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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Without Delay

" Get in the car" my husband said as I opened the door to his shiny silver Hyundai. Nearing the end of a long day at work, I reflected on the relatively uneventful nature of my birthday. I walked up the stairs to find my husband eagerly awaiting my arrival so he could unveil his surprise. "But, what about my car?" I said, hands juggling my coat and purse. "Just get in". Before I could say another word, we sped away, destination unknown. I got in, expecting my children to erupt in cheers and happiness, but their silence became deafening as I noticed their absence. " They are with my parents", he said. " But where are we going?" I inquired. "You'll see." We drove about twenty minutes and pulled into the parking lot of our favorite restaurant. " Is this ok?" " I shook my head in approval, embarrassed at my anger at him only hours before for failure to plan anything special.
It was obvious to me as soon as i saw him he wanted me to hurry up and do what he asked me to do because something wonderful was awaiting me.
It is so easy for me to move quickly when I know something will benefit me- going to a favorite restaurant, scoring some extra spending money or a little extra morning shuteye. But, how quickly do I move when I know I'm going to have to sacrifice something or lose something of importance?
Mark 1:19-20 says "When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him."
What strikes me about the passage are the words " without delay." Jesus, James and John all saw an opportunity before them and took it, they never stopped and thought about the cost or sacrifice that might await them. They didn't take a moment to pray about it, or weigh out the pros and cons of their decision. Jesus saw two men who He believed was good soil to glorify His father's name, and James and John left a comfortable job and life to become more like a man they knew very little about.
How much more knowledgeable are we? We've read the Scriptures, combed the commentaries and sung all the hymns in the hopes of becoming a fraction more like Jesus.
How quickly do you answer Jesus' call to follow Him? Do you hesitate, or do you go without delay?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Beauty of Surrender

Being sick in bed today, although disappointing, has its perks. It has allowed me to watch a lot of daytime tv, which helps me alleviate the stress of working with small children. I turned on the tv to see the Anderson Cooper show, a program I didn't even know existed until this morning. Anderson had on a behavioral therapist to help him deal with his greatest fears: heights and bugs. The therapist tired an exposure therapy approach to his fears, asking him to conquer his fear by facing it head on. His advice to his audience was to " surrender" to the fear like Kevin Costner in the movie Dancing with Wolves. He also said that as a society, we are more fearful than ever, given the abundance of fear based information available at our fingertips.
I had to wonder, however, how can we really conquer any fear without Christ?
Philippians 4:6-7 addresses this very thing: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
God teaches us that the essence to peace is really in our surrender to the Holy Spirit. I know I have wrestled with anxiety and depression for years, but when I have surrendered my control to God and trust that He knows what is best, I have achieved the peace God wants for me. To truly know God means to know him not only in my mind, but in my heart. Knowledge without action does nothing to achieve transformation but only gives me more information. The key to transformation is in my willingness to surrender.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

sneakers to the service

Awoken by a sharp shooting pain in my right foot early Sunday morning, I debated whether or not to attend Sunday morning service. I peered through my closet for shoes to wear: shoe after shoe that looked great on the outside, but only maximized my pain on the inside. I glanced at the floor to find one alternative: my one pair of sneakers.
I knew all of my friends would stare at me if I wore ugly looking sneakers into the sanctuary, but I could not fathom shoving my foot into a cute but useless heel. I put on my sneakers, once pearly white and now stained with the day to day wear of everyday life, hopped in my car and prepared for embarrassment.
When I entered the cream colored sanctuary, I saw every other woman dressed to the nines in their neatly pressed dresses, while I dove into the nearest inconspicuous chair and sat down. I leaned forward to get a look at the line of shoes in my row: pristinely polished shoe after shoe lined the floor. And then there was me, wearing those once bone white street shoes, now sprinkled a light chocolate brown. Wringing my hands and wiping my sweaty palm on the chair next to me, I opened them up in worship to my Savior.
Instead of trying to fit into uncomfortable shoes and making a favorable impression, I chose not to pretend to be anything more than what I was: hurting and in pain. I may have not been the most popular woman at my church that day, but I didn’t care. I merely came to a savior who knew my pain and loved me anyway.

