Saturday, September 29, 2012

Hope

This week was one of those weeks that was just so full that your heart bursts at the end of it with a mixture of joy and exhaustion and relief and wonder, all at the same time. By yesterday morning, my heart was just weary and trying to express my thoughts in words was just impossible. To put it bluntly, I was a mess. I knew what I needed: some serious time with the Guide to Life Book. But my pride, and that old familiar Super Woman complex, kept bringing to mind that neverending List of Very Important and Necessary THINGS TO DO.

How is it, again, that our minds so easily forget just how amazing God's Word is? How good it is to just soak it up and be filled with the Bread of Life? Why do we allow such silly things as Facebook or email or dishes or cleaning the house to fill up our time until theres none left for the refreshing of our souls? My 'Martha' has been showing a lot lately.

So anyways...back to my purpose in this post. So I finally sat down with my Bible yesterday, and ended up reading 1 Peter, twice. The theme I kept noticing throughout the whole letter was that of hope.
Our hope is a 'living hope'. What does that mean? I mean, I would never even think of there being a dead hope. I'm no theologian, but since the very next verse (4) talks about the inheritance we can hope for as being something that will never fade, perish, or spoil, I think it means that this hope will never die. OUR hope can fail, we're human and we're all emotional. But THE hope of eternity, of salvation through Jesus Christ, will not. It's a hope that, as we go through life, encourages us to live as Jesus did, because when he comes again his grace will be made visible and unquestionably clear to us. (13-14) Its a direct hope, because God himself is the one who brought us a reason to hope! There isn't a messy chain of command to go through, nor was there any sort of material exchange done on our behalf. The process of our ransom went to the deepest possible extreme.(18-21)

It's good to be with friends who understand hope!

I could cover the whole book, but that would be a very long post...it's a good book to sit and marvel over. The complexities and yet also the simplicity of the Gospel. The hope of a home beyond all of this world. So praise to the God who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light, and fills us with himself so that we are now priceless children in the greatest Kingdom of all!

'But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.' ~1 Peter 2:9-10

Monday, July 23, 2012

Just a penny

I'm curious to see if I'm alone in this. How many times have you done this:
You're walking somewhere when you see a penny on the ground. You feel compelled to bend down and pick it up, you can even picture the process. But then you chide yourself, 'Come on: it's just a penny!' And you keep walking.
How many pennies have you passed by this week? I can think of 5 this past week alone, and I'm sure there were many others that I didn't even notice. Sometimes I'm so caught up with what I'm doing that I don't even pay attention to where I'm going, don't even notice the ground my feet are touching.

What about other 'pennies' in your life? I've been thinking about the story of the lost coin in the Gospel of Luke lately, how the woman searched so diligently for the one coin that was lost and then rejoiced so greatly when it was found.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’  In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:8-10

Since Connie and I moved across town into Central Fort Wayne, where our neighborhood is close knit and hard to be a hermit in, I think we've been getting a better idea of what it really means to be in ministry. I've gotten to know people I wouldn't normally choose to associate with. It's quite an interesting experience to be shaken up and shown just how unopen your heart is to to lost. I'm so grateful for this time of learning and growing, and some pretty awesome friends to share it with!

Some of our team

She holds out a hand to receive seeds,
Such tiny seeds, like cookie crumbs or grains of sand.
Before she pours them in the soil,
She pauses and stares, and can't help but wonder...
Can something so small become something great?
It's so easy to pass the pennies right on by, to think of them as
'just drug dealers,'
'just alcoholics,'
'just self-absorbed business people,'
'just angry teenagers,'
'just loose women,'
'just .....'

