be, since I’m convinced that God allows some of the most difficult times in life to teach, train, and draw us closer to Him (such as the life of Job: James 5:11). So, it’s not about forgetting the bad and remembering the good (my previously referred scriptures say nothing of that anyway).

After more chewing and spitting up, I go to the words of 1 Chronicles 16:12- Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth. For now (and if I am wrong God will reveal even this to me, maybe through you!), I find my answer in this small verse. The purpose of remembering is to recall what God has done (His marvelous works and wonders) in my life and in the lives of those who have left us a testimony.  I am told to forget however, because I cannot move forward if I am stuck in one place, focused on the things I have or haven’t done. Focusing on my successes can lead to pride, while focusing on my failures can lead to doubt, fear, or frustration. In short, it comes down to removing myself - forgetting the 'me' of the past, and focusing solely on Christ- remembering who 'He' is and what 'He' has done.  This will strengthen my faith and grow my love and knowledge of Him. I must take me out of the equation! Clear as mud? J

Saturday, November 19, 2011

There is a Friend who Sticks closer than a Brother

 Upon arriving at the gym this morning, my cousin and I slowly forced ourselves onto the elliptical. We did our customary 5 minute warm-up and, rather than our usual routine, decided to stay on the machine longer.  As time S-L-O-W-L-Y crept by, we would think of something, anything to talk about that would expedite this whole ordeal.  We eventually got into a groove and at times weren’t even aware of the slow tick of the minute hand. Don’t get me wrong, there were moments she would say, “If you weren’t here I would be getting off this thing” and I couldn’t have agreed more! Regardless, because we were able to push and encourage each other, we stayed on that machine for a full thirty minutes. No, we were no Jillian, getting in each other’s faces yelling and cursing (Jillian never would have accepted a meager 30 minutes); most of the time we didn’t motivate each other with words at all. We were simply two likeminded women with similar goals who were there for each other.  Neither wanted to be the one to admit exhaustion; neither wanted to let the other down, both wanted desperately to reach that 30 minute mark. And we did, triumphantly!

As we walk, or jog, or run (heck sometimes we even have to crawl) through this life we call the Christian walk, I have experienced firsthand how important having likeminded friends and sisters are. There are times I want nothing more than to sit in my little house with my little family and be left alone because that is where I am most comfortable.  And, sadly there are seasons I do just that. However, the times I force myself to take that step, to have coffee with a friend, or get away for a weekend with a group of ladies, or commit to a weekly bible study, are some of my most encouraging stages in life.  These are the moments I am pressed, challenged, and motivated to push on in areas I never would on my own.

I am thankful God has given me my cousin for this season of life and that we hold each other accountable to simply put those tennis shoes on and get moving. I am thankful for the many likeminded sisters that spur me on to good works, encouraging me sometimes without a word, but simply by their presence. A dear sister recently posted on her blog regarding loving her children the way God desires; the way she desires. She concluded with the realization that she can accomplish this daily by simply praying for them. I was so encouraged by that!  So often I feel disappointment and regret with my lack of parenting skills, but this is something I can do daily! This is a way I can show and act out my unconditional love for them. This sister doesn’t even know it, but she spurred me on and encouraged me as a mother that day.

When I get a glimpse at where I once sat, and where I stand today, I thank God for the sisters that have held my hand and, when necessary, made me put my big girl panties on! We’ve laughed together and cried together; we’ve had times that were exhaustingly difficult and raw. I thank God for every moment and anticipate many more! Do you have one or more of these sisters?  Please share!  I would love to hear your stories of how God has moved in your life and brought you where you are today J

As iron sharpens iron,
So a [wo]man sharpens the countenance of [her] friend.
~Proverbs 27:17

Friday, November 18, 2011

Run For It!

Run For It!

I’ve recently contracted a bug: the running/workout bug. Isn’t it exciting to realize you are capable of doing something you never thought you could? How exhilarating to press on and push forward, then look back and see just how far you’ve come!  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no marathon runner. It would actually be more accurate to call myself a jogger rather than a runner. However, my accomplishment of being able push myself for thirty minutes is hardly a small one in my eyes. Yes, there are those moments when I start looking at fitness giants tackling four hour marathons or even triathlons and my thirty minutes quickly morph into something hardly worth getting excited about. Aside from these occasional moments of comparison and discouragement, my running experience has been such a blessing.  And I am learning a few things about myself in the process.

1. I can only go as far as I push myself.  I will consistently lose momentum at the one mile mark if I don’t push myself to go further.  Once I push harder, forcing myself beyond that mile, then I begin building endurance, get stronger, and will go further the next time.

