Thursday, December 24, 2009
Riley and Charlie had a blast playing in it. I got a little cold, though. We might try again later. :)
In other news...I've decided to write a book. If you don't know me very well, that probably sounds lofty--and crazy. But, all my life, I've wanted to write fiction. And when I was in high school, shortly after I was saved, I felt strongly called to write--fiction included. I've done a lot of writing in my lifetime, but beyond a couple published short stories, I've not really followed through with my calling. I believe strongly that God has gifted me to write--and it's the only area in which I'm actually creative. For years, my family and friends (and now my husband) have been asking me when I was going to write a book. For me, not only was I afraid of the task, but I think I was intimidated by my young age. I always thought (and would say), "I will! Someday..." like writing a book has an age requirement to it--and I haven't reached that requirement yet.
But, as weird as it sounds, I watched Julie & Julia a couple weeks ago, and I was so inspired. I told Howell afterwards, "That makes me want to write." And he said--"You should!" I laughed it off and then tried to blow it off a few days later, but the Lord kept putting it on my heart. I need to write (He's already given me so many ideas that just float in my head), and I need a goal.
Yesterday I spent three hours at Starbucks with my journal. Not only did I spend time in prayer about what to write, but I wrote down every idea for a book I'd ever had--in detail. And I gave myself a goal-- six months. It doesn't have to be perfect by June 23, but if I'll at least get a first draft completed in six months, then I have something to work with.
So, that's my goal--and my news. I really feel like it's time that I step out in faith and do this. If you know me well, you know this won't be an easy task. I'm my worst critic--and the last to discipline myself to follow through with my writing. May it be six months of God's favor and blessing. May it be six months of His teaching and learning. May it be six months of discipline and perseverance. And though I may feel tested and weary, I believe He will be faithful to see me through.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Sometimes God makes the path more difficult and causes a battle, in order to show us a greater victory.
In Chapter 3, God builds on their victory in Sihon to fight a greater battle: not just a city, but an entire Kingdom--Bashan. Sihon was baby steps of faith building to a greater battle, just as Bashan will be baby steps to the greater batle that is Jerricho and beyond into the Promised Land. And each step along the way, God reminds them gently, "Remember, I fight for you." In Chapter 4, Moses pauses to remind them to keep these works of God hidden in their hearts, that they don't forget what He's done and depart from Him. Though Moses predicts that the Israelites will one day disobey and forget--and be scattered--God, in his mercy, will take them back when they begin to seek Him again.
In my own life, I think about all the mini financial battles the Lord has brought us through this year--just to show that He fights for us, and He is faithful. In January, we thought we'd owe $1500 from Hal's wreck, but God took care of it. In February, we unexpectedly owed $1600. And God provided. In March, I went to Pennsylvania, which costs us another $1500 in flights and hotels. But God provided again. All the while, we were trying to save money to buy a house--yet these expenses we hadn't anticipated kept coming up.
But in May, God had doubled our savings, in a way we can't explain--just to say that He did it.
In June, we found a house, whose closing costs we would not have enough to pay for. And we prayed, and God provided a way. In July, we moved--and all the extra money we thought we'd put into savings that month was nearly spent on other factors--visits to family nearly every weekend and purchases for the house. In August, we thought we were ready to finally start saving again, when we received heart-breaking news--the greatest test of all--that we owed $6000 to Hal's company (they'd been taking the wrong amount out of his checks), and that we'd be losing nearly half his paycheck each month.
We cried out to the Lord and told Him we weren't prepared. We panicked and worried about how we'd make it. We tried to "fix it" ourselves, by taking me off Hal's insurance to cut out $500/mo in expenses. But God had a plan and a purpose. And in September, He provided the money we needed--yes, all $6000. And He put me back on Hal's insurance, despite the strain it will place on our budget, because He wanted to be the one who fights our battles.
And even though this month, Hal will only receive 1/3 of his paycheck, to cover these insurance costs, God has already caused our bank accounts to be filled and our needs to be met. You see, when we are faithful to tithe and to give above the tithe to ministries He puts in our heart, to the point that we begin to say, "God it's not our money, but yours," He is faithful to return to us tenfold what we need. Like the Israelites, God used this whole year--nearly 10 months now--to bring us into a new battle.
And each time, He showed us, "It is I who fight for you."