But people aren't 'just' anything. They have names, faces, stories. They matter. No matter what they appear to be at first glance, they are made in the image of God and each and every soul is precious to Him. They are worth our time. All of heaven rejoices when each penny is found, and so should we! I want to dedicate my life to finding the pennies. This week, it's been eating brownies and ice cream with some neighbors as we got to know each other, training the new and quiet employee at Panera, and delivering cheesecake to the neighbor who is on house arrest and couldn't join us for a party. What will it look like for you?
'See, even just a penny is a treasure'

Monday, June 18, 2012

healing

'So give yourselves completely to God. Stand against the devil, and the devil will run from you. Come near to God, and God will come near to you. You sinners, clean sin out of your lives. You who are trying to follow God and the world at the same time, make your thinking pure. Be sad, cry, and weep! Change your laughter into crying and your joy into sadness. Humble yourself in the Lord's presence, and He will honor you.' ~James 4:7-10

I'm studying James right now. It's interesting how God can make scripture that is 2,000 years old just stand up and dance right through life with you! His Word is definitely living and active, cutting through straight to the heart.

A couple weeks ago, I went over to the house of one of my Somalian friends to pick her up for a shopping trip. My friend still needed a few minutes to get ready, so her mom asked me to come in and sit with her. My friend's nieces and nephews were all there, and the grandmother kept order from where she sat on a mattress on the floor. Their home is one of my favorites to visit: the walls are covered with beautiful African hangings and scarves, and the floor is decorated with many colorful rugs and mats, yet their home has an airyness to it, and lots of light that I haven't seen in most of our African friends' homes. My friend's mother doesn't speak much English, so we smile our communication instead.

When her daughter came back in the room, she started rattling off in Maay Maay ('My-My': the language of the Somali Bantu, her people) at the speed of lightning and in a tone of concern while gesturing towards me repeatedly. I figured she probably wanted to tell me something, and sure enough, my friend explained to me that her youngest niece had an injury on her leg and her mother wanted me to look at it. Her niece is about a year old, and after many questions and translating from English to Maay-Maay and back, we came to the conclusion that it was a burst blister on her ankle. The grandmother told me that the little girl kept picking at the skin around the blister, and asked if there was anything she could do to help it heal. I took my friend to WalGreens and after confirming with the phamicist on the best way to treat it, we gathered up supplies and I explained to her how to use them. I haven't been back to visit since that day, but I hope to soon be able to go and check on her!

I've been thinking about that experience a lot the past two weeks, as I've wrestled with some things in my heart. Each of us have wounds in our hearts now and then, both self-inflicted and at the hands of others. They may be sins we've committed, or hurts that we've allowed to grow into bitterness and anger. When we constantly think about them, and remember all the gruesome and painful details its like we're picking at a scab and re-opening an injury. We know from our physical wounds that picking at them only makes the healing process longer, and its the same for heart-aches, too. The best way to heal a heart is to give it to Jesus, and let Him pour His cleansing blood over it, and cover it in the balm of His Word. Let Him pick out the dirt and rocks. It hurts, and it's not a pretty process, but in the end the healing is complete.

This is a hard lesson, and one that I've been learning the past month or so. To give myself completely to God, to clean the sin out of my life (all sin, not just the sin I want to clean out), to draw near to Him, to be humble before Him. It's very tempting to not allow Him to have complete reign in our hearts, to shield ourselves from the hydrogen peroxide of His Spirit. I want to share with you some encouraging words that have helped me and reminded me to be strong and finish the race. Jesus died to make our hearts clean and pure before the Father, and I want to continue to accept His washing of my feet to make my walk match up with His work. (John 13:1-17)

'Remember that I commanded you to be strong and brave. Don't be afraid, because the Lord your God will be with you everywhere you go.' Joshua 1:9

'Remember, God is the One who makes you and us strong in Christ. God made us His chosen people. He put His mark on us to show that we are His, and He put His Spirit in our hearts to be a guarantee for all He has promised.' 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

'Our fight is not against people on earth but against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world's darkness, against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world. That is why you need to put on God's full armor. Then on the day of evil you will be able to stand strong. And when you have finished the whole fight, you will still be standing.' Ephesians 6:12-13

'My dear brothers and sisters, always be willing to listen and slow to speak. Do not become angry easily, because anger will not help you life the right kind of life God wants. So put out of your life every evil thing and every kind of wrong. Then in gentleness accept God's teaching that is planted in your hearts, which can save you. Do what God's teaching says; when you only listen and do nothing you are fooling yourselves.' James 1:19-22