Matthew 11: 28-29 says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” I needed to come to Jesus just as I was, and pretend to be nothing less. He could handle my stained sneakers. Jesus only asks me to come to Him, and He lovingly gives me His yoke, one of comfort, peace and contentment. All I had to do was ask.

Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand gifts says “That which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To him. To the God whom we endlessly crave.”

God delights when you come to him as you are. Are you willing to come to Him?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Reflective Glory

I have been taking a class in personnel management and as we have explored the topic of “human talent’ and that all people have worth and can contribute to the organization in some shape or form. He spoke about a concept called “reflective glory” or the idea that as a leader of an organization takes a ‘we” approach rather than an ‘I’ approach it reflects better on them. If they are being a good leader, the people who rise to the top are those that indicate the success of the leadership. Not only does this apply to the business world, but also us as a church community. If a church is doing an adequate job making disciples, it should reflect positively on the leaders who have taught them how to do that.
So, think for a moment about your own church body. Although we are supposed to give all “reflective glory" to the Lord, what we do in this life does matter and we area commanded in Acts to “go and make disciples.”
Do you have people who are “rising to the top” due to your discipleship? Are you receiving “reflective glory” for what you do to bring glory to God in your day to day lives?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

If you want to run the marathon, you have to run one lap first

I embarked on my first run outside in what has been quite a long time. I strapped on my i -pod, tightened my sneakers, and was off like a shot. I made it all the way to an impressive half way around one lap and stopped, incredibly winded and even more discouraged. "I'll never make it" I said to myself. I almost gave up. But, then I said " I'm not going to let this get me down." I willed myself around the rest of the way and made it around one lap. It might not be a big accomplishment to you, but to me, it was more than just a simple jog, but it was a symbol of something greater. It was a release of my fear and doubt that I could endure to the end. I would love someday to run a half marathon. Maybe i'll get there. maybe I won't. But, one thing is for sure, if I want to run the marathon, I have to start with running one lap.
That goes for the Christian life, too. At times it is so engrossing and life gets so difficult, and it leaves me winded and discouraged, unsure I can even take one more step. But, my willingness to shake off the fear and endure to the end makes running the race all the sweeter. Going through each day doing what is right may not seem like much, but I have to start somewhere. If I want to reach the finish line and into my savior's arms, I have to start by running one lap.
Are you ready to run your one lap today?

Monday, April 18, 2011

What's the Favor of God?

I was stuck in bed yesterday worth what felt like a potential sinus infection. When I'm sick, I tend to do things I wouldn't normally do. For example, I watched hours and hours of mind numbing television and took two naps within an hour and a half. In between these two napes, I flipped back and forth between the "Christian" programs and "secular" programs. I don't normally watch the "Christian" station, but since it was during the church hour, I decided to give it a whirl in the hopes of hearing an inspired word from God that would change me a little more into my Savior. As message after message droned on, I came to a realization. I really didn't see much difference between the christian and the non-christian. The sermons on the Christian station talked about the same things non-christians are talking about: the bad economy, fear, doubt, comfort, hope. The only difference was on the christian station, the people wore nicer suits and clapped accordingly at the pastor's shouting proclamations. Granted, the Bishop or pastor peppered their words with Scripture (some of which were taken out of context) and belief in Jesus and ended each message with the same invitation to invite the audience to accept Jesus into their life. One Bishop even proclaimed that if i sent in a seed of $130 God would unleash unusual favor on me for the next 130 days meaning wealth and prosperity). It made me wonder: if this is all that Christians have to say on these matters, what does the non-christian really have to hope for? Furthermore, if all God is interested in is giving me his favor, what about all the favor reserved for his 12 followers? Where did all of that go? Lastly, if favor is only material wealth, what about the poor around the world who have more faith in God that I have ever dreamt of having in Him?
That Gospel doesn't seem to be worth dying for, does it?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Emerging from my blog writing hiatus (for now..)