Friday, September 25, 2009
Have you ever been tested, to the core of you? And you REALLY believed God for something...and you prayed and trusted and waited and prayed... And then, it didn't happen. The thing you truly needed. What you believed God would work out and take care of--He didn't. Ever been that disappointed? At first, I think I was stuck. I couldn't believe that God really hadn't answered my prayer. I'd been so sure He would. And of course, I'm surrounded by the "right answers" for the appropriate situation-- God knows best, God works all things for our good, He has the bigger picture in mind, He is sovereign, etc.
Deep down, of course, I believe all this. His goodness and faithfulness are at the core of my foundation. They are what keep me trusting. Yesterday, I feel like Hal and I traded one trial for another. God sort of answered our prayer, but only to raise another problem.
I don't know what God is doing, and I don't see the bigger picture. But every morning, for the last 6 weeks, I've continued to run to Him. I take all my pain, my confusion, my doubt, and my frustration--and I lay it at His feet. I know that we are weary, but I hold onto the promises He gave me almost 10 years ago: "Do not grow weary in doing good, for at the right time, you will reap a harvest, if you do not give up" (Galatians 6:9) and "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:6-7).
Thursday, August 20, 2009
To clarify, some Christians have taken the view that God's story is somehow their story and that the cross is all about them, and for them. Let us be certain that we are mere participants in God's story. Some might say God needed a relationship with us; others on a different extreme have twisted God's love as the motivation to be about them somehow...
So let's be clear: the cross and the mystery of his will were "to the praise of his glory" (Eph 1:11). Or to be even more exact, scripture says, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, SO THAT in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:4-7).
Everything about the cross and God's story should point to his grace and love and glory. If it was "for us," it was only in the most undeserved way, as we were dead in sin and he made us alive! We've all read "by grace...through faith." But let's not forget the part that reads "and this is not your own doing; it's the gift of God...so that no one may boast" (Eph 2:8-9).
With the right perspective of God's story, we can begin to do that which he desires, that which he has given us the authority to do: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works, which he prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph 2:10). Post-salvation is not about waiting til we reach our mansion in the sky. It's about letting Jesus sanctify his bride--doing everything he can to conform us to his image is his desire. So when it says we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, it's talking about our re-birth--our new man, brought to maturity through sanctification and the washing of the word. That new man is now ready to do God's work, his will, on earth.
The bride of Christ is sleeping and unprepared. We've not let our bridegroom sanctify us, and we're not doing the works that he asked. In fact, we hardly look like Jesus at all. We think "it's too hard; I'm too sinful," and in our laziness, we fail to bring the kingdom on earth. We fail to do what we've been given authority to do. We fail to walk in the plans that have already been laid out for us.
Do we not believe in the power of Jesus? Do we not believe that we've been given the same power? (Eph 1:19-23) Do we not understand our inheritance? The seal of the Holy Spirit? (Eph 1:13-19) Or do we not grasp the riches of grace lavished upon us, undeservedly? The great love that points to the glory of God in his redeeming will....
We must let our bridegroom renew our minds from what we know. We need to be washed with his word. Oh that he would begin to sanctify his bride... Oh that she would let him... and that we would begin to walk in his purpose for us here.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
But God's love is not forced to be reciprocated. It never has been. He created us to respond to him, but we have the freedom to choose. And so, Adam and Eve chose to sin. They chose to do so because they were allowed to rebel. Thus, sin entered the world.
But God's love is so immeasurable and everlasting. And he never gave up on his creation. So, he created a way to restore the relationship again. He sent his son to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, to bridge the gap once and for all between us and God. The cross speaks of his grace and mercy on our sins, but the greater purpose was motivated by love--his love that wants a relationship with us, as pure and unadulterated as what he had with Adam and Eve in the garden.
But there is this idea that this "relationship" won't exist until heaven. That we're just hanging out here on earth, doing the best we can, despite ourselves, until that glorious day when we'll all fly away.
We are a body of believers no better than the sleeping virgins who weren't ready when the bridegroom came. In Ephesians 5:25-27, Paul writes, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." Do you think God expects the Church to be holy and without blemish after Jesus returns? Absolutely not! This is clearly about Jesus' heart for his bride, for what he wants to see her look like now: sanctified, cleaned through the word, holy, blameless.
The process of sanctification is like the process of refinement--maybe testing and trials; life will feel heated, but God is shaping you, purifying you, making you holy and set apart.