'When people are tempted and still continue strong, they should be happy. After they have proved their faith, God will reward them with life forever. God promised this to all those who love Him.' James 1:12

'Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so God can heal you. When a believing person prays, great things happen.' James 5:16

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Just give me Jesus

I've had the song, 'Turn your eyes upon Jesus,' stuck in my head pretty much all week. One time while I was singing it, I tried to remember the first time I'd ever heard it and I couldn't. So I lost on a rabbit trail of thoughts about songs I learned from when I was a little girl, from when I was a toddler, and it hit me just how truly blessed I am. Even since before I was born, I've been surrounded by God's grace through my parents, family, my adopted grandparents and their family, Sunday school teachers, pastors, Bible quiz coaches, homeschooling moms-you name it! After thinking about it for awhile, I realize that there have been a LOT of Christians that have poured into this 20 years of life He's gifted me with! I've had so many people that intentionally taught me to turn my eyes to Jesus, whether by teaching me Scripture, songs, or just through sharing their heart. I don't often thank God for filling my life so full of Him, but I am right now. And realizing how many people He used to soften my heart to want to follow Him just makes me want to do the same for others.

The other day I was texting a friend, and had told her that I was just having a hard time and was really downcast. Her reply was, 'I just hope you remember that God delights in you!' It was like a jolt to my soul: there I was, wallowing in misery. Bogged down by stupid stuff. She pointed my eyes to Jesus, and reminded me of a simple truth that I had literally just been singing to my baby brother, Sammy. My housemate, Ciin, had just come home from a 5 hour shopping trip, and she'd had Sammy strapped to her back the entire time. She was exhausted, but Sammy wasn't so she handed him over to me, his 'sist-ah.' Ciin told me that Sammy calls Connie and I (his sist-ahs), 'ooh-ooh!' So I tried to get him to say it for me, and of course he just grinned and then let out a wail for his bottle. This baby is the fattest 8 month old I've ever come across, and I had to use both my arms to hold him. I told him I really understood why his uncle wants Connie to eat the same food he does, and I don't think he appreciated that comment. ;) So I decided to make it up to him and sang, "Jesus Loves Me," to him while he finished his bottle. He knows the tune, so he waved his arm to the music. I wonder, why do we consider it to be a 'children's song?' Why are songs that are really just simple, faith-filled praises seen as something 'the kids sing?' Children's songs are usually the first ones that pop into my mind when the hard times come. It's easy to get caught up in the messy, complex details of life, and feel as though we're able somehow to figure things out. But we're not. We can do nothing on our own, and if we fix our eyes on Jesus, we'll remember the things that truly matter, and all else will just fade away.



Jesus loves me! He will stay,
Close beside me all the way;
He's prepared a home for me,
And some day His face I'll see.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hope

There once was a magical golden flower that took up residence here in Little Burma. It was magical because, unlike common flowers, it didn't wilt and die within a few days of being plucked. Oh, no, this amazing little thing bloomed strong and radiant for 3 whole weeks; bringing cheer, love, joy, and most of all serving as a reminder of hope.



Ironically enough, the hand that plucked it (mine) was also the hand that ended its life. She was a thriving, happy little daisy until the day I decided to change her water. Within hours my little flower, who had nearly become an actual member of my home (we're still convinced she was a fairy of some sort), was shriveled up and gone, beyond all healing.

With the demise of Little Burma's visible little light of hope, a strange kind of darkness was settling over my heart as well. Surrounded by overwhelming circumstances on every side, like my poor little flower the hope that is in my heart was being choked by the death grip of doubts and fears. The sight of hope was almost completely gone with my daisy, but faith stepped in when hope was not clearly evident.

