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Curious

Are you ever just curious about what God is doing?  Do you ever just wonder about His next step in  your life?  I do.  Not in the anxious, worried kind of curious.  But more in the trusting, I know He’s up to something and I can’t wait for it to be revealed kind of curious.

Maybe a bit like a little kid at Christmas waiting to unwrap a package.  The kid knows it will be the perfect present, but having to wait for mom and dad to get coffee, the camera, and the perfect set-up before you can open the present really intensifies the desire to open that present.

Its almost exciting to wait sometimes isn’t it?  To wait for an answer.  To wait for God to be God.  To wait to watch Him work.  To wait for Him to reveal himself.  Just to wait knowing that He is good and can be trusted.

Then  you read this

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day  2 Peter 3:8

Waiting for a thousand years doesn’t seem as exciting does it?  I’ve waited for an answer for over a year now and to think of waiting until death before I get an answer just isn’t all that exciting.

But yet I am in the waiting mode.  And I still find that waiting is exciting.  Because it seems that even in the waiting, the Lord moves.  Even while I’m waiting for the big answer, the Lord speaks about all the little things.  Even when I wonder when my “thousand years” will be up, I look around me and see the Lord using me in different areas.  Yes, waiting is exciting because I see God preparing me for whatever His eventual answer may be to me.

I really do find joy in the waiting.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning,

more than watchmen for the morning.

Psalm 130:5-6

 

 

 

Obedience

But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,  loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

Deuteronomy 30: 14-20


This passage of scripture became real to me around my 18th birthday.

It was around this time that the Lord gave me a visual picture of two roads in my life.  One road required unquestionable obedience to God and the other way required I do whatever I wanted when I wanted.  One road led to LIFE and the other road lead to death and destruction. Although I hadn’t lived a long life yet, I had enough experience at life to understand these roads weren’t necessarily talking about salvation, and I could look back over the previous years and understand what walking in death and destruction meant.  Although I had accepted Christ as my Savior at age 6, it was after receiving this image from God that I truly made the choice to walk the path of obedience…REGARDLESS of what it meant I must do.

Because let’s face it.  Sometimes obedience doesn’t make sense to my understanding of the world.  Sometimes obedience is completely opposite of my feelings or desires.

But that image of the road of life and blessing contrasted with the road of death and destruction always pops into my head when I’m faced with a decision.

Which is why one of the mantra’s spoken often in our house is “obedience is always better in the end”.

I could give a million examples of when hard obedience has resulted in blessings for us, but today I’m going to just give one.  The one I spoke briefly about two days ago.  The one involving Pine Cove.

Pine Cove has been our family vacation for the past 2 summers.  We rarely get time away just by ourselves, and Pine Cove had been such a refreshing time for our family which is why it was hard to listen to God last fall when I knew He told me we weren’t to register for the summer of 2011.  It took me about four days before I said anything to Brent.  When I finally told Brent I didn’t have a peace about registering for Pine Cove again, Brent stated that he didn’t really either.  It was confirmed then.  God was saying no, and even though everything in me wanted to convince myself that it wasn’t really a big deal to register for camp again, I knew in my spirit that for some unknown reason, God didn’t not want me to register.

Obedience doesn’t always make sense.

But we obeyed.  We canceled our spot for the summer of 2011, we payed off our student loan, saved some money, gave generously, and listened to our children constantly ask how long it would be before it was okay to go back to Pine Cove.

About March, Brent and I started getting sad that we weren’t going to go this year.  Making the kids birthday books and looking at all our pictures from Pine Cove and remembering all the fun memories made it hard to think that NOT going was the best thing for our family.

Then we get a phone call.  I like to say it was from God.  A random phone call telling us that a spot was open for week 1 of camp, and we could have it if we wanted to.  All we needed to pay was the deposit and the spot was ours.  An almost free vacation from God.

I started crying.  Not so much as out of excitement but out of amazement that God would bless us with this type of gift. My oldest was standing next to me when I got off the phone and told her what Pine Cove said.  Her blue eyes got all teary, she covered her mouth with her hand, jumped up and down, and started yelling,  “God gave us Pine Cove?!!!  God really gave us Pine Cove?!!!!!!!”

The moment with her was priceless, and I’m pretty sure neither one of us will ever forget what God blessed us with that day.