In Ephesians 1, we're told that we've been blessed with every blessing in heavenly places. And again, we see the sovereignty of the God--who knew his plan from before time, that he would bring restoration to us. It was according to his will that we are accepted in the beloved, that we are redeemed and forgiven. In verse 9, it says that the mystery of his will was revealed--that mystery being his purpose through Christ to "united all things in him, thing in heaven and things on earth."
So we see that the redemption and restoration of all things to himself was not only for eternity. It was for right now. It was for the relationship that God desired to have with his creation. And it was for the sanctification of us as a body, as a bride.
Go to Part 2.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Verses one and two give us instruction on how we are to walk as Christians. Paul begins the chapter with two commands:
1) Be imitators of God
2) Walk in love
While these seem overwhelming at times, notice the way in which Paul presented them--both as behaviors modeled to us. In verse one, he reminds us that we are beloved children of God. Often, children pick up their parents mannerisms just by being in the same house with them. My mom and I haven't lived in the same house for almost ten years, and yet when we're together, I laugh at how much I already act like her. Paul is evoking the same natural reaction here. As children of God, we ought to act like God.
The second command, to walk in love, is also a modeled behavior for us. He tells us that we're to love others with the same love that we've been shown. If ever there was a perfect model for love or a perfect reminder of what love looks like--it's Jesus at the cross; it's his sacrifice for our sins; it's giving himself in order to give us a relationship with God again. Paul is reminding us that we've already been modeled the best behavior of love, and we've been loved with an everlasting love, despite our undeservedness. Therefore, we ought to know how to walk in love, as Christ did, because we have the perfect reminder of love living inside us.
I think the "catch" is that to really imitate someone, you have to know them. Not just on the outside, but from the inside. You have to know what they are like, how they move, what they would do in a given situation, how they respond to adversity and success. You have to know their heart. And you can't know God without having an intimate relationship with Him. I believe the same is true for modeling Christ's love. When you fully experience the fullness of Christ's love and sacrifice, then it becomes an outward response and expression to others. You begin to walk humbly, knowing the gift you've been given, and you walk with grace because of His grace toward you. If you only know Jesus' love in part, or through logic, or just as facts of salvation, you'll never be able to effectively respond to Him or to others in love. Modeling Chris's love, as Paul commands here, is a learned behavior, developed from a revelation of who Jesus is and how much He loves you. Only with that hidden in our hearts can we take the first steps of walking in love.
Friday, August 7, 2009
I thought this looked so peaceful...
For dinner on Saturday, we went to PF Chang's. Yeah for lettuce wraps!! :) And afterwards, we went to see The Proposal.
Sunday was our official anniversary day. I can't believe it's been a year already. It seems like it went so fast. We sat down Sunday night and made a list of our favorite memories from the year. I was overwhelmed by the Lord's goodness as we shared stories and reminded each other of fun dates and even just nights that weren't planned, but ended up being so special for us. I am so blessed to be married to him, and I know I tell God that all the time, but I think remembering MY blessing is so essential. This year hasn't always been easy; we've faced trials in our marriage, but we have grown a lot too. And I think with every trial we face, we became stronger because we determined to stick through anything together, not separated! I know we will always be tested, and certainly it's Satan's chief desire to drive a wedge between us, but days like Sunday, days when we remember how much fun we have, how much we love each other and how special our marriage is, are encouraging to me and give me confidence that God will always sustain us.
It has been a good year. God has been more than faithful to us. He has taught us to trust Him with our hearts, with our lives, and with everything we own. He continues to teach us how to love and serve each other, and what becoming "one" looks like. I look forward to many more years with my wonderful, wonderful blessing!
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
1) Make sure your focus is on Heavenly things
- Store up treasures in Heaven (6:19-21)
- Serve God, not money (6:21)
- Seek His Kingdom, His righteousness (6:33)
- Ask, seek, knock (7:7-11)
Jesus tells us that we aren't to be anxious about anything in this life, but certainly not when it comes to meeting our financial needs. Not only does worrying not add an hour to our life (6:27), but it also displays a lack of trust in the One who feeds the birds of the air and clothes the grass of the fields. Thus, Jesus ends his mini-sermon on being anxious with the command to "Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you." (6:33)
When I was younger, I remember taking this verse to mean "Seek God," and in some ways, that's pretty close. But having really focused on kingdom principles lately in studying the gospels, Jesus is actually giving two commands:
1) Seek the Kingdom of God
2) Seek His righteousness
The first, I believe, is related not just to seeking "God in Heaven." The Kingdom is now; the Kingdom is here. We are in His Kingdom, with a purpