Archive for ‘Spiritual Growth’

September 2, 2011

Faith Defined

Faith means…

Getting up tomorrow and doing it again

Faith means…

Saying goodbye to something that’s not good enough and trusting God to bring the right thing

Faith means…

Throwing off whatever grips your anxious heart at 3 am and knowing God is in control

Faith means…

Trusting an unknown future to an unseen God

Faith means…

Speaking the truth when you could risk losing something or someone

Faith means…

Believing God will do what he said he would do…even if it takes longer than I think it should

Faith means…

Not giving up

Faith means…

Believing that there is a purpose in today

Though we grow weary at times, faith will get us through. Faith will bring hope. Faith will bring joy.

Believe.

What does faith mean to you?

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August 15, 2011

Sweet Freedom

It’s been one year since this journey began.  With the exception of the past two months, I’ve surprised myself that I’ve been able to keep this blog up and running. I sat down multiple times over the past two months and tried to write but the blinking cursor just stared at me – almost mocking me. What did I have worth saying? Nothing.

Last year was riddled with the question, why? Why me? Why now? Why not? And why God?

But today, I’ve been able to look back at the past year and finally see some answers.

If my world had not fallen apart, I would not have come to trust God more fully. I saw my faith and it was weak.  I had to live what I had claimed as true and I’ll be honest friends…

 It. Was. Hard.

In fact, on three separate occasions I seriously considered turning and walking away.  (Does that make me Peter? – Kidding) I can’t tell you how scared that made me. Yikes. But PRAISE GOD He didn’t let me. Oh sweet Jesus thank you.

But this made me realize my depravity and then that I was living by works. (We know that doesn’t work well.) I was exhausted. I couldn’t do it anymore. I stepped out of ministry and out of a community I loved so deeply because I couldn’t separate “doing” from authentic faith. It hurt. I didn’t know who I was if I was not a “leader” or a “servant.” And without those things, I didn’t know how to see my faith or God.

How do good things get in the way of the best things? I had to return to the basics.

Why didn’t I understand that Christ’s blood was for me? How desperately I needed his grace! I had prided myself in being a Christian for twenty something years and serving in various capacities but how had I missed the fact that no matter how hard I tried to become perfect I would never be able to measure up and how much I needed Jesus’ precious blood to cover me.

So I gave in.

I’m letting His blood wash over me. Hallelujah!

I’m free.

I’m free.

I’m free.

Thank you dear Jesus for not giving up on us. I can’t wait to see what next year will hold.

Isaiah 41: 9-10 …”’You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

 

June 14, 2011

Just Today

I have a tendency to live in the future – not necessarily the past. I constantly wonder what tomorrow will bring and if I will have enough _______(you fill in the blank) to make it through my many tomorrows. I do this so much so that I forget to live in the present. I am then unable to enjoy the many blessings that today holds.

Just the other day it FINALLY hit me how wrong I have been.  (I’m kind of slow sometimes.) How much time have I wasted worrying? How many days have I not truly lived? How many opportunities have passed me by because I was inattentive or afraid of seizing them?

Simple it seems, but I know I’m not alone.

The future is out of our control. Let me say it again, the future is out of our control.  The only thing we can do is to make good choices today that will reap a harvest later – though we do not know how or what that harvest will look like.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 “Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.”

We can plant the seeds of good decisions and choices today. They will be cultivated over time to grow into something greater in the future. Take a moment to break your life down. The emotional, physical, financial, relational, spiritual etc. What decisions can you make that will lead to a better tomorrow?

For example we know that if we eat right today we will age better.

If we save our money wisely, we could have a nice retirement fund. But we also know if we do not take the time to spend a little on a much needed vacation, we will wear ourselves ragged and deal with the consequences of an overworked self.

Are you making good decisions in all your relationships – friendships, business relationships, romantic relationship, in your family – that will lead to a healthiest future?

