Monday, March 30, 2009

Winter Storms

This should be a great day to blog. I am stranded inside with another snow storm raging outside. Yet, I am sitting here with a gloomy attitude thinking "I need some sun God! Where is the beauty of Spring?"

Sometimes in the long winters of South Dakota, it can be hard to see the beauty of the earth that God created. I can compare these dreary days to how I tend to feel spiritually at times. Throughout my spiritual journey there have been many seasons.

I think that I experience my seasons of springtime when I discover something new in my faith. When God peels another layer off of my hardened heart and helps me to see something through His eyes and not my own.

When I think of summer faith, I think of joy filled days. My summer season is the balanced days when I don't let the busyness of life overtake me. I enjoy every aspect of my day. In my faith journey it is the days that I wake up and focus on my faith first. I am not hurried by what else needs to be done.

Fall is the season of preparation. The plants are preparing themselves for the cold winter that is right around the corner. In my faith it is sometimes frantic days that I am preparing myself for a storm. I am not sure when it is coming and how bad it will be, but I need to be prepared for whatever happens.

Unfortunately my spiritual life has spent too much time in winter. Days when there is little sunshine. The days are shorter and colder. The days when I focus only on myself. Days that I would like to just shut myself out to the rest of the world and stay in my warm house where I am comfortable.

God doesn't intend for us to live our lives focusing on the cold, gray days of winter. I think he intends for us to combine all of the other seasons into our lives depending on the day and the circumstances that surround them.

Lately in South Dakota, fall, spring and summer run into each other. In fall we can have really warm summer days. In summer we can experience the cooler spring days. In spring we can feel the heat of summer.

Some days we are meant to be in the preparation mode of fall. God places warnings on our hearts of when and how we are supposed to prepare ourselves for the upcoming storms of life. But he doesn't want us to be frantic and stay in that place. He wants us to grow everyday like the plants do in spring. He wants us to become mature, strong plants that cannot be knocked over when an early spring rainstorm hits. I think he wants us to be filled with the joy of summer everyday, filled with the light that He places into our lives. However, he doesn't want us to become exhausted in the heat of the day and not replenish ourselves through Him.

So even though the storm rages outside, I know that I am not supposed to stay comfortable in my warm and cozy home. I am supposed to clothe myself with His protection and weather the storm. I am supposed to spend time in prayer and Bible study preparing myself for when the next storm hits. I need to concentrate on where I need to grow and change. I should never feel that I have gained all the wisdom that I need and stop growing. I do not want to become the plant that goes dormant after all of its fruit has been produced for the year.

I think that the seasons in nature are a great reminder to me about the seasons of life. They are unpredictable and constantly changing. We can have a snowstorm in April or 50 degree weather in December. If we rely on God, He has given us the protection we need to weather any storm, to get through every season. And even though there is no sun to be seen outside. He is shining a bright light in my life that can overcome any darkness that I may feel.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12

Friday, March 27, 2009

A loss of words

Those of you reading this that know me well, know that I am very rarely at a loss for words. Yet as I sit down to write this post, I am struggling to put words to the thoughts that are in my mind right now.

I just finished an amazing book by Philip Yancey titled What's so Amazing About Grace? I bought this book about 3 years ago when I was struggling with the definition of grace. For some reason, I got the book, but I set it aside to read at a later time. I am not sure what compelled me to pick it up off the shelf. I am so thankful that I did.

As I was reading it I realized the answer to my question. I don't think that I was ready to read this book until now. I feel like another layer was stripped from my eyes and from my heart as I kept reading.

A statement I read that is reflected throughout the book is this, "Grace is Christianity's best gift to the world. . .Sadly to a world desperate for this grace the church sometimes presents one more form of ungrace."

I read the word "church" in this statement and I substitute it with my name. As a believer I am a part of that statement. I want to write more about grace, but I need more time to reflect on what I read and the pray that God will give me the words to express my thoughts.

