Posts tagged ‘spiritual growth’

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.”

 

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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.

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.

March 11, 2011

Stripped

God wants all of us. He wants us to come to him. Sometimes we are the ones that stand in our own way of a deep, authentic relationship with Him. But don’t worry, God can (and will) get our attention. He often does this by tearing down our walls. Removing (often quite painfully) idols in our lives or misperceptions of faith and who we think he is (or who we think we are). He does this for a reason.

Envision a brick wall destroyed. At first look, this might appear to be a tragedy but I assure you this is an opportunity. As you sit in the pile of bricks you have the opportunity to examine them before you put them back together. I’m not sure what your wall is all about but could it be about trust? Do you really trust Him or just kind of? What keeps you from trusting? Is it about faith? Do you believe God is good? Do you believe he has a plan?

Ask the questions you need to ask. God is big. He can take it. He knows already – you might as well tell him.

The Book of Hosea has been a great allegory for me in times of rebirth, rebuilding, and challenge in my own life. When God has torn my life to pieces, he has a purpose. He has my attention. He will heal me – but in a new way. He will heal me so that I might know him more fully and live abundantly because he has removed the rubble and built something even more beautiful. He will show each of us – as sure as the morning dawn.

Take heart when you find yourself stripped and laid bare before God. Cry out to him as he will heal you. He will heal in a beautiful new way if you let him.

Hosea 6:1-3 Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming rains in early spring.

March 9, 2011

Unexpected Lessons

Have you ever noticed that in the times when you’re faced with an unexpected lesson or challenge that you learn the most? We can spend our lives planning away but it’s the things that seemingly take us off course where we learn the most. I’ve recently seen how stepping away from my own plan has allowed me the opportunity to experience God in an authentic way. I believe God calls us to experience his goodness. Psalm 34:8 is evidence of this in my mind.

Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

During these unplanned times, we learn what it is to walk in freedom and grace because we realize we are not the ones in control – that job belongs to God and God alone. When we find ourselves stripped of our defenses (even the ones we mask behind the routines of religion) we are face-to-face with our true nature and our level of faith.

Do we choose to trust Him?

Do we choose to let Him cover us in His blood?

Do we let Him take the reins of our lives and lead us beside still waters?

The questions alone can unhinge us but do not stop asking them. Taste and see my friends. Taste and see that He is good. Experience His goodness all around you. In the mundane. In the pain. In the uncertainties of life. He is there. He is good. He wants you to come to him and know Him. See Him for who he is – good. And what’s more, He loves you. This good God loves you.

I hope each of you find yourselves facing an unexpected challenge – not because I wish confusion or distress on you but so that you would have an opportunity to draw closer to an authentic experience with the Lord and to know Him deeply.

 

February 8, 2011

I Used To…

I believe our stories shape our lives. There are things that we choose to do that we may not be proud of. We have hurt others and others have hurt us. But each of these experiences shape us and mold us into something new.

Redemption.

Forgiveness.

Second Chances.

Praise God for new beginnings. Covered by his blood, we can start anew.

Drug addicts.

Prostitutes.

Liars.

Murderers.

Slanderers.

Offense. Offense. Offense.

If we are honest with ourselves, we are not unlike any of the above. Our depravity follows us closely. But it doesn’t have to define us. I often find encouragement and refreshment from those who are able to break free of who they used to be and establish a new life – a fresh start. Your story doesn’t have to be dramatic but a changed heart speaks for itself.

What’s your story?

I used to be___________ but now I am ____________.

I used to be lost but now I am found.

January 25, 2011

Sneak Attacks

2 Timothy 2:26 “and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

I warned you I’d update you on my Beth Moore study. Here it is, still week one of homework and I feel the attacks of Satan. Do you ever notice how it’s when you are making the most progress that you feel the most attacked?

Sometimes I almost welcome the attack. Because it means I’m dangerous. God has something good in store for me and Satan can’t stand it. I make three steps forward to only make two steps back. It’s frustrating – but that’s still one step ahead of where I was.

Progress my friends. Progress.

I don’t have all the answers and feel like this Bible study journey is going to be a tough one. (I need to guard myself against the enemy’s attacks). But I think it’s going to be worth it. I’m looking forward to breaking some strongholds but this will be a battle my friends.

Psalm 91:11-12 “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

 

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