What decisions are you making in your spiritual life that will pay off tomorrow? Do you practice reading God’s Word and praying even when you don’t feel like you need it? All those hours of praying and reading will come handy when a crisis hits. The seeds you plant today will be there for you tomorrow.

All we can do is make good decisions today because the future is not ours to control. Faith says, God will do what He says and can do more than we can ask or imagine. Worry says, we do not trust Him and that we think we can do better.

So live in today.

Stop waiting for tomorrow to get started. Go. Enjoy. Love. Serve. Seize. Cultivate. Plant. Give God the glory!

Matthew 6:25-34 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

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June 12, 2011

One Word Project: A Six Month Review

Six months ago I wrote about the One Word Project – a yearlong commitment to live by one word of the person’s choosing. I chose the word, faith.

As I walked into 2011, I was determined it would be different from any other year. I was confident God would show up – though I had no idea how or had any indication He was near. I am not a person who naturally has strong faith or strong courage (often needed to face the unknown), but I have been convicted that faith is not a feeling, but a choice. This revelation has helped me step out in faith and begin to see God’s hand.

So far this year, God has shown up. Praise the Lord!

My passage for the year has encouraged me to continue on with this process. Every time I step out in faith, I am met with a conflict – fear or trust. I don’t always succeed but each time I choose to trust, my faith grows a little more.

My passage is Hebrews 11:8-12 “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would rather receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.”

I’m looking forward to the next six months. If I can see how God has changed my heart through my faith in just six months, I can’t imagine what He can do in another six months. Often change is slow, but it produces great results. I don’t want to live by my fears and lack of trust in God – just the opposite. I want to step out in faith based in a decision to trust God. Faith and trust in the Lord now breeds excitement and anticipation over how He will choose to show up – not fear and anxiety. The Lord is faithful to produce growth in our lives!

 “Doubt sees obstacles, faith sees the opportunities.” – Lord, Change My Attitude Before It’s Too Late by James MacDonald p. 178

What about you? Did you make a commitment to the One Word Project? How’s your year going? If not, did you set goals for yourself this year? How are they going? Take some time for a mid-year evaluation. 

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May 23, 2011

28 Lessons on My 28th Birthday

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” E.E. Cummings


Today, I’m celebrating my birthday and what a great chance to reflect on the past year. I often forget to remember what God has taught me or blessed me with over the past year so in preparation for my birthday, I decided to share a little bit of what I’ve learned this year.  Enjoy!

1)      You cannot live on a spiritual mountain top.

2)      You need friends and community when you are in the valley.

3)     Some of your greatest friends are your oldest friends or the ones willing to look you in the face and tell you you’re wrong and still love you anyways

4)      You cannot escape the Holy Spirit. (Praise God!)

5)      Love is great but can leave you with a whole mess of heartache. Guard your heart.

6)      Never be afraid to ask for help. This is actually a sign of strength.

7)      God provides. It may not look the way I thought it would or be abundant but He gives me just enough to prove I can trust Him.

8)      People notice when you follow Jesus. Even when you think you mess up.

9)      Community is important. No one can do the faith thing alone. Link arms and fight together.

10)   Text messages should not be responded to when you are half-asleep.

11)   Thermostats need batteries or your house will be very cold.

12)   I am capable of taking care of a home including a lawn.

13)   By learning more about myself – likes, dislikes, passions etc. I have discovered my uniqueness, found joy, and can fulfill a unique role in this world.

14)   Exercise is very important for my physical and mental health.

15)   God won’t let me escape him.

16)   Sometimes, you have to let the ones you love hit rock bottom. This may be the best thing for them.

17)   Children’s movies aren’t just for kids.

18)   I may be becoming a coffee snob. I can now pick up hints of butter, sweetness, and woody flavors. Yes, this is my passion.

19)   Life rarely goes as planned. Might as well throw my plan out the window and embrace what God has for me today.