The piece of this puzzle of grace that has my mind reeling is this: God does not love me anymore than he loves anyone else on this earth. I have a dear friend that has a lot of questions right now about faith. In fact, she has stated that the Bible has little meaning to her in her life. I have been wrestling with God about this for weeks. As I read this book, the thought that kept entering my mind is, God loves her just as much as he loves me. God wants her to love Him back. It is her decision, but despite how she feels right now, He loves her just the same.

I pray that as God continues to open my eyes and my heart. I pray that everyone I encounter will not see me as a person that feels I am superior because of my faith. I pray that I do not react to anyone with ungrace. I pray that I can show them the love that can only come from Him.

I cannot in words explain the feeling of grace that is overwhelming my heart right now. My eyes have been open to the fact that I opened my heart to Jesus Christ, but somehow I stopped there. I did not let Jesus transform my heart so that I would open my heart up to ALL people; friends, enemies, believers, and non-believers.

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:22-24

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Old Blue Chair

I am really excited today. I finally got my bedroom organized (all the toys that had made there way in, have now found homes in different parts of the house). I am really excited because I made myself a prayer corner. I have read books on prayer and heard speakers on prayer that all talk about how you need to have a prayer room. A place of sanctuary that you can go to and pray, read your Bible and reflect. I have never had a spot like this in my house. After I got my room all put together I realized that I really needed a comfy chair to sit in, if this room was going to be my little sanctuary. And then I thought, "What about the Blue Chair!"

Chad and I got this blue glider rocker as a wedding gift. This chair has never really had a home. It has been moved so many times. It has moved with us on 4 different occasions. It has been in baby's rooms, in living rooms, in the basement. It has been written on, threw up on, jumped on and rocked so hard by the girls that I can't believe it hasn't fallen apart.

What a better chair for me to sit in, to pray. I rocked each of my little ones to sleep in this chair, I spent a lot of hours being still in that chair hoping that my little ones would stay asleep when I stood up to place them in their cribs. Now I can be still in this chair and pray for those same little girls that are growing up way to fast. Just as this chair was a gift for my marriage, I can pray for the gift of marriage and the amazing husband that God placed in my life.

I tell my girls that it doesn't matter where you pray, you can pray anywhere and you can pray for anything. You can pray on your knees, you can pray standing up with your arms raised. God doesn't care. So why is it so important for me to have this Blue Chair in the corner of my room?

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6

There are many times and places for prayer, but God likes nothing better than us devoting quiet time to read, pray and reflect in His presence. Many times I have stopped in the middle of the chaos in my house to shoot a few arrows to heaven. But with all the noise that is around me I am not taking time to listen. Now I can come into my bedroom, shut the door, sit in my old blue chair and pray.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Clothing Dilemma

Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds. Ephesians 4:21-23

Whenever I think about the above scripture I am visualizing clothing. I imagine taking off old, dirty, worn out clothes and putting on something new that makes me look great and feel great. Interesting enough this scripture really hit home with me this morning when I was dealing with my 6 year old.

I have always doubted my fashion sense. I didn't start wearing make-up until I was a senior in high school and still now there are a lot of days that I walk out the door without it on. (Thank you Jesus for clear skin). And I didn't carry a purse until I was a mom. . .so I am learning.

However, I have been blessed with a little 6 year old fashion diva. She makes up her mind about what she is going to wear before she finds out if it is clean. If it is not, the diva in her erupts and everyone wants to hide. She goes in phases, first it was her hair in a ponytail everyday for 6 months, then it was cowgirl boots, then flip flops, then a certain kind of socks and now. . .certain pants. (which were not clean this morning when she was getting ready for school.)

When all of this drama occurs before 8:00 a.m., it just isn't a great way to start the day. I am mad, she is mad. She goes to school with puffy eyes and a sniffly nose. And I spend the rest of my day beating myself up because I didn't handle the situation like I could have or should have.

