Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Yay Christmas!

I just love Christmas! I love the food, the presents, the family time...I love the smells of cinnamon and pine trees....I really do enjoy the hustle and bustle! But most of all, I love how this time of year reminds me of my Savior. How I can't think about Christmas without being overwhelmed by His grace and mercy...how I can't stop singing for months leading up to Christmas--this may be due to the fact that I've had so many songs to learn for our Christmas production at church that I haven't been able to think about not singing! I love the thought of God's love in human flesh, given just for me.

I can't begin to imagine a life without the sheer joy of Christmas, and all that it really means. I'm not talking about Santa and snow, but the true meaning of Christmas....if it was only trees and gifts, I don't think it would be so special and mean so much. There's something to be said for family time and gifts, but what would this wonderful holiday be without the Father's Sacrifice.

For one of the few times in my life I had the opportunity to share the gospel from a pulpit at our church's Christmas concert. It was the best feeling, sharing God's love and his redemption plan. It was one of those "this is what I was made for" moments, when I could feel God's pleasure over me; a true act of worship.

Here's the gist of it: redemption. Christ came to save us from captivity, defeat, death. Although we may not feel like "sinners", we are. And the only way to be cleansed from this sin is to make Christ Lord of our hearts. It's so simple really, but it's a long, hard, rewarding road!

"It is for freedom Christ has set us free!"

Monday, November 5, 2007

Breath of God

Grace is falling
Manna from heaven
Bread for life

Without it there is no living
Only pain
Never healing

Grace I need to live
Grace I need to breathe
Grace I need to know

Know You as I am fully known
Through and through
Uninhibited, naked, true

Pour down over me
Cover every part
Grace, I need you now

Monday, October 29, 2007

Still going...

Well, I just realized it's been over a month since I last wrote! Crazy how quickly time goes by. Our trip to Tanzania came and went, and it seems like I'm just now having time to breathe! The trip was good. We drove to and from Kenya (about 6 hours each way), built a swing set, held a youth conference, prayed for sick people in an "isolation ward" at the hospital, visited a family of Massai, and even had time for a safari! We packed so much into the nine days we spent there it was hard to process most of what I saw and experienced till I got home.
The trip, overall, was fun. It was good to see my friend Melissa again, and see what God has used her to do. She has such a mother-heart; the children at the orphanage cling to her! We actually got to spend the entire time we were in Tanzania with her. We laughed a lot and still managed to work pretty hard.

I learned so much about what living in a third-world country is like, and how God takes care of His children so well. It was amazing to hear testimony after testimony of His provision and grace. It seems as though in America we have little need for God to come through, even our poorest are richer than many of the people that I met. Yet God reminded me how desperately we still need Him, and how He desires to use the blessings He gives us to bless others.

This concept of giving and sharing was one of the biggest things God spoke to me while I was there. I realize how blessed I am...I've never really questioned it...but I saw how important it is for me to give as much as I can, whenever I can, however I can. It's so easy to get wrapped up in my little world that I forget about the big picture. It was a good wake-up call!

The other thing that He kept impressing on me was this idea of being uncomfortable. Even in our "fancy" hotel room, that most of the locals could never afford, I was worried about safety, germs, and everything else you worry about even in American hotels..."are the sheets really clean?" and so on. But not only there, pretty much everywhere we went there was some level of discomfort. I was uncomfortable physically most of the time to be sure, but also emotionally, spiritually, and even in my thoughts...It took everything within me not to cry most of the time simply because of the poverty and need that surrounded.

I know I'm not called to be a missionary. I was sure of this before I left and even more sure as I practically kissed the ground when we got back to the U.S. But God continued to remind me that even in my calling, and in the life He has given me, He never called me to be comfortable. It seems like a "duh" concept, but when you live comfortably, it's rare to question why you're the one who's blessed, or why you are so comfortable. God's desire is always to stretch us, to change us, to make us more like Him...I think that should rarely be comfortable. It doesn't even sound comfortable! I began to think about how I can be less comfortable in my every day life so that someone else might be a little more comfortable. Can I give up that extra pair of shoes, or that lunch out for the second time this week, so I can give a little more...so maybe a house full of street kids won't go hungry again this week or so an orphanage can pay its electricity bill...