2. I am discovering parts of my body that do not like to cooperate. My somewhat smaller, weaker leg will burn and scream in protest, many times convincing my brain and the rest of my body that unless we stop now we shall surely die. Or my lungs will ache, unable to suck in adequate oxygen, alarming my brain of some imagined danger. However, these parts of my body are just that, a small part of a larger body, and they must not be allowed to decide that I will not reach my full potential.

3. Small goals lead to success! Large goals can result in death. I can tell myself to run to the next stop sign and then feel great accomplishment when I reach that stop sign, or even go a little further. However if my goal is not the next stop sign, but the next five stop signs, and I don’t make that goal, I am setting myself up for discouragement, failure, and a lack of desire to get out there tomorrow and set another goal.

As a follower of Christ I can take these small lessons in daily running and apply them to my daily walk: 1. I can choose to stay where I’m comfortable and never reach my full potential in the gifts God has given me, or I can take a risk, ask God to use me, and make myself more available to Him. This makes my faith and walk stronger each day. 2. I have an obligation to my Lord and His people as a part of the body of Christ. I can choose to actively fill that role using the gifts God has placed in me (such as writing something small and sharing it daily), or I can hold myself and the body as a whole back by complaining, grumbling, or not trusting what God is doing when the road is difficult and sometimes painful. 3. Rather than having unrealistic expectations, I can set small goals for myself and then walk in them.  Rather than decide to read the whole bible in a year, I can tell myself to read for 5 minutes every day for a week.  Now that is something I can do! I can likewise support others in their “small” successes, encouraging them to go just a little further each day in this walk with Jesus.  I pray that this blog is one way I can accomplish that!

Comments, opposing views, additional insight?  Please do share!  I am having a blast sharing with you and I truly hope you feel free to do the same!

At the time, discipline isn't much fun. It always feels like it's going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it's the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. So don't sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it!
~Hebrews 12:11-13 (The Message)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Great Deception

Two days ago, while driving my kids to school, I saw a police officer on the side of the road, lights flashing, and some poor soul presumably receiving a ticket and the third degree. After arriving at the school, shoving the kids out of the car (just kidding), and heading back home, I saw the same scene: same officer, yet a different poor soul this time.  Later that day as I drove to pick my kids up, I saw this officer yet again, with another soul parked on the side of the road. Yesterday morning, on our way to school, there he was again!  I thought to myself “Wow, he has no mercy!” (Ok, maybe it was a ‘she,’ I never actually saw the officer.) Finally, later that afternoon I was making the usual journey in rescuing my brilliant kiddos from school, and, you guessed it: same officer, another soul! I voiced out loud to no one but myself “I cannot believe this guy! He literally sits and waits for any and all unknown victims, pouncing them as quickly as he can! One wrong move, and there he is, enforcing the law and assuring the penalty is paid!”

Okay, so maybe that’s a little harsh, but really?  Does he have to go after poor, hurried parents, desperately trying to avoid their kids being late for school? I mean come on, give mom and dad a break.  This guy is obviously NOT a parent! Anyway, let’s get to my point. And I do have a point!

As I continued my trek to the school, I was struck by the thought that this is so often the way we view our Heavenly Father: a big, mighty god always watching; watching and waiting for us to mess up. Not just waiting for us to mess up, but EXPECTING us to mess up. Like he has some kind of quota to fill, so many tickets he has to write in a day. And as soon as we do (and we all do) he becomes the harsh judge and we the worthless, guilty criminals. He wastes no time in proclaiming guilt, demanding justice is served, and the penalty paid. What a horrible deception! What a repulsive picture of a loving God.
The reality is, this is exactly what our enemy is doing: walking about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1Pet 5:8). He jumps at the chance to accuse us before God day and night (Rev 12:10)! God’s word says there is NO CONDEMNATION for His children (Rom 8:1), that His thoughts for us are for GOOD, not evil (Jer 28:11). He is full of MERCY, GRACE, ENDLESS PATIENCE, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, and FORGIVENESS (Ex 34:6-7). Does this sound like a god watching and waiting for us to break his rules?  No! That would be our enemy seeking to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Satan transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14); the very counterfeit of God.  Does he not also take his own characteristics and tempt us to transfer them onto God? I pray for the grace to not only believe in God, but to also believe Him (John 3:36); to believe the truth about Him and the truth about who I am in Him. And I pray I don't see that cop on the side of the road this morning! :)
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
~Psalm 23:4

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Around and Around

The changes of seasons are sometimes beautiful and anxiously anticipated.  We look forward to the colors of fall, moving into a schedule with the new school year, and the coming of gathered family for the holidays. On the other hand, this new season can bring dreaded coldness and dryness distinctly unlike the drought of summer. We may begin moving about each day as if in some sort of trance, stuck in the daily grind of work, school, sports, laundry, dishes, only to tuck the kids in at night so we can wake and do it all over again. Oh the mundaness of it all. Hehe, my computer tells me ‘mundaness’ is not a word. It is obviously NOT a mother, because this word fits into my life day in and day out. Yours?