So today after I got my girls to school and I started to think about how I could have handled things differently. I started thinking about Ephesians 4. It seems that every single day I have to wake up and once again take off my old self and put on my new self. Everyday I have to renew my mind and my attitude. If I don't take the time to ask Jesus to get me through every single day, my day seems to fall apart.

We had a discussion at Bible Study about why we so often hear the lies of the enemy, i.e. I am not good enough, I messed up again, I am a horrible mother. . . And the answer lies in 2 Corinthians 10:5, We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Every thought that runs through our minds must be taken captive and made obedient to Christ. Every lie that runs through our mind needs to compared to the truth of Christ. You are good enough, you are a wonderful mother and you need to forgive yourself. I so easily get distracted and start to believe the lies instead of focusing on the truth. I wish I didn't struggle with this so much, but I do.

In the book Captivating by Stasi Eldredge she says, "You are passionately loved by the God of the Universe. You are passionately hated by His enemy." I keep reminding myself that if I believe these lies, I am letting the enemy win and I am not willing to give him the satisfaction.

So next time you are struggling, take your thoughts captive and lean on the truth of Jesus Christ. Don't give Satan the satisfaction of controlling your thoughts. God is powerful and He has already won.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Good Cry

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:7 (NLT)

Do you ever feel like you need a good cry? In my mind crying doesn't show weakness. In my mind crying is a form of cleansing. Every once in awhile I just need a good cry. In Bible Study today this scripture was brought to my attention. The New Living Translation is so touching to me. God collects my tears in a bottle and records each of my hurts.

This scripture overwhelms me with comfort and love. Reading it almost brings me to tears. It makes me think of times as a teenager when my mom would sit by my side and I would bawl my eyes out. I would cry so hard that I couldn't breathe and she was always there to comfort me. I don't even like to think back on some of my hurts. However, I read this scripture and I know that every tear I have cried over big things and small things, God has bottled up and He feels all of my pain.

I think of some of the movies I love that make me cry every time I watch them. Most of them are always a love story. I love to get lost in their stories. It is fun to forget the realities of my life and live through the characters on the screen. The knight in shining armor that rescues his damsel in distress.

I have been reflecting a lot on my life lately. Something that I have been thinking a lot about is that I have a story, too. When I stop and look at the story of my life it brings me to tears. I feel blessed beyond measure. Not because life has always been easy. Believe me, God has a pretty big bottle for all of my tears.

My tears today are tears of joy. Joy in knowing that Jesus Christ gave His life to save mine. Talk about a love story. . .there is none greater. What is so amazing is that this is not my love story alone. I am not the only one that gets to experience this love story. It is your story, too.

If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:10-12

Monday, March 23, 2009

Walking on a Tightrope

I have been thinking a lot about balance the last few days. Trying to figure out how to balance all of the daily tasks on my to-do list is never easy for me. My hubby says I need time management, I am not so sure that would help some days.

And of course, when I opened my Fireproof book this morning what do I read, "Life is a marathon, not a sprint. This means you must balance, prioritize and pace yourself." I have a really hard time with this. It seems in my life that as soon as I start really getting one area figured out, another area suffers. For example, when I was focusing on eating healthy, losing a little weight and exercising, I was able to prepare for my 1/2 marathon. However, I didn't spend nearly enough time in my Bible and in prayer. Over the past couple of months I have been spending a lot of time in my Bible and praying, but I haven't broke a sweat.

I think that it is so important to find balance, I just haven't figured out how to make it happen yet. This morning I woke up and decided that I was going to eat a healthy breakfast of an orange and tea. I dressed in my work-out clothes instead of taking a shower right away so that I wouldn't have an excuse not to work-out this morning. And before I started doing anything else, I sat down with my Bible and tried to focus my day.

Unfortunately, I am already starving from my little breakfast, I haven't worked out yet and Nadia is ready for me to play. Not to mention the dishes in the sink, the laundry to do and the house to clean.

But, I feel great and I am motivated to get things done. I started my day focusing on what is important and I know that if I stay focused, I will have a great day. I found a scripture that helped me to get focused today and I would like to share it with you.