Some of you might be wondering if I have fallen off the face of the earth. The answer to that is no. I am still writing, and am very encouraged in my endeavors thus far, I just haven't shared any of that on here. I have been feeling a bit pulled in different directions and am feeling a bit overwhelmed in the process. I may wax and wane on my blog writing for now, but i am still writing nonetheless. I am working on the designing, editing and revising process of the first book Finding your Place in the Story of God while beginning the writing phase of my current project Don't forget the Parchments, which is allowing people to learn from the histories of their ancestors in order to mentor the future generations. It is daunting to say the least. In addition, I am taking classes to eventually become a day care director.
(Phew, I am tired just writing all that...)
But, God is good as always. whether in the overwhelmed times or the bored out of my mind times, He is still speaking, and it is for those moments that I am most grateful. I hope you, dear reader, who took a moment to stumble upon this blog post, well.
On a side note, the publishers are asking me for a subtitle to the Finding your place in the Story of God. I am thinking I should change the title before making a subtitle. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Be a Defender

Lately I have been dealing with a situation in my professional life where someone was using an inappropriate tone with someone else. The situation became one in which (since I witnessed it) I had to intervene. This situation was not new to me, but was becoming an abusive one, and I needed to act quickly to protect all involved. As I watched the situation unfold, I heard God say " Be a defender." Deuteronomy 10:18 says "He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you..."
This seems like an odd request, given I am not a father, or a widow. It also is in sharp contrast to verses like Matthew 5:38-42 that says " “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."
Most Christians believe we should always "turn the other cheek". But, what if the situation is becoming abusive? Does Jesus advocate for victims to swallow their pride and security in order to be in compliance with this biblical principle? While I do think we should hold loosely to our possessions, our pride and our self-image, I think there is a line between abuse and grace. Although grace should abound, abuse should not. Sometimes the best thing that I can do as a Christian is to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Which leads me to think " which do I defend more often: my rights or the rights of others?"

Monday, February 14, 2011

The beauty that emerges

I've been reflecting on a couple of songs lately. One is sung by a non-christian, struggling with the pain after a bad relationship. The other, sung by a Christian, also dealing with the pain of repentance. Both artists are similar in age and appearance, and both were named breakout artists of 2010, in their respective genres.
Look closely at the lyrics.
They are similar in subject matter, but have one main difference.
The difference is hope.
The first struggles to survive and triumph over her pain. the second, suffers but for a moment, but knows beauty will eventually emerge.
Where are you? Are you struggling to triumph, or do you know the pain last for a moment, and beauty will eventually emerge?

Jar of hearts by Christina Perri
I know I can't take one more step towards you
Cause all that's waiting is regret
And don't you know I'm not your ghost anymore
You lost the love I loved the most

I learned to live half alive
And now you want me one more time

And who do you think you are
Running 'round leaving scars
Collecting your jar of hearts
And tearing love apart
You're gonna catch a cold
From the ice inside your soul
So don't come back for me
Who do you think you are

I hear you're asking all around
If I am anywhere to be found
But I have grown too strong
To ever fall back in your arms

And learn to live half alive
And now you want me one more time

And who do you think you are
Running 'round leaving scars
Collecting your jar of hearts
And tearing love apart
You're gonna catch a cold
From the ice inside your soul
So don't come back for me
Who do you think you are
Dear, it took so long just to feel alright
Remember how to put back the light in my eyes
I wish I had missed the first time that we kissed
Cause you broke all your promises
And now you're back
You don't get to get me back

And who do you think you are
Running 'round leaving scars
Collecting your jar of hearts
And tearing love apart
You're gonna catch a cold
From the ice inside your soul
So don't come back for me
Don't come back at all

And who do you think you are
Running 'round leaving scars
Collecting your jar of hearts
And tearing love apart
You're gonna catch a cold
From the ice inside your soul
Don't come back for me
Don't come back at all

Who do you think you are?
Who do you think you are?
Who do you think you are?

Show Me by Audrey Assad

You could plant me like a tree beside a river
You could tangle me in soil and let my roots run wild
And I would blossom like a flower in the desert
But for now just let me cry
You could raise me like a banner in a battle
Put victory like a fire behind my shining eyes
I would drift like falling snow over the embers
But for now just let me lie

Bind up these broken bones
Mercy bend and breathe me back to life
But not before You show me how to die

Set me like a star before the morning
Like a song that steals the darkness from a world asleep
And I’ll illuminate the path You’ve laid before me
But for now just let me be

Let me go like a leaf upon the water
Let me brave the wild currents flowing to the sea
And I will disappear into a deeper beauty
But for now just stay with me
God for now just stay with me

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What's on your Playlist?