A week ago I found myself wandering around Little Burma. My heart felt like it just couldn't take one more blow. I searched and searched for another little blossom to help, but I searched in vain. The daisies were all gone, and the doubts and fears aimed to shoot what they hoped was the death blow. But, thanks to Jesus, my HOPE, those arrows bounced back and landed on the ground, worthless. During another walk with my Mama Chandler, we found some pretty purple wildflowers: "A blessing from Jesus!" They reminded me that, with Jesus, hope is always there, just not necessarily the same shape you think it should be. Circumstances still seem in some cases to be hopeless, but faith is the belief that hope is evident in the things unseen! Faith sees defeat as simply the prelude to a wonderful fairytale of love, peace, and joy. Faith chooses to see hope where hope has taken on a kind of invisibility cloak.

Once again I strolled the grounds, pondering peace and praise and faith...and all the while, searching. Sure enough, I found it: in my heart with my Jesus, and in my yard.

Hope


May these words from God's heart encourage you and remind you of the hope we can have in Jesus. Whatever hard things you are facing, remember to bring Him thanks and praise. 'Give thanks in all things' includes the trials, and we are also commanded to be joyful in them. I think this is the challenge for me, because thanks and joy come from resting in hope!

'We have this treasure from God, but we are like clay jars that hold the treaure. This shows that the great power is from God, not from us. We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what to do, but we do not give up the hope of living. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. We carry the death of Jesus in our own bodies so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies. We are alive, but for Jesus we are always in danger of death so that the life of Jesus can be seen in our bodies that die. So death is working in us, but life is working in you. It is written in the Scriptures, 'I believed, so I spoke.' Our faith is like this, too. We believe, and so we speak. God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead, and we know that God will also raise us with Jesus. God will bring us together with you, and we will stand before him. All these things are for you. And so the grace of God that is being given to more and more people will bring increasing thanks to God for His glory.' ~2 Corinthians 4:7-15

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fearless

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7

I talked with our youth group girls last night about this verse. We first spent some time in thought, then we each wrote down one (or several) of our biggest fears.



Death.
Being alone.
Pain.
Losing a loved one.
Being rejected.
Trying new things.
People dying without knowing salvation.

We spent some time reflecting on our fears. "So why do we fear these things?" I asked them.
"Because we don't trust God," one girl quickly responded. She hit the nail on the head! For if we say we believe God is all powerful, and since we know that He is in control and has a plan, to fear something He has allowed to be set in motion is to doubt His love for us.

5 But if any of you needs wisdom, you should ask God for it. He is generous to everyone and will give you wisdom without criticizing you. 6 But when you ask God, you must believe and not doubt. Anyone who doubts is like a wave in the sea, blown up and down by the wind.7-8 Such doubters are thinking two different things at the same time, and they cannot decide about anything they do. They should not think they will receive anything from the Lord. James 1:5-8

Fear has no place in the life of one who has entrusted their very soul to God's capable hands. To fear is to doubt, to doubt is to lack faith, to lack faith is the absence of trust, and where there is no trust you cannot love. And withholding our love from the one who created us is a terrifying thing indeed.

So instead of fearing things we have no control over, we continued to the rest of the verse. The part where we see that God gives us the real deal: power, love, and a sound mind.

Power. A spirit of power is courage, steadfastness, and a warrior-like strength that rises up and challenges the validity of the fears that bombard us. It seeks truth rather than settling for the convenient emotions of worry and self-pity. To be filled with God's spirit of power is to remember that, even when on the surface it looks like evil is winning, Love conquers all.

My dear children, you belong to God and have defeated them; because God's Spirit, who is in you, is greater than the devil, who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

Love. When you love someone, you trust them. You don't doubt their ability to do anything. If its an unconditional love, you love them even when things are chaotic and they seem to not really be there. To love leaves no room for fear in our hearts-it is a peace of mind that is unwavering in its faith that God's promises are true.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. Mark 12:30
Sound Mind. This takes a lot of work! One of the girls and I discussed the act of guarding our hearts and minds from things that would will fear into them. It doesn't just mean NOT fearing-it means not allowing doubt to enter so it won't grow into fear. It means filling our minds with God's promises and truth, and recalling them every time doubt tries to enter. To have a sound mind, you have to rely on God's spirit of power to fight fear, and His love to cover all wrongs. It is peace through all the trials of life, even when the 'worst' does happen to us.