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

So I haven't found the balance that I am trying to achieve, and I guarantee you I won't get everything done that I would like today. But, I am not going to lose heart. The balance I am looking for will come, but it will be a marathon, not a sprint. As long as I make my relationship with Christ my priority, I will be renewed everyday.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Corinthians 5:1

I am sitting at my mom and dad's house and feeling more relaxed than I have felt in months. There is just something about being here that makes me breathe easier and put all of stresses of life to the back of my mind.

I was born and raised in the same house. I was surrounded by friends of all ages, there was a swimming pool across the street and I could look out the picture window and see the school park, skating rink and softball fields. But things change, people move and people build houses. As I was driving down my old street I was overcome by a little sadness. I think only one family still lives in the same place on this street from my childhood. Every other family has moved to the lake, or built houses on a different street, or moved out of town completely. The swimming pool and skating rink are long gone and houses stand in the way of my old view.

I am extremely thankful that my mom and dad are still here and nothing has changed. It will always be home. When I walk through the door, I can sigh, take a deep breath and know that everything will always be okay. I know that someday I may not have this home to come to and that will be sad. I pray that my children will always consider the home we have for them to be a place of peace and safety like this home is for me.

I know that things will continue to change in my lifetime. People will continue to move, buildings will continue to be built, people get sick, lives get torn apart. I could be right in the middle of some or all of these things.

However, I still have peace. And my peace comes from knowing that there is place far greater for me and for you. A place that will never change and never be destroyed. Some day I will walk through a different door and I will be home. I will sigh and take a deep breath and know that everything will be okay.

The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 2 Timothy 4:18

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Open Door

Greater love has no one then this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

I am starting my week feeling extremely blessed. I had a wonderful weekend with my friends. On Friday night I got to see a friend that I have known since I was 8 years old and on Sunday I spent the afternoon with one of my girlfriends here at home.

I have wonderful friends. They lift me up when I am down, they pray for me when I am hurting, they encourage me when I need a little push forward. Everyone needs friends. I came across the above verse this morning in John 15:13. I know that Jesus laid down his life for us (his friends) by dying on the cross. But I also know that I need to lay down my life for my friends.

What does that mean to me? Most importantly I think it means sharing my faith with my friends. There is no greater gift you can give a friend than to share with them the gift they can receive by accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.

I think that another way to lay my life down for my friends is to always be available to them. I will be the first to admit that I am domestically challenged. When you walk through the doors to my home, it is not always put together. In fact sometimes, it is actually a little scary. However, I want my friends to know that my door is always open. I love it when my friends come over and it doesn't happen often enough.

It is sad to say, but a phrase that can sometimes be cliche is "I will pray for you". When I say this to my friends, I want them to know that I will pray for them. I pray for them even when they don't ask. I pray for them when I can tell they need to feel God's arms wrapped around them. There are many times when we don't have the words or the strength to pray for ourselves, but we have friends that will intercede for us and God is listening.

Are you laying your life down for your friends? In this world of technology we have access to our friends like never before. And I know that I am horrible at keeping in touch, but even if I don't call often enough or send a little note on the computer often enough. I am here for you. I love all of you. And I will lay my life down for every one of you.

My door is always open (and if you are a little scared by what you see, we can always have a cup of coffee on the porch). :0)

Friday, March 13, 2009

For God So Loved You

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 (King James)

My Utmost for His Highest directed me to this verse today. I have been thinking about it and reading it in different translations this morning. This is the very first verse I remember learning as a child. In fact, to remember it we learned it as a song.

In Utmost the top of the page says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave. . ." I don't know about you, but that is a pretty powerful statement. Not only is God a loving God, but He is also a giving God. And He gave us the most precious gift that He could give. His one and only son. Most people that read this blog have children. Can you imagine sending your child to a place that you knew he wouldn't be accepted. To a place that your child would be ridiculed by many people. And sending them knowing that they would be tortured and sacrificed on a cross.