I have heard this question answered on itunes and other music websites. Anyone who owns an i-pod knows this refers to what music is being played the most and the most readily available- the music that resonates, illuminates and changes their lives.
Now, think about this word in terms of what is going on in your head. What thoughts, positive or negative, are changing your life? What messages are "playing" in your head on a regular basis? Are they rooted in the truth of scripture, or are they the subtle work of the enemy? Are those thoughts, and ultimate feelings and actions, changing you life in a good way or a bad way?
The bible says to "be transformed the the renewing of you minds..." This is for good reason. Change your "playlist" to Scripture verses. Recitation of Scripture will change your life(and your heart) for the better. Change starts in the head. It ends in the heart.
What's on your playlist?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Verdict is in... for real

At long last I have finally spoken to the publisher. For those of you who have kept up with my ongoing saga, I'm sure you are waiting in suspense I have been for so many months.So, I won't keep you waiting anymore. Bottom line:
It's a no.
However, I came away very encouraged.
She began the conversation apologizing for the long wait, which I graciously accepted. Then, she proceeded to go page by page critiquing my work. She told my about my wording on some things that were confusing to her or needed to be rephrased. She also asked me to define my audience more clearly, and that would help with some of the words that I used. She also told me some ideas and paragraphs that she thought were stellar. After a half hour long conversation, I asked her the question burning in my mind: Where do we stand now?
She said 5 years ago she could take new authors like myself and take them under her wing and give them the start in the publishing business. She said they don't do that anymore. Therefore, there was nothing more her and I could talk about because I don't have the large platform they look for (authors like Francis Chan speak to hundreds of thousands of people and I don't have the same exposure). But she said, if I would like, she could take a look at my revisions and give her opinion on them. She also asked me if I had sent it to anyone else and when I replied no, she said make sure I keep pursuing it. She said I have something to say and that if I frame it in a tighter way, I could have something that could be published.
She also gave me a list of freelance editors that she knows that I could use. She encouraged me to return to the same conference I attended when I saw her (She Speaks)and re-pitch the second draft to another publisher. She became so engaged with my testimony about my parents that she actually asked me how my relationship was with them. So, I guess I left her wanting more, which is the goal of any author.
Overall, I walked away more encouraged. When she sent the list of editors in an e-mail, she thanked me for my listening ear and said it bodes well for my writing, and said I had a lot of good ideas and passion about my topic and hoped I was willing and able to pursue my manuscript.
Please keep praying as I consider what to do next: self- publish, return to a conference or give it to Zondervan publishing, who invited me to send a proposal when I met with them last year.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I need your help!

I need your help!
Please pray- I just received an e-mail from the publisher who said she reviewed my proposal. she said she would rather speak to me over the phone about it than write an e-mail. She is calling me at some point tomorrow. Please pray:
1) That the idea is still workable even if she is returning it to me to make changes
2) If this isn't the best idea, that I could pitch her my original idea" Becoming the disciple Whom Jesus Loved"
3) That god would keep the door open in some way if this is returned to me
Thanks to all who have prayed fro me thus far and cared enough to follow up- it means a lot.
I could use your support one more time....

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Still Small Voice

Don't you wish God would just tell us what he wanted for our lives?
Don't you wish He just used a megaphone?
Or write it in hieroglyphics on the wall?
Why does He instead choose to use a still, small voice instead?
Does He choose to use the quiet because they don't normally get the attention for being so loud?
Does it take more faith to meander about, clinging onto God to help navigate through the darkness?
Does it take less faith to simply follow a shout?
Which are you following, the shout of the crowd, or the still small voice of the Holy Spirit?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Drunk Monkeys

I was just watching on TV a study that they have done on monkeys and they have observed that monkeys have the same drinking patterns as humans. But not just any drink, I mean alcohol. they said 20% of the monkeys they studied drank too much and after investigating their brain, saw that they were losing their mind ( or brain mass) after excessive drinking. Although I initially questioned why we have this much time on our hands to be studying drunk monkeys, I further questioned what this tells us as humans who live in a society where drinking is not just accepted, but in some cases abused, particularly those who are too young to drink it. Does this mean we need to craft new laws to prevent people from abusing this, or merely educate students from a young ages about alcohol's potentially hazardous effects? Either way, I guess it shouldn't shock us as a nation anymore when we flip on the news and see people under the influence acting like "animals"...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Winter Snow

As we approach the possibility of yet another snowstorm, I could think about the inconvenience of poor driving conditions, another day off for the kids or the mounds of black ice I have to ship off the front stoop. Or, I can think about the beautiful way God provides again for His creation. I hope you will reflect on these lyrics by Audrey Assad's song " Winter Snow" the next time snow falls on your windowpane.