It's not about me, or how much I can do...God will get the job done. It is, however, about whether or not I want Him to use me to do it.

Friday, September 28, 2007

We're Going to Africa!

My husband and I will be joining two others on a trip to Moshe, Tanzania, Africa! We are going to build a playground and deliver supplies and fun stuff to Treasures of Africa orphanage. We will be gone for two weeks. I'm sure I'll have plenty of stories to tell when we return! Please keep us in your prayers. THANKS!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Little of This, A Little of That

I have found the combination of prayer and worship to be so powerful in my life. I love the way I can start with worship and end up praying or vice versa. Even though not every single time is the most amazing encounter I've ever had with God, I find that if I allow myself to get lost in worship or really pour my heart out to God in prayer, I leave His presence changed. Even if it's just that I feel better than when I went in. Or maybe I've got a little more strength for the journey. There's something about God's presence that changes me.

My heart's cry is to dwell in God's presence, to be in constant communication with Him, whether through worship, prayer, or reading my Bible. One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 27. Verse 4 really sums up what I'm trying to say: "One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple." How amazing would that be! To sit in God's presence constantly, looking at Him in all His beauty and glory! WOAH!

Something that my Bible study talked about last week was the fact that we have to live in this world, but we are not supposed to be like the world, we should be separate unto God. I know this is a common "churchy" way to think, but the context in the Bible study was what got me. We're studying Abram (before he was renamed Abraham). In Genesis 14, he hears that his relative Lot has been taken captive by these four kings who had invaded Sodom. So Abram musters his 300+ fighting men and goes to get Lot. Of course he saves Lot and all his people and goods.

Think about it, these are FOUR kings with their trained army against Abram with his 318 men whom he had trained to fight! That's huge that he won, let alone had the courage in the first place! Beth Moore quotes F.B. Meyer who says that it was only because Abram was separated from the world that he was able to save his nephew and all that belonged to him. He points out that if we are not separated from the world, we will not have the power to overcome the world.

What a thought! Once again God asks us to do something that may seem like a "thou shalt not..." to ruin our fun, when in reality he has only our best interest in mind. He desires to bless us and use us to be a blessing to the "Lots" in our lives. If we choose to live like the world, we may end up being taken captive like Lot. But if we will be found in the presence of Most High God, at His feet, soaking in His strength, then we will be able to be used to our fullest potential.

So you see, if you will choose to separate yourself from the world, and allow your Father to fill you up with Him and His Spirit, then not only will you benefit, but those around you will be lifted up with you too!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Just A Thought

In the midst of chaos
When confusion reigns
There's only one place to flee the pain

When all else fails
And life doesn't make sense
The Father's heart is my only defense

Through it all
My heart and soul cry out

Oh, just to see you
To taste your sweet kisses
To know you even as I am known
My spirit longs within me
For the beauty of your presence
And the warmth of your embrace

There will never be one who satisfies more
There is not one like the God I know
If only I could live with you, in your house,
Make it my home
Then and only then could I be made whole
My life

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I Just Don't Know

I wish there were some secret to becoming who God wants me to be. A secret that would make everything work out, and would get me quickly to the point where I've learned what I need to know. Sometimes in our walk, the lessons can seem so painful, difficult, long. Sometimes we're not quite sure if we can make it through to the next step, or if it will even be worth it.

Something that I've been learning is that there is a secret: the more you know God, the more you will want to know Him. It's not really a secret, but it sure is the way it works. When times get tough, maybe you turn to God first, maybe you don't, but eventually we all end up there. The question is, what do you do once the trial is over? That's the real test of your faith: do you continue seeking to fill your deep need for God with God. Is your relationship with God as close and strong in the good times as it is the bad? Do you come out of a trial stronger than you went in?