I think about how my mama bear instinct comes out even when I think one of my girls is getting treated unfairly. I want to protect them from the world and all of its ugliness. I would like to send them out into the world in a bubble so they never get hurt.

I love The Message translation of this verse. It says, "This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life." Can you grasp the magnitude of God's love?

He sent His Son to save us. He has given us eternal life. What have we given to Him? I have a long list of requests that I take to Him everyday. People that need healing, relationships that need mending, people that need saving. But what am I giving to Him? I read in Utmost yesterday this statement, "We have become so self-centered that we go to God only for something from Him, and not for God Himself."

His love for us is so much bigger than we will ever understand. "He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head!" Matthew 10:30 (The Message) He knows the number of every hair on our head. He wants us to love Him back. He wants us to seek Him. He wants us to talk to Him like we talk to our loved ones. He wants us to be still and listen to Him with our hearts.

But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 4:29

Think about how angry you get when someone you love is being treated unfairly. Think about someone that you love so much it hurts. That is the love that God has for you! And what He wants more than anything in the world is for you to love Him back.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

He will give you rest

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

I don't know about you but I am tired. No, let me rephrase that I am exhausted. Since I have been sick, my body is still a little physically exhausted. However, right now I am emotionally exhausted. One of the gals at our Bible Study this week was talking about coming to that place of peace when we realize that we are not perfect. How do we find that place of rest? That keeps rolling through my head.

When we were on vacation in January I got up at about 4:00 am Hawaii time (it was 8:00 am here). All was quiet around the resort. I grabbed my I-pod, my bible and my journal and I headed out to the balcony. I just sat there for awhile listening to the waves crash and watching the full moon radiant above the water. I was completely at peace. I love the ocean. The vastness of it and the power that it has, and the beauty.

I always long to find that peace at home, but it is never quite the same. And since I live almost as far away from the ocean as I possibly could. . .I have to figure out how to find that peace without buying a plane ticket. (My hubby says I have to put a hold on the travel plans for awhile). So where can I go to find this peace?

Jesus says, "Come to me". Meditate on that phrase for a bit. When I can take the time to sit down and spend quiet time with God I can find that peace. He can refill me and restore me. But I think it goes much deeper than quiet time with God and spending time in beautiful places. I think it is about finding peace with ourselves and with who we are. We work so hard at finding peace with ourselves and our surroundings that we create chaos not peace.

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. Psalm 62:1

I often have to remind myself to slow down and rest in the peace that God alone can provide. It is hard to get away from the busyness of life. On the seventh day of creation God rested. When was the last time you gave yourself permission to rest? I am not talking about sitting on the couch and wasting away a day. I am talking about being at peace in your soul. Being happy with the person God created you to be. Being yourself and not this person you think everyone else wants you to be. Because after awhile we get so lost in the person we think we are supposed to be that we forget who we really are.

Take some time today to sit down and reflect on what it feels like to be at peace. What does that look like to you? Go to God and ask Him to restore you and refill you.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1Peter 5:10

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

You are My Queen Regardless

I have been reading and discussing the book Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge with a group of women from my church. It has been very interesting for me. Today we focused on beauty. What is it, really? Do we know we are beautiful?

The meaning of beauty has really been transformed in my eyes through the years. For a long time beauty was all something that was outward appearance. Today true beauty to me is something that can only be reflected from the heart.

When I was thinking of beauty, I was thinking of some of my friendships. I have friends from college that saw me when I was at my ugliest, in terms of my attitude and where my heart was. There was a group of us that all grew up in the church, but none of us were really living our lives for Christ. Now some of those friends are some of the strongest Christian women I know. We have seen each other transform into the beautiful women that God created us to be.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

I think back to my childhood. There was a time that I always wanted to be the center of attention. I wanted to walk into a room and be noticed. I was full of self-confidence (a little too much at times). Now, when I enter a room I want to be invisible. I like to blend into the crowd. The question I keep asking myself is, what changed? How did I go from one extreme to another.