This story isn’t about the fact that we got to go to Pine Cove…although we had an incredible time while we were there.  This story is more about walking the path of LIFE.

Obedience is hard and it doesn’t always result in a free vacation, but regardless, God always blesses obedience.

The past weeks have been such an incredible reminder to our whole family that obedience is ALWAYS better.  We can’t see the future, but God can.

I write this today so that I will always remember to obey, regardless of what I am walking through. I know I can trust that God is good and He does good and I am so thankful for how He chose to bless us this summer.

I pray today we all choose to obey the ONE who knows the path to LIFE,regardless of our emotions, desires, or feelings.

Avery’s Request

If any of you know me, you know that I have a heart for children. I would adopt a million of them if I could.

Brent and I have discussed fostering, adopting, and a whole range of ideas, but the Lord has clearly said no to all of it for now.  If I’m being honest, I would tell you that at least weekly, maybe as kind of a way to get around having to wait for God to give us the go ahead, I pray that someone would walk up to me in the street, tell me they can’t care for their baby, and ask me to adopt him/her.  But since that probably won’t ever happen,  I  sit here with this huge heart to help hurting children but no avenue to accomplish this desire.

Then my five year old looks at me with her huge blue eyes and tells me what to do. Don’t you love it when your wisdom comes from a child.

See, we were on the Compassion website, and we were looking at the little girl we sponsor. We were talking all about her country and finding pictures of other children who were waiting for a sponsor. After scrolling through page after page of children, Avery turned to me confused and asked

Why can’t we sponsor them all?

In that moment, as I looked into her eyes glistening with tears, I was ready to sell a kidney so we could sponsor some more kids.  Luckily, Brent was sitting next to me and began to try to explain money to her.  Her reply was

Well, what will happen to those kids if we don’t send them money?

Don’t you love how the concept of money is lost on children.  They only focus on the right thing to do, not the financial strain that might result!

We talked through how we can pray for those children and how God will provide for them.

What about your website?  Can you ask them to send money?

Yes, Avery is very persistent, some might say stubborn, and I do believe she has caught my heart for helping children in need.  So here is the request from my oldest daughter.  We know not everyone is in a position to sponsor a child every month, but her desire is for 10 children to be helped.

Avery is asking:

  1. Click on the link on the side of my blog or click here to see a list of all children needing sponsored and begin sponsoring a child today.  Its only $38 a month!!
  2. If you are not able to commit to sponsoring a child, visit the Compassion site and donate SOMETHING.  At the top of their site there is a “Make a Contribution” link.  If you click on that, you can send money for anything from water filtration to AIDS initiative to wherever the greatest need is.  You can donate $5, $10, or any other amount you feel like you can handle this month. Every dollar counts. And although this money goes into a general fund and not to a specific child, with these contributions, 10 children will ultimately be helped.
  3. (this one isn’t necessary but it would be neat for Avery to see her idea in motion)  After you have donated, let me know either by a comment here or through an email.  I would love for Avery to see her wish of 10 children being helped come true.

If you really want to get a feel for what your money does for these children, there is a trip to the Philippians coming up and many bloggers will be on the trip blogging about it.  These posts will give you a real life look at where your money is going.  Check out this link if you are interested in following the bloggers, and go help some kids!

 

More

Don’t love the world’s ways.  Don’t love the world’s goods.  Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father.  Practically everything that goes on in the world- wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important- has nothing to do with the Father.  It just isolates you from him.  The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out — but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity

I John 2:15-17

Weeks and months have been spent studying the book of I John.  I’ve memorized it, read commentaries, read different translations, and prayed through the book.  But Friday, Brent came home with The Message and I began reading through I John in The Message.

This rephrasing of chapter 2:15-17 has been kicking my little behind this week.  “Wanting my own way” can sum up any discontent or criticism in my heart.

“Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father”.  This “love” for my own way is just waiting to steal the joy that God has already given me. And so this week the fight is on.

I refuse to let the love for wanting my own way steal the blessing of Life that God has given me.  I refuse to live in discontent when contentment is at my fingertips. I refuse to not fight the natural tendencies in my heart.

But more than that, I refuse to let the simple wants crowd out the true desire of my heart….to know God and make Him known.

If I focus on the not so important desires or wants, my true want will never happen. So this week I fight.