And God's peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7


I was up late, well after the youth had all been taken home and the other leaders and I had gathered for prayer last night, thinking about it. To leave fear behind is such a change of mindset, it really takes a lot of work to switch from that easy life to the life of complete peace and trust in the Lord. But really, fear is just the cheap, dollar store plastic ring that most of the world buys thinking it is the real deal, when God's way is the true diamond, worth more than anything. Yes, it requires a price: sacrificing our own desires to live as He wants, and sometimes sacrificing even more. But 'the sufferings that we have now are nothing compared to the great glory that will be shown to us.' (Romans 8:18)

Fear is full of nothing but pain, death, loss, hurt, loneliness, rejection, and separation from God. Fearless is all of God's wonderful promises blooming in our hearts; full, rich, and fragrant as a rose.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Something Beautiful

She walked down the aisle to the heart-warming song, "God gave me you," decked out in purest white gown and western headdress. The words of the song were thickly accented by the country singer, and her face shone with love and devotion that only came from walking through life's trials with the man she was about to more permanently continue through life with, forever until death should separate them. Love, joy, and a long sigh of relief. Her dream was finally coming true.

pure joy



A little 4 year old boy met his mother for the first time since arriving at the orphanage 3 years ago. The first child I made a heart connection with as I cuddled him through a bad case of malaria, and many more times through cases of lonely tears. After 3 years of longing, heartbreak, and feeling lost and alone, he is reunited with his mother. Home, in his forever home, at last.

speechless



The sun rose over the horizon just as we sang of Christ's resurrection and the power of His salvation that Easter morning. A group of us stood and sat in a cluster around her hospital bed, worshipping the Father with our dear friend and offering her our love in hopes to restore some strength to her weary soul. God's Spirit filled the small hospital room, and not only restored souls, but ignited them with joy, too.

simply heavenly



She smiled big and beautiful as she opened the door to her home and pulled me inside with boisterous exclamations of welcome and delight. Her daughters all greeted me warmly, and the oldest pulled me into the kitchen where she'd just finished cooking chicken for her family. The taste reminded me of Uganda, despite being made in an Asian home, and we talked cooking for a good while until her sisters arrived. Mother and daughters sat with me and chatted in Burmese and English interchangeably (so I only spoke English...bummer!), daughters translating for mom when her thoughts were too complex for her english skills. I left their home with promises of returning for dinner with the family soon, and a warm heart.

my beautiful friend <3


A quiet, gentle, yet strong woman sits with me as we sip pink lemonade on a Sunday afternoon, and she pours out her heart to me. I listen quietly, responding with smiles or concerned sounds when appropriate, and occasionally inserting encouragement and opinions. Her two little boys know me well, and are content with ignoring us; its a good thing, too, for what is on this woman's heart this day is deep and complex, and sad and full of the unknown. I in turn share some of the hard, ugly stuff of my heart that leaves me with nothing but acceptance of my own inability to ever measure up. We both cry tears of frustration over some of life's trials and our own stupid mistakes, but remind each other of God's grace and faithfulness. We praise God for His mercy, and when I tear myself away she farewells me by kissing both cheeks lightly, wrapping my up in her warm jacket (for, silly me, I neglected to dress appropriately for the northern weather), with urgings to 'come again, my sister, and soon.'

Flowers from our friend for Connie!


His face finally dawned recognition at the second glance, quickly followed by surprise and joy-his oldest girl was home! Five long months of separation, and a two-day early surprise arrival were just the sort of combination to create laughter and joy and a good evening in our home that day. Which was followed by 8 more days of adventures, chatter, fun and good family bonding times.

we celebrated a birthday :)



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


All of the above events have happened just in the past month, and I'm sure I have forgotten many more which I could share with you. On the surface they certainly don't seem like a group of stories you would usually put together, but each one is actually my plan B for the particular situations...and in some cases even all the way down to plan Z. For each wonderful tale, I have another, less cheerful tale of a failed plan, plot twists, dark, and sometimes even evil, events that took each story in a direction that held no apparent promise of any sort of good ending. The prequels to these stories are full of pain and heartache, sin and disappointment, sickness and hopelessness.

But through it all-pneumonia, abandonment, fleeing countries, separation from family, loss, stupid decisions, frustration, impatience, you name it-God triumphed over all.

"But the Lord's plans will stand forever; His ideas will last from now on." Psalm 33:11

The plans I had in mind might not have come to fruition, but the plans that God ordered and directed were certainly much better than any I could have ever come up with.

"'I say this because I know what I am planning for you,' says the Lord. 'I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future.'" Jeremiah 29:11

The stories still hold much pain and hard times, but God is there. His glory shines through it all.

"The sufferings we have now are nothing compared to the great glory that will be shown to us." Romans 8:18

This month has taught me: whatever jumbled-up-mess the events of life look like, God is at work and can use even the ugly to make something beautiful. And, not only is He certain to work all things for good and for His glory, He is EAGER to do so! What a mighty God we serve!

"The Lord wants to show His mercy to you. He wants to rise and comfort you. The Lord is a fair God, and everyone who waits for His help will be happy." Isaiah 30:18


"He has glory and majesty;
He has power and joy in His temple.
Praise the Lord, all nations on earth.
Praise the Lord's glory and power;
Praise the glory of the Lord's name.
Bring an offering and come to Him.
Worship the Lord because He is holy."
1 Chronicles 16:27-29

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Life


The warm sunshine hits my skin, relaxes my achy body, and soothes sore sinuses.
I lay on the harsh asphalt, mainly because I don’t want to lie in the mud. When I imagine hard enough, I can almost make it feel like the soft sand of the beach, and I forgive the rough surface I nap on. The breeze is the same temperature as the sunshine, or it feels so, at least. Birds are chirping to each other and the sound of traffic a hundred yards away, I can pretty much imagine into being a steady onslaught of ocean waves.  I sigh and decide that these ten minutes of peace are perfection-a gift of life from Jesus.



Connie noticed this squirrel had the same idea-a nap in the sunshine!

My thoughts turn to images of faces-of the children I held a class with just yesterday. For three hours I prayed and played with all 10 of them, peacekeeping and telling stories of Jesus. Of Jesus…an annoying thought enters my head, very briefly. What if the parents of the Muslim kids complain about my stories? I shoo the lies of the enemy away; it’s too good a moment to let him destroy. And it’s not my problem anyway. If I had dark chocolate to give you, and didn’t, you’d be mad. And since Jesus equals eternal life, if I don’t share Him that’s even worse, I remind myself. Memories of deep questions posed by thoughtful 4 and 5 year olds drive away the clouds. Seeing the Creator open the heart-eyes of adorable children is my favorite thing in the world.

Signs of spring, of life


The sun is beating down heavily, and even with my eyes closed it becomes too much to bear. I turn my head, but still it burns through my eyelids. Burns, but strangely I still want more. More warmth, more light, more life. I turn my head back to face it straight on, turning away every now and then to keep from being blinded. I think of how this can relate to facing Truth-it overwhelms you, but yet fully satisfies and keeps you wanting more. It hurts, but it heals, too. It recharges you, and ultimately gives life.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Grace+Mercy=Love

Shameless bragging...a recent picture of my little guy in Uganda: God is SO good! And this kid is too cute and getting cuter by the day. Pure love.
Mercy and grace are two topics we talk a lot about in the Christian world. But what is the meaning of them? I don't feel like my heart has a true understanding of them, at least not enough to fully live them out in my life on a daily basis.
This morning, Connie and I were blessed to have our spirits refreshed as we studied the words of Jesus with some of the other women of Gospel Community. We had a great conversation on the way to the meeting place, and, though I won't share all the details (Connie has promised to blog about it soon!), the preface to our day was centered on Romans 12; our living sacrifices are less like ritual, and more about reliance.


So, with that foundation, we went into reading Matthew 9:9-13, the story of Jesus hanging out with the tax collectors and "sinners." Our speaker focused on verse 13, which says, "Go and learn what this means: 'I want kindness more than I want animal sacrifices.' I did not come to invite good people but to invite sinners." This started me on a sort of rabbit trail of conviction and repentance, of learning a new lesson and confirming other ongoing cleansing of my heart.