Growing up I had parents that reminded me of how valuable I was as a person. They helped me to feel beautiful even through some tough teenage years. I still have a note that my dad wrote to me before the state snow queen festival. It reads, "Good Luck Amy, Be Yourself and smile alot. You're my Queen regardless. I Love You, Dad." I cherish this note because if I am ever having a bad day, I have it right there to remind me that no matter what, I am loved.

Isn't it amazing that we all have little notes like this written to us from our Father in heaven. He left us an entire book [the Bible] telling us how much he loves us. Yet we all have days and sometimes women live their entire lives looking for someone to love them unconditionally.

I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. Proverbs 8:17

Why as women is it so hard for us to believe that we are beautiful. God created us in His own image. Think about the beautiful things that God has created. Captivating talks of creation as God's masterpiece and Eve was part of that masterpiece. "She is the crescendo, the final, astonishing work of God. She is the Master's finishing touch."

Think of yourself as part of God's masterpiece. He did not create us to be invisible when we walk into a room. He created us to feel just like I feel every time I read the note I have from my dad. "You are my Queen regardless". It doesn't matter that our house is a mess. It doesn't matter that we don't have dinner on the table every time our husband walks through the door. It doesn't matter when we have a bad hair day. Each one of us is a masterpiece created by God and he loves us.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Long Distance Race

I was just thinking about the 1/2 marathon that I competed in last October. When I think back to it, I still wonder how I ever made it across the finish line. I decided about one month before the race that I was going to attempt it. I am still not sure what I was thinking when I said yes. First of all, I was a runner in high school, but the longest I enjoyed running was 100 meters. I rarely had to run more than 1 mile. . .and this race was 13.1. Most "real" runners, (I do not categorize myself as one), train for months for a race. I wasn't planning on being competitive, but I did want to cross the finish line.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

It may be the competitor in me, but I love the verses of scripture that refer to faith as a race. Maybe it is because I feel like my faith journey is a long distance race. So far it has been a lot like my 1/2 marathon experience. I went into the 1/2 marathon with a confidence that came from, well, I am not sure where it came from. When I woke up the morning of the race I was excited, my adrenaline was pumping, I couldn't wait to get started. Then I started the race running. It was exhilarating. I was in a pack of hundreds of other runners. It didn't take long for the pack to spread itself apart. The really strong runners took off at their runner pace and were out of my sight very quickly. I was still feeling pretty good and then I saw the first hill. I had no idea how I was going to get up that hill. I was slow, but I did get up it. And then, I got to run down the hill, it was wonderful. I got a little of my energy back and I thought, okay, no problem, I can do this. All of this was in the first two miles. . .

Then, up in front of me loomed a hill, no a mountain, (well that is what it felt like). I told myself there is no way I am going to make it to the top of that hill. I was almost crawling up this hill. I was telling myself that I just wanted to quit. I did not train for this race, WHAT WAS I THINKING! Then as I was just about to quit a man said over a megaphone. It is all downhill from here. (He was exaggerating a little). It wasn't exactly downhill, it just wasn't any more giant hills. I kept going , my body ached and I wanted to quit, but I didn't quit. I was moving really slow and the last half was mostly a walk, but I kept going.

About 1/2 mile from the finish line I told myself I was going to cross that finish line running. I didn't know where the strength was going to come from, but I had accomplished something that I never thought was possible and I was not going to cross the finish line looking defeated. I was going to cross the finish line a winner (even if no one else thought I was). It was amazing. Everyone that finished the race got a really cool medal immediately put around their neck. People were at the finish line cheering everyone in. They really treated everyone like winners.

My faith journey has been a lot like this 1/2 marathon experience. When I entered into a personal relationship with Christ I was on fire. My faith was new and exciting. I was full of energy for the Lord. I wanted to tell everyone about this wonderful thing I had discovered. I wanted everyone to be on my journey. But, as I started to grow closer to God, I knew that no one could run the race for me. It was my journey.