I John is quickly becoming my new favorite book…for now at least =)

Denying

I’m definitely procrastinating writing this post. Coming back from seeing my family always stirs up so many emotions in my heart.

  • Longing to be close to those who love me and to whom we belong to.
  • Deep rooted desires to live where I could swap date night babysitting with my sisters or even take turns going on trips with our husbands because we live close enough to watch each others kids for long periods of time.
  • Jealousy because my sisters all live close enough to see my parents more than twice a year.
  • Sadness over the fact that my kids will grow up not living life with their cousins, aunts, uncles, and Grandma and Grandpa
  • Anger that my desires always have to be denied
  • Love for my husband who knows my struggle and so makes it possible for me to visit my family as much as possible
  • Trust that God knows the best plan for me and obviously His best is for me to live in Texas.

See, inward the struggle is hard. While the car ride North is spent in constant conversation, the 14 hour drive home is usually spent in silence. Brent will ask what I want to talk about, and I reply, “nothing. All I can think of is what it would be like to live near family and that’s not possible, so I just need to sit here.”

The struggle to give up my own selfish desires is hard. Especially when those desires FEEL right and noble and honest and best.

I sat down in the sanctuary on Sunday morning and began singing, “Your grace is enough” and then “I’m amazed by your love” and the Holy Spirit quietly began reminding me that yes, God is enough. He loves me way too much to put me in a place that is not the best place for me. And I know without a doubt, God has called us to this place. Because He has called us here, I know it is the best place for us.

I love where we live. I love the church we serve and work for. I love my friends. I love our neighborhood. Its just the thought of having the support of my family sometimes makes me lose sight of the sovereignty of God.

So I sit here not wanting to admit my struggle, but wholeheartedly knowing the sacrifice of my fleshly desires for the advancement of the Kingdom of God is more than worth it.

 

New Seasons

Personal worship times. There are seasons of intense study, seasons of reading a huge chunk of scripture every day, seasons of reading one or two verses a morning, seasons of journaling continually, seasons of reflections, seasons of complete application,  seasons of listening, and millions of other seasons.  God uses all sorts of seasons to teach us and to develop a deeper relationship with Him.

Currently my time with the Lord in the morning has been shifting from one of intense study to one of meditation and memorization. The shift started a few months ago as God began teaching me about the importance of the heart. This lesson has led me onto the road of simplicity and how to be still in my heart and just know God is God. Throughout this journey, God has been speaking to me about how important the heart is in my relationship with Him and with others. It seems EVERYTHING I have come across over the last few months has been read through the lense of “the heart”.

Now it seems God is urging me to change my heart. Years of attempting to overcome personal challenges, years of working on characteristics and implementing spiritual disciplines, years of asking the Lord to change me, have all pushed me towards this season of life.

Memorizing books of the Bible.

The past month or so I’ve spent my time with the Lord in the morning memorizing the book of I John. Simply memorizing this whole book has radically changed me.

I heard someone say once that to memorize entire books of the Bible is more beneficial than to memorize random verses throughout the Bible. While I don’t know if I would go as far as to say “more beneficial”, I definitely do find that the few times in life when I’ve put forth the energy to memorize complete books of the Bible, the Lord uses that knowledge in incredible ways.

It seems when I’m memorizing complete books, my mind continually thinks scripture. For example, I get frustrated at a kid; my mind goes into I John 1 mode:

This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you that God is light; in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with Him yet walk in darkness we lie and the truth is not in us.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Its hard to act out your frustration when the word of God continually walks through your mind and reminds you that if you walk in darknesss, we are not practicing the truth. 

For some reason, having the ENTIRE book go through my head throughout the day, keeps me walking in His presence a whole lot more.  It makes me dwell in him more, it makes me pray more, it makes me yell less, it makes me love greater, it makes life more joyful. 

If you’ve never experienced the joy of memorizing an entire book of the Bible, read this article by John Piper and pray about starting today.  You’ll never regret it.

Maudy Thursday?

I can honestly say, I never heard this term growing up.  I read it a few times and saw it on church signs, but to be honest, I didn’t really know what it meant. I definitely never stopped to soften my heart or reflect on the Last Supper or the significance of this day.

But last year, God started pointing out the importance of the Thursday night before Easter.  That Thursday where he sat down with His disciples broke bread, poured wine, and explained with a vivid visual demonstration what was about to happen.