How about you?  Do you ever have that feeling of being stuck in a rut?  Ever feel as if you’re in a dry wilderness, gasping for a taste of God, a small drop of His presence, just a sip of His Word; struggling for life? Your soul thirsting for God, your flesh longing for Him, in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water (Ps 63:1). At times we feel as if we wander, gazing upon the mountain before us, longing for that mountaintop experience. We know we’ve been there before, long ago.  We remember the sensation; the same one Peter, James, and John must have felt as they stood atop that mount with the transfigured Lord of Lords (Matt 17). Looking back summons feelings of disgust at our current, parched situation.  “How did I get here again?  Why do I do this to myself?  Why do I do it to You, Lord? Where have I gone wrong?” We may even plead with Him to take us from this place. 

Recently an elder of my home fellowship referred to this mountain in life in a sermon entitled Who are your Angels?. He described it as having a track around it and talked of walking around and around that track; around and around that mountain.  He went on to tell how he repeatedly saw the same scenery over and over again. In his frustrated and discouraged state he said, “He we are again, same old place, God.” Sound familiar?  I had to laugh as he shared only because I’ve been in the same place so many times myself. However, God responded to his cries of frustration, whispering, “No. Every time you go around that track you are higher on the mountain.”[1] This, my dear sister, was a drop of God’s presence for a thirsty soul. This was a sip of His Word that we so long for when in that place. God is faithful and sometimes we just need a change in perspective.

 The way of life winds upward for the wise,
That he may turn away from hell below.
~Proverbs 15:24

[1] Terry Nelson – Sunday, Nov 6, 2011 “Who are your Angels?”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A New Name

Last night my family read and meditated on Genesis Chapter 45.  Here we see Joseph finally reveal his identity to the brothers standing before him.  Overcome with love and a longing to know the welfare of his family, Joseph asks about his father Israel, or shall we call him Jacob… The final two verses in this chapter reveal the complexity of the father of 12.

But when they told him all the words which Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived. Then Israel said, “It is enough. Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.” (Gen 45:27-28)

You see, Jacob was a cheat, a liar, a deceiver, the list goes on.  One night, God not only meets Jacob, but physically wrestles with him.  The deceptive cheat that he is, Jacob does not give up the fight and the scripture says, “[God] saw that He did not prevail against him” and therefore knocked Jacob’s hip socket out of joint (Gen 32:25). After some pleading and begging on Jacob’s part to be blessed, God grants him a new name: Israel. Overnight the man is transformed from a dirty, rotten, no good liar, into a Prince with God! Or is he? Time and again I have questioned why this man, after receiving his new name is sometimes referred to by that new name, and other times simply recognized again as the old Jacob.  When God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, he was never again known by the old man Abram.  Nor was Sarah called Sarai or Paul called Saul. So I ask the question: why Jacob?

Maybe we need to ask ourselves this same question.  Have we received a new name as a child of God?  Has He wiped away the old woman and resurrected in us a new identity?  If the answer is yes, then He has triumphantly prevailed in our lives. However, what if our situation resembles Jacob’s: one minute known as Jacob, the next as Israel; one minute wallowing in sorrow, pain, self-pity, and unbelief, the next minute standing in confidence of God’s work, only to turn back in doubt, frustration, and fear? The scripture says God did not prevail against Jacob, Jacob prevailed (Gen 32:25,28). Has God prevailed in your life?  Has God prevailed in mine?
God tells me He loves me and He says I am His beloved.  Do you see this?  Beloved = BeLoved!  To be His beloved, I must be loved!  I must receive His love and so walk in it (Rom 6:4). As I take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor 10:5), casting aside the strongholds and lies of Satan which tell me I am stupid, fat, ugly, incapable, unworthy, and UNLOVED, then and only then do I begin to walk in my new identity.  So today I choose to cast aside the old me and put on the new me. Today I am the Beloved!
Jason Gray 'Remind Me Who I Am' -You Tube

-Scriptures taken from the New King James Version