20)   Black ice is the devil. A few moments of sliding can cause hundreds of dollars worth of damage.

21)   Music is a powerful way to touch my heart and change my mood. 

22)   Hope can be dangerous.

23)   Stepping out of formal ministry is difficult but sometimes needed. Seasons of rest produce growth and readiness for the future.

24)   God speaks using unexpected people or things. Look for them.

25)   Joy doesn’t always come easy. Fight for it.

26)   The unexpected can happen and God is capable of restoration.

27)   Realizing your own depravity is a scary thing. We are all just one hesitation away from sin. Mercy and grace have never looked so sweet.

28)   Clinging to Truth can give you strength you don’t have in you. God never leaves his throne my friends.

What about you? What has God taught you this year? Do you have any personal reflections or ways you celebrate your birthday?

May 21, 2011

Gulp. Me, Really?

Have you ever been anxiously waiting for the Lord to clue you in on His plan? Have you ever been caught off guard at what it is or how abruptly your waiting ends and you have to hit the ground running? I find it humorous to think that I would expect God to always be gentle in what he asks of me or how he chooses to reveal it. But I somehow forgot his power and might – some of his most beautiful attributes.

I’ve been waiting for God to call for a long time now. I couldn’t figure out why all my attempts to leave my current situation, better my life, or make changes to lessen the overwhelming sense of being trapped failed. A month ago, I sat with a Christian mentor and bared my soul at my inability to wait much longer for Him. We prayed in earnestness that God would move. I saw my mentor two weeks later and my first words to her were, “be careful what you pray for.”

Much has changed and I have a new weight of leadership and responsibility. I keep making excuses in my head at why I am not right for this challenge but God’s word rings living and active in my ears. How can I not see that He was preparing me for such a time as this? All my attempts to change my situation only to be kept in the same place? All the lessons I’ve learned through failures and building my character? How could I not say ‘yes’ when the Lord asked? God brought Esther to mind.

Esther 4:14 “If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for such a time as this?”

Remember Moses? Remember how even he didn’t want the challenge God laid out before him?

Exodus 3:10-12 “Now, go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt. But Moses protested to God, ‘Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?’ God answered, ‘I will be with you. And you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.’”

But God promised to go with him – personally. He would provide rest.

Exodus 33:14 “The Lord replied, ‘I will personally go with you Moses, and I will give you rest – everything will be fine for you.’”

While fear may quickly surface when God calls us, we must remember he would not call and then not go with us. God has been preparing each of us for a specific calling – for such a time as this. Be watchful and train yourself as you wait because when He calls, it may not be gentle and you may have to start running. He is good and will not let you go it alone.

May 8, 2011

In Due Time

My pastor gave an amazing sermon today. He preached on 1 Samuel 1 – where Hannah fasted and prayed for a child. She probably prayed a hundred prayers and implored God to move. I can identify with Hannah – I’m sure many of you can too. Do you ever feel like you pray a prayer a thousand times and when you say “amen” you wonder if you were even heard?

Well, He heard you. I promise you, He did.

1 Samuel 1:20 says, “and in due time she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, for she said ‘I asked the Lord for him.’”

You see, God hears our prayers. He’s just waiting for the right time to reveal his plan.  

This past year I have personally wrestled through letting go of my plan and seeking the Lord’s direction with my life. For an entire year (if not more) I’ve wondered why every step I’ve tried to take has failed and have felt stuck.

Has this ever happened to you?

But what happens when He calls? Are you ready? When your number is drawn and you’re asked to fight, or assigned an unexpected challenge can you do it?

God has given me Joshua 1:9 as my battle cry.

Joshua 1:9 “This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

We are commanded to have courage and to be strong. Whether we are waiting in our current circumstances and yearning to hear God’s voice or direction or if after a season of quiet, you are quickly given a challenge – we must rely on Him. He is with us always.

In due time He will reveal himself. We can trust that.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

April 1, 2011

Puzzle Pieces

Occasionally, in the late afternoon I step out of my office and into the activity room (I work at a senior center). I enjoy spending time with program participants and have grown particularly fond of “Alice” (not her real name). Alice is a feisty, determined (read sometimes stubborn) elderly woman who is a die-hard puzzle queen. She often invites me to help her tackle whatever 500 piece puzzle she happens to be working on that day. Truth be told, I’ve grown to love these moments with her.

In the time I’ve spent with Alice and our puzzles, I’ve noticed something. Alice’s determined nature often finds her forcing pieces into places they don’t belong because in her mind they “should.” She will push a piece into another and become so focused on one area of the puzzle she misses the obvious pieces that lie just off to the side.

Image Source: Flicker

This made me think of how often I try to fit into a piece not designed for me. It doesn’t mean those pieces aren’t good or a part of the larger puzzle but they aren’t the right fit for me. God designed me to be unique and He has a plan for my life – a plan that fits into His larger plan.

How often do we become so focused on one area of our lives that we miss the right piece of the puzzle that’s lying off to the side? Have our outlooks become so myopic that we can’t see what else is out there? Are we so unwilling to wait that we force ourselves into place because we “should?”

Like so many, I struggle with waiting but finding the right fit will be worth it. I want God’s best. I hope you do too. As you wait, consider embracing your uniqueness. Who are you? How are you gifted? What are your talents and passions? And whose are you? Where is your identity? Have you placed it solidly in Christ?  If you are made new in Christ, what do you know of His character? Allow the Lord’s character to sustain you, provide you hope, and give you peace.

Whatever you’re waiting on  – wait for the right fit. The puzzle will come together in His perfect time.

Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ.”

March 29, 2011

Star Gazing

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” – Persian proverb


Have you ever noticed how much junk gets in the way of hearing God or seeing what He’s trying to teach you?

Busyness.

Relationships.

Work life.

Even ministry life.

And have you ever experienced what happens when He yells your name and says STOP!? Just stop. Listen to him.

Where did you allow yourself to be surrounded by a fog? Where did the enemy creep in and say a crammed schedule was ok because it was full of good things? Or, whisper that if you just read the umpteenth book on spiritual life, you could control the great sense of guilt you carry with you? Of if you just worked hard enough at your job, it would be enough?

The sad thing is we often take half-truths and twist them just enough that even the “good” things in our lives become a distraction and even an idol. Sometimes it takes going into a dark season to remind us to look for the light. In the darkness, we remember who we are and can find truth if we look for it. God wants a relationship with us. He will allow us to go through times of darkness in order to call us back.

Are you willing to give up the junk? Even the “good” junk in order to draw nearer to Him?

Will you ask yourself who you are and who you belong to?

Will you stand for the truth?

Can you see through the darkness? Do you see the light?

Shed the fog and cling to the light.

 

March 22, 2011

Spring Rains

It’s finally Spring  – and with it comes the promise of new beginnings. Fresh starts; a turning of the page; and grace. Sweet grace.

But also hope.

Hope. (Insert pause – breathe it in. The reality of it.)

The spring rains have come. Yesterday I sat looking out my window and thought of all being washed away by a beautiful spring storm. God brought Hosea 6:3 to my mind.

Hosea 6:3 “Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the dawn or the coming rains in early spring.”


(Image Source: Flickr)

It’s an inevitable part of spring that the rain washes away the dirty remains of winter. The air seems a little sweeter and smells of the promise of new life. It happens every year. It’s a sure thing. God’s response is the same. He will respond. Why we doubt that He would respond is foolish because it is a sure thing. We must press on to know Him – to crave Him. How are we to hear His response if we are not seeking it? Are we even listening? Or are we so busy grumbling about our current situation or are we too focused on ourselves to even hear His response?

Be reassured that God will respond as sure as the coming rains in the early spring. Let us know Him more deeply and listen to His voice. He is near. There is hope.

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