This morning as we were acting out the Last Supper with the kids, and I was speaking Jesus’ words while breaking a pancake into little bitty pieces and using milk to show how his blood would be poured out, I completely had to stop talking.

Looking into my kids wide, unblinking eyes and then looking down at that pancake broken into bits, all I could do was cry and thank my Savior for what He did.  I passed the book over to Brent, looked at my children, and simply said, “I can’t speak anymore”.

Jesus sat there the night before he was to be beaten, broken, and murdered and calmly prepared his followers for what they were about to see.  He sat there at that table and taught them about being servants, how to love, and how sometimes death is the only answer for true life to begin.

And I lived 30+ years never even stopping to take a few seconds to remember Maudy Thursday.

This year it is different.  This year I remember.  This year tears come in gratitude.  This year Holy Thursday is treasured.   This year I’m thankful for Jesus softening my heart so I could hear, receive, and understand the message that he spoke on that last night before His death.

Taking God for Granted

And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.

Mark 9:28-29

I was reading some commentary over this scripture I was studying and it stated,

To trust in God’s power in the sense that we imagine we have it in our control and at our disposal is to trust in ourselves instead of in God.

This explanation was a response to Mark 9:28-29 where the disciples are unable to cast out the demon.  When they ask Jesus why, His response is because of their little faith or their failure to pray.   This commentary goes on to say

that they fully expected to succeed is evident, so their faith was not that of failing to expect success, but of taking it for granted that they could succeed without praying to God for the expected blessing. The apostles had often succeeded before (Mark 6:13,30) and they perhaps believed that they had the power IN THEMSELVES to continue doing such things.

Does that hit you the way it hit me?  Planning life and believing in myself is so easy to do. Its this trap that’s always ready to pounce.  Taking for granted that I can succeed in my plans/ desires/ aspirations/ dreams/knowledge/ wisdom without complete and total continual prayer is foolish.

The disciples always teach me so much about my own human nature.  It is easy to be good at something or know that God has called you to do something in the past  so you continue to do that activity over and over again. Only now you do it in your own strength and not in a reliance on God.   Lately God has been placing me in situations, and showing me scriptures that are a good reminder that I know nothing, have nothing, and can plan nothing without the grace of our Father working through me.

Even simple things in my day I don’t need to take for granted.  The only way to pursue life COMPLETELY relying on God is to rearrange my day around prayer. Continually prayer is a difficult discipline, but one I have and will continue to chase after with all that I am.


Preparing our Hearts

In an attempt to prepare our hearts for Easter, we have been talking about what it looks like to love God.
Obeying and loving God is hard in our own strength; however this is a difficult concept to communicate to young children. They know the “right” answers to how to love God, but will more than likely fail to carry out those “right” answers numerous times today. Those failures are what I’m using to prepare their hearts (and mine!) to understand the need for the cross.

Dwelling

that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—
(Ephesians 3:16-17 )

“So that Christ may dwell”...

Christ does dwell because He is my salvation, but yet there is more to this verse than just salvation.  He lives inside me, but dwelling seems to imply more than simply living.

It seems yet again as I study what it means to “dwell”, I am returned to the idea of humility.  As I humble myself before the Lord, he will strengthen me.  But not just that, he will indwell within me with the power and strength of the Holy Spirit.  Through my faith in Christ, I get the power of both Christ and the Holy Spirit continually within me.

If I humble myself and believe...

Its been a long four months of God teaching me what it truly means for him to be my power and strength.   Four months of me thinking I was allowing God to be my power and strength only to find myself tired and burnt out.  Four months of God picking me back up, reteaching me the lesson, me learning a little bit more how to live it out, and then finding myself tired and burnt out.

I love when God doesn’t give up and keeps working so the message gets deeper and deeper into my soul.  And then, Monday  night happens and God shows me that I believe deeper than I ever thought possible, and not only believe but walk in that belief and allow Him to truly be my strength and power.

Such wonderful freedom to know that the lesson you have sought after, the knowledge you’ve attained, the prayers you’ve prayed for spiritual growth in an area, to know that God has used that faith in Him to teach me what it looks like to dwell…me in Christ and Christ in me.

The journey makes the second part of the verse even more meaningful

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:17-19 )

Filled with all the fullness of God…Dwelling.

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