Could've come like a mighty storm
With all the strength of a hurricane
You could've come like a forest fire
With the power of Heaven in Your flame

But You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

You could've swept in like a tidal wave
Or an ocean to ravish our hearts
You could have come through like a roaring flood
To wipe away the things we've scarred

But You came like a winter snow, yes, You did
You were quiet, You were soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

Ooh no, Your voice wasn't in a bush burning
No, Your voice wasn't in a rushing wind
It was still, it was small, it was hidden

Oh, You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

Falling, oh yeah, to the earth below
You came falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Quality of Discipleship

I was reading Matthew the other day and I came across this passage in Matthew 4:12-17:
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
  “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
   the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
   Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people living in darkness
   have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
   a light has dawned.”
  From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

This made me stop and take notice. I really see Christ's humility yet again in this verse. He was willing to lower himself to value John's example so much that he continued on the tradition of preaching his message.
It also speaks to John's example that his faithfulness in preaching made even the son of God sit up and take notice.
This made me think "Are there people in my life whose example is so exemplary that I would want to take over their ministry after they are gone?"
Can you think of anyone?
What does this say about the quality of our commitment to discipleship?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Verdict is In

Well, the verdict is in on my book proposal.
I finally got the courage to contact the publisher that has my book proposal. She got back to me and said...
She never looked at it! Apparently it "got by her" and she printed it off and is going to look at it in the next few weeks.....
So, I guess it is back to waiting......

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Even Something Quiet Can Do a Lot of Damage

How is it that something so quiet can cause so much damage? I woke up this morning to find close to a foot of snow on the ground and my family and I snowed in for the day. It could have been worse, but we enjoyed the day watching movies and playing games. At best for me it was a much enjoyed day off.
But, isn't it the same in our spiritual lives too? The visible or things we do to others do damage to our relationships with God, but doesn't it seem like those that are unspoken of and unseen do just as much harm? The self deprecating thoughts and beliefs that exist in our minds and hearts do just as much to alienate us from God's unending and unfailing love. "For out of the heart the mouth speaks..."
What unspoken and unseen sins keep you from basking in God's love?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Don't confuse Cliques for Community

If you feel included while others are excluded, you don't have true community.
If you hang out with the same people, and never venture out to meet new ones, you don't have community.
If you haven't met an immediate need in among the members of your congregation, you don't have community.
If you are more concerned with the hobbies and life circumstances that bond you as opposed to your love for Christ, you don't have community.
If your church has cliques, it doesn't have community.
If you and the others in your fellowship would give your lives for a saving knowledge of Christ, then there is community.
If you can't NOT be among other believers, you have experienced true community.
If you can't figure out who among the people you having out with the most loves God more, then you have community.
"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved" ( Acts 2:42-47).
This is true community. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

All the World is an Act

I just heard a quote on a television show that said "all the world is an act." It made me think How many of us try to be someone we are not?
Do we allow the perceptions of others to affect how we think and act or are we true to ourselves and who God has made us to be?
I am reminded of the verse that says "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming." (Ephesians 4:14)
I think part of spiritual maturity means trading in the preoccupation with what others think for the assurance that God loves you just the way you are. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Prepare for the Rain

I was watching the movie Facing the Giants and my favorite scene is when one of the teachers at the school comes to the football coach and tells him this parable:
"Two farmers desperately needed rain for their fields, and both prayed for it. But only one prepared his fields to receive it. Which one do you think expected God to send rain? Which one are you?"
I love it because it just shows me how beautiful the body of Christ can be when He is willing to be used by God. 

But, ask yourself this question: how often do i hear from God? If I do, how often have I been willing to do or say whatever you think God is telling you to?  Do I prepare myself to hear from Him?
What is God saying to you today?