Jesus desires mercy (ESV) more than sacrifice. Our speaker defined 'sacrifice' as 'religious ritual,' which isn't bad. But when 'doing good' distracts or detracts from simply dwelling in the grace and mercy which God has bestowed on us, we get into the Pharisaical mindset; we are ultimately killing the joy and peace that God has freely given and longs to keep pouring into our lives! Pharisees are the legalistic ones who like to throw grace out the window and rely on works. I usually don't like to even think that I could possibly be them, much less display symptoms of their lifestyle. But being a Pharisee starts with the subtle attempts to take control of our lives, until over time we settle into the mindset that we are alright. We talk about the sinner's prayer as the moment of conversion, rather than realizing that, in truth, we're always sinners praying to the gracious and almighty God who we are always in need of. We somehow go from being completely in need of Him, to moving towards a sort of 'promotion' (keep in mind, though, Matthew 18:4-the real promotion!) where we get to figure out what is wrong in other people's lives, and decide who are the real Christians and who is certainly headed to hell.

Sound familiar? After the wrestling in my heart today, I have to confess that I am far more often like a full-blown Pharisee than a merciful, saved-by-grace-sinner. I love rules, instructions, and formulas (as much as I hate admitting it...just ask Connie and Tall Hannah) that give the fake sense of control over my life. Stress, worry, and judging are all a false sense of security, and all are a sign of doubting God's greatness. All are a sin. I've gotta say: it seems the more I learn about God, and the more I get closer to Him and desire to be like Him, the more I realize just how utterly small (no short jokes, people!), worthless, and sinful I am. The deeper I go, the more walls and 'securities' He's tearing down. He's proving to me daily just how much I need Him. That's something I won't ever graduate from: not now, and not in eternity. And that's a freeing thing! He came to invite people like me, people who are sinners, and once we've accepted that invitation He doesn't ever leave us. Now that's security!

I want to go deeper and nearer to where He is. I want to learn what it means to love. I want to know this trustworthy and merciful God more.

"I want faithful love more than animal sacrifices. I want people to know Me more than I want burnt offerings." ~Hosea 6:6, NCV

Saturday, February 18, 2012

blessed

"It is important to give thanks to God in EVERY situation, both the good and the bad. The Bible says to give thanks, always. And its hard...the bad situations, it doesn't make any sense to give thanks, but when we don't, things can get ugly. It causes our heart to harden, and it slowly kills us inside." ~anonymous

With my Pammy at the Botanical Conservatory!

I feel like life is a lot like a spiritual roller coaster sometimes. Emotions get so easily tangled up in my outlook on life, so in the space of only ten minutes I can feel on top of the world, in the depths of despair, and completely detached from everything. But joy isn't supposed to depend on life situations; its something that I can choose, every minute of every day.

Our Youth Night boys surprised us on Valentine's Day! We are SO loved!

I think a part of choosing joy, is also choosing to give thanks in everything. And, I think thats where part of the problem comes in: I can't always find a reason to be thankful for the hard things. But he didn't say to only thank him when it makes sense.

With one of the awesome guys that blessed us!


"Always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." ~Ephesians 5:20, NCV
My Rahmo!

So my challenge now becomes to say "thank you" for the hard things, with no expectation for them to become good things by my standards of what is best. To lean into the hard and frustrating, with the assurance that in my weakness, he is made stronger. He is glorified and praised, and more and more honor is given to his holy name.

Love <3



I am so blessed to have such a great example of this in people like my Pammy, Connie, and others at TCF and in my FW church family at GC. Last Saturday night's sermon really blessed me and challenged me in some hard things. A few of you have asked for links to our church's sermons, so here is last weekend's for you. And a little bonus...if you listen all the way to the end, Pastor Eric mentions Connie...just throwing that bit of info out there. :) It's the "Cold, Coward, and Christian" sermon, second one down.


http://www.gospelco.org/media.php?pageID=24