I would hit a bump, like the first hill I encountered in my race and it felt like I wouldn't get to the top, but I did and then life was great I was gliding downhill. There were times that I stood in front of what felt like a mountain. But I trusted in God and I would know that he was going to get me over that mountain.

I think about that finish line and how everyone that crossed it was treated like a winner. I think that in heaven, everyone that has accepted Christ and endured the race will be a winner. I learned a very important lesson in my race. To be effective in the race, a person has to train. You have to be disciplined to be a competitor. You can't just know what it takes to run the race and be successful. I did finish the race and it was a huge accomplishment for me. However, how much more satisfying will it be to do it again after I have trained for it.

In my faith journey I have learned that I have to spend time studying my Bible, spending time in prayer and sharing my faith with others. I have to be bold, when I need to be bold and silent when I need to be silent. It takes work, I will face mountains. I will want to give up. But I have to keep my eyes on the ultimate prize.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 1 Timothy 4:7-8

Friday, March 6, 2009

Live to Worship

I am having a hard time believing that it is only 9:00 in the morning. I was awake at about 4:15 (still not feeling the greatest), but it did give me an opportunity to read Daniel 6. And for some reason after I was done I was able to sleep. Peace from Daniel in the Lion's Den. . .oh well, it works for me just as much as the fiery furnace I guess. :-)

I just spent time on two Caring Bridge Sites for two little baby boys that need prayers. Baby Xavier was born at 29 weeks and is now experiencing a brain bleed. I guess that is common in premature babies, but please add it to your list of prayers. Baby Drew was born with a hole in his diaphram. He is having surgery on Tuesday. It is so sad to think of two moms that can't just wrap their arms around their little ones whenever they want and hold them. However, I know that Christ's arms are wrapped around them right now and he is blessing them.

"And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them." Mark 10:16

I could use a few arrows to heaven myself to get rid of this nasty cough and sore throat before I lead worship on Sunday.

Whenever I am set to lead worship I always try to find one song as the foundation and pick the other songs around it. I was messing on the computer yesterday looking for songs. I had a few ideas, but it wasn't really coming together. Nadia had been begging me to come and dance with her. She had a CD case and she kept flipping in and out different CDs. When I finally caved and went out to dance with her, she put in a worship CD that I have had for years. As we were dancing a song came on called Live to Worship. I was sitting in front of the computer trying to figure out what to do and not getting very far. I gave in to dancing with my daughter and the song was right there. Here are the words:
A simple offering is all that we bring.
We give You our lives, claim You as King.
We are Your servants and before You we bow.
With every breath we make this vow.
We will live to worship, give you praise with all our hearts, for all our days.
Father we want to do what You created us to.
We will live to worship You.
Our every moment is a gift of Your grace.
We are all Yours, now and always.
More than just words, O Lord, the cry of our hearts is let our lives speak of how great You are.
You are Holy. You are worthy. You alone are deserving.
We will live to worship You.

Wow. All week I have been reading about grace and praying about grace and thinking about grace and there it was. Our every moment is a gift of Your grace. Isn't it amazing that we most often see God in our lives when we slow down and listen. Now this will be a new song. . .that is scary for a congregation. Hopefully everyone can just listen to the words and let them seep into their soul.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Pour out my heart

I haven't spent a lot of time writing this week. I have spent most of my week trying to listen.

"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." James 1:19-20

I have been a little under the weather physically, but emotionally I am not exactly 100%, either. When I sat down to write today, I felt like I had so much to say, yet so few words to express. I know that some that read this blog gain comfort from it. I know some that read this blog are uncomfortable with what I have to say. I know some that read this blog think I have lost my mind. All that I know is that this blog is my way of pouring my heart out on paper in ways that I feel inadequate to express sometimes in person.

First of all, I have a statement to make. "It is not easy being a Christian". There I have said it. I wish with all of my heart that it was, but it is not. And what is even more sad is sometimes other Christians are our worst enemies. (gasp) Every morning when I wake up God reveals to me another area of my life that I need to work on. Are their days that I fail? (Yes, some days quite miserably). But as hard as it is, I also know that someday when I stand face to face with Jesus, I want him to say, "Well done good and faithful servant".

However, even in the midst of the days that are hard, I always have the hope and the peace of knowing that their is a Great and Mighty God that is protecting me. Because as real as God is to me, Satan is just as real. And he loves it when I fail. Too bad for him, I am not willing to let him win and neither is God.

I find comfort in knowing that I have a God that listens to the desires of my heart. He is a God that heals and saves. Is everyone healed and saved in a physical sense, no, but God's ultimate healing is glorious. I look at His Creation that surrounds me and I know that only He could have created something so beautiful.

There is a lot of evil and hate in the world today. It would be easy for me as a Christian to stand on my soap box and judge the people around me that are blinded by lies. But you see, that isn't my job. There is only one judge and thankfully, it is not me and it is not you. And when Jesus came to live on earth he gave us this commandment in Matthew 22, "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' "

There are many differing views on issues in Christianity that many spend their lives debating. That is not the point I am trying to make. I read a statement in the book by Philip Yancey, What's so Amazing about Grace? he states that there is no other religion in the world that offers grace. "God's love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. Only Christianity dares to make God's love unconditional."

God isn't in heaven picking teams. He wants us all for His team. He loves us regardless of who we are. Yes, we will all be judged and yes we do have standards that are set for us as followers of Christ. Some of which cause people to choose against Him instead of for Him. But He is a merciful God that continues to forgive us. All we are required to do is come before Him and ask Him to be a part of our lives.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." James 1:2-3

So because I choose Him, some days might not be easy. But someday I know, without a doubt, that I will spend eternity with Him in heaven.

Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." Luke 23:43

Monday, March 2, 2009

People Change

I just have to say, I love facebook. It has been so much fun for me to catch up with old friends that I have not spoken to in years. It is neat to see where people are at and what they are doing. It is amazing to see how some people never change and some are completely different from what I remember.

I myself thank God everyday that people change, (especially me). I also am so thankful that God never changes. "I the LORD do not change." Malachi 3:6a

In Sunday School we just talked about the book of Philemon. In this book, Paul is trying to convince Philemon that, Onesimus has changed. Onesimus was one of Philemon's slaves that had runaway. When he ran away he met Paul. Paul led Onesimus to Christ. Paul had also led Philemon to Christ. Paul was urging Philemon to not only forgive Onesimus for running away, but also to accept Onesimus as his brother in Christ. No longer his slave but rather his equal.

I have been pondering this story. Just think about this, the last time Philemon saw Onesimus, he was his master. Now, Paul is telling Philemon that they are equals.

This story makes me look at my testimony. I have led a less than perfect life. I did not find a real relationship with Christ until I was an adult. Even after that, I didn't (and still don't) always make the right choices. On the other hand, I know people that accepted Christ as young children. I am not implying that they have had perfect lives. We are all sinners. But at times, I do envy their knowledge of the Bible and their faith walk. In the past I have felt inadequate in my faith because of my lack of knowledge.

However, this story has reminded me that everyone that has an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ is an equal. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. As a body of believers I think we miss our mark in this area sometimes. Philemon might have had a hard time forgiving Onesimus mistake. He may have had a hard time not judging him by his past.

Do we do this same thing within the body of believers? When someone becomes a Christian, do we judge them by their past reputation? Or do we forgive and forget just as Jesus did and accept them right where they are at, no strings attached? I think most of us have things from our past that we would like to erase.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

Hallelujah to that verse. I am sure there are some people from my past that think I could never change. It is one reason that connecting with the past can be a scary thing. However, I know that anyone that "is in Christ" is made new. It is exciting to look back on people from my past to see that people change. It brings me great joy to see God moving all across the United States through my network of friends.