Sometimes it takes all we have just to get up and press on, but what if we are already in the habit of letting God press for us? What if we start every day with the realization of our deep and ever widening need for Him, and then pursue Him and his presence? What if He really is our every breath and thought?... Honestly, I don't know; I'm not there yet. But that's my goal. That God would be the sole desire of my heart. That each and every day I wake up and take another breath of His mercy, let Him fill me, and walk with Him.

The secret is no secret at all: Prayer and the Word. It may not be easy at first, but as we take that first step, the next one doesn't seem so scary. And the next one is almost a joy. And eventually we find ourselves in the place where we can't help but trust and obey. That's all there is to it.

Beth Moore tells about how her daughters used to cling to her when
they wanted her attention but she didn't have time to play with them. You've seen it or been part of it: a child clinging to his/her parent's legs as if his/her very life depended on it. That's what God wants of us. He wants us to cling to Him as if our lives depended on it. In fact, our lives do depend on it. We need Him!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Even the Simple Things

Philipians 4:11-13 "...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

I love this passage of Scripture. Such encouraging words. As I have listened to so many pray over the years, and heard people give encouragement, I have often heard Phil. 4:13 quoted. It is one of those verses we hold onto, sometimes for dear life, when things get rough. But even more than the way it encompasses "everything", I love this verse in context of what Paul is saying.

He's thanking the Philipians for their concern for him. Most likely they had sent him a gift, probably money, to support his ministry. He goes on to talk about how he's not asking for more; He knows that he'll be taken care of. Then he speaks of contentment. His statement "I can do everything through him who gives me strength," is in direct reference to being content in any and every situation.

The reason this strikes me is that we often use this encouraging phrase when life is really hard, and things seem to go from bad to worse. But what about everyday life? What about when you have to get out of bed in the morning and it seems like the hardest thing in the world? What about when you have a family to feed and you feel you just can't go to that same old job again? What about when your spouse and your children are the last people in the world you want to wake up to? This is what Paul is speaking of: everyday life. If we can learn to rely on God in the everyday things, how much easier will those once-in-a-lifetime catastrophes be?! We have to practice contentment and trust on a regular basis, so we can stand firm when the storms of life rage.

In our society it is so easy to become discontent with what have. There's always something or someone better. We compare ourselves to the proverbial "Joneses", and we never have enough. It's sad really. The enemy keeps us so preoccupied with what we don't have or what we hate about our lives, we scarcely have time to enjoy the wonderful things God has chosen to bless us with. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us that God has given us everything we need for "life and godliness". This is the truth. We have all we need. And when we don't, we need not fear, only stand firm and remember: "my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Older I Get...

It kind of sounds silly to me to say, "The older I get..." But it's true, you learn things as you grow up, no matter how old you are. So here I am, young, but older than I was last year! Something God has been showing me is in relation to my marriage. I am a newlywed, and I find it amazing how much God has taught me through my marriage to the most wonderful man in the world! I am astounded at the comparison between the earthly marriage relationship and the relationship God desires to have with us, His bride. Now, I knew before I got married, that this is a comparison drawn in the Bible, but I don't think I fully understood the magnitude of it.

God's desire for intimacy with us goes so far beyond, "Hey, how's it going?" It even goes beyond, "I love you sooooooooo much!" It's more like, "You're on my side of the bed...Why do you have to sit so close?...How can you possibly think I'm cute while flossing?!" And so much more! God's desire is to know every aspect of our lives. To be intimately involved in everything we do. His heart is to love us to the depths. His love for us is deeper than we can imagine and He wants to love us in the deepest parts of ourselves.

I don't think anyone knows me the way my husband knows me, nor could anyone else still appreciate me after knowing me so well! Except one: God. He knows me better than I know myself. He knows everything about me, even the things I try to hide! I think the clincher for Him is when we turn that around, and begin desiring to know Him that way. When we miss being with Him after a long day of chores and work. When we ask Him to come close and to "kiss me with the kisses of your mouth. For your love is more delightful than wine." When we stop and ask, "Hey what's your favorite...How can I love you better?...What are you thinking?"

God's desire for us to love Him is beyond anything we can even comprehend. And His love is beyond our capability to understand. But it's still available to us. All we have to do is ask.

Monday, August 20, 2007

It's a Battle!

My husband and I are reading the book Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer. It's a great book. Sometimes as we are reading I just have to laugh because she gives examples of lies the enemy tells us, and the words are so familiar because I've just heard them come out of my mouth that very day. And we think we're all alone in our struggle.

The truth is that spiritual, not physical, reality dictates who we are. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 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."

This is something I am in the process of re-learning. Every word we speak either helps or hinders us. We can choose to speak the thoughts the enemy plants in our heads, and in doing so agree with what the enemy has told us. Or we can choose to speak the truth of God's word, agreeing with God and standing against the lies.

Sometimes we don't even realize the thoughts we speak are lies. Here's an example: "That's just the way I am." This may seem like a normal thing to say; we use it as an excuse all the time. But when we say it in response to a question like, "Why are you always mad?" or "I wish you would have more self-confidence," it shows that we have not only believed a lie, but have allowed it to dictate who we are.

God's desire for our lives is freedom. Freedom from the lies of the enemy. In her Bible study Breaking Free, Beth Moore says, "...deception is the glue that holds a stronghold together." When we realize the lies of the enemy we can "take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" (Eph 6:17) and fight like the victorious men and women God destined us to be! When we realize the truth, God's truth, it can set us free!

Just do it!

One of my biggest goals in life is to trust God. It seems silly to me to not trust Him, seeing as how He's proved Himself to me over and over and over again. But I constantly find myself not trusting. Or even better, thinking I'm trusting all the while trying to take care of the situation on my own. The thought process / prayer process usually goes something like this: "Ok, Father, so here's the situation...[At this point I spill the beans and let God know everything He obviously doesn't already know about my situation.] And I'm just so upset, I don't know what to do! [I proceed to whine and complain and throw my pity party. And once I've finally exhausted myself, I say] I just lay this down right now Father. This is what I'm going to do about it..." You see the problem? I've laid it down in words, but not in my heart. I'm still trying to fix it! Kind of like, "I trust you but..."

I read these words and I think, "HOW LAME!" But I believe this is a common struggle, even to those who may have already learned to trust God. We constantly feel like there must be some way I can fix this. And when we realize we can't, we work ourselves into a frenzy trying to give it to God.

Isaiah 30:15 says "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength...." This is a hard lesson to learn, especially when you're a control freak! But here's the key: rest and be still. He's taking care of you! This is the truth. We can let go of our burdens because we have a Father who is intimately concerned with our lives. He's got us in the palm of His hand and He's not letting go. When we can't do it--and even when we can--He can do it. And He'll do it better than we could anyway!

This is not an easy thing to learn, but as we get to know our Heavenly Father, His character shines through and we begin to trust Him as much as we would the best physical father in the world, and even more. The more I get to know Him, the more I long to trust Him, because I know His ways are best. They are higher than mine. I think for now this is acceptable to Him, because it's all I have to give. He knows. He takes us however we come and He loves us till we can't stand staying the same, and begin the process of becoming like Him. Will you commit with me to stop trying so hard, and just let Him take care of you. He can, you know. He's greater.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Even if you don't feel it!

Something God has been teaching me is that what I feel is not always the truth. This lesson has taken a long time to learn, (at least it seems that way to me) but I think I'm finally starting to get it. It goes both ways, "I don't feel this" and/or "I do feel this". What's the truth? That's the question. I've had to ask myself this question so many times, and I fear I may never stop. I don't think I want to.

So here's the deal: Our emotions can lie to us. I think it's kinda funny that I'm writing this the day after I talked about allowing God to touch our emotions during worship. But these are not the same! I'm talking about persistent feelings of worthlessness and doubt. Feelings of bitterness and anger. Feelings of being unloved or unlovely. Hatred, self-doubt, fear, etc., etc.

Sometimes we can refuse to "feel" saved, forgiven, holy, pure, loved, new. When the reality is all these things are true about us if we belong to Christ. You are saved, forgiven, holy, pure, loved, new!...EVEN IF YOU DON'T FEEL LIKE IT!!!!

Beth Moore, in her Bible study Breaking Free, says that when we refuse to believe something God says is true, this is a sin! (She talks specifically about failure to believe God loves us.) So although we may not feel something is true, if God's word says it's true, it is! If we refuse to believe it, once we know the truth, we are choosing rebellion towards God! We then need to confess our unbelief as sin and ask God to help us! I love that God is so tender towards His children. We can say, "God I've sinned. I'm sorry. Help me." And he not only instantly forgives us, but He reaches out to help us. Isaiah says that God actually begins answering our prayers as we are asking them. He knows what we're going to ask...duh! He knows what we need! And He rises to rescue us even as we speak.

"To be transformed by the renewing of your mind" simply means this: let the Word of God change the way you think. When you feel something that just doesn't seem right, look for the truth and let it change your mind. And when the truth just seems beyond your grasp cry out to Him, "Lord I believe; help my unbelief." (see Mark 9:24)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Thoughts on Worship

In my Music and Worship class in college we learned that worship is exalting God in our minds and hearts. It's something we do on both levels: knowledge and heart...or "spirit and truth". I'm reading Manifest Presence by Jack Hayford and he talks about how God deliberately says "spirit" first. He wants our hearts before our heads. Dr. Hayford states that while our worship should be theologically accurate, it should first reflect a heart devoted to God.

The first time I read this I nearly burst out of my skin! I have always been more on the expresive side than the intellectual, and when it comes to worship I've always believed that when God touches my emotions, it's a good thing! I'm doing a Bible study by Beth Moore. On the video yesterday she said, "We need to stop being so sophistocated in our worship. That's not agape!" Once again skin was bursting!

I love that God desires our hearts more than He desires our intellect. The Bible says the foolishness of God is wiser than the greatest wisdom of men. With this in mind, it seems almost silly to try and comprehend Him! I know that God wants us to know Him and know about Him. (Eph 3:16-20 is a great example of this.) But I truly believe that comes through revelation from Him--obviously including the study of His word. He wants our hearts! He'll show us the rest. All intelligence, all wisdom, all knowledge comes from Him. How can we even begin to think it wise not to let Him have the rest of us! He says himself that He rejoices over us! If God is that excited about me, shouldn't I get just a little bit crazy about Him!

Here's what I'm saying, next time you get into God's presence, rejoice. He's a great God and he wants to bless you and see you excited for Him. Worship Him with your heart not just your head. You'll never fully know Him until you are with Him in glory and see His beautiful face!

2 Samuel 6:14-15 "David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Prayer really does change things!

If you had asked me a month ago what prayer means, I may have said “communication with God” or something like that. But now, only a few weeks later, my definition of prayer is much expanded. Now when I think about prayer, words like "essential, my very breath, my existence, and everything I could ever need" come to mind. In a little less than a week, God totally changed my perspective of how He desires that I communicate with Him. I, as I believe many others, have spent my life thinking of prayer as something I did so God doesn’t get mad at me, so I can feel like I’m a good Christian, or so others will know that I know God when they see my prayer life.

But today it's so much more than that for me. I need prayer. In order to survive in this crazy world, I need to know God. Here's what He showed me. Prayer isn't just something we should do as a Christian, it's something we must do. It's like brushing your teeth. When you're little you do it because someone makes you and tells you it's good for you. But as you grow up you continue to do it because you realize the value of it. It is necessary. In the same way, as young Christians we pray because we are told to and that it's good for us. The problem is that we often get stuck in that mentality. We don't realize the great value of prayer and how truly important it is for us to become mature Christians.

I realize there are many out there who pray continually and know that prayer is important. But what about the rest of us? Those who struggle to get two words into a sentence when they pray? Those who are lost after about 5 minutes?! Here's the remedy: change the way you think about it! You would never choose not to breathe just because you didn't have time. Nor would you ever stop breathing because you forgot. Likewise, don't stop praying! Talk to God. He loves to hear you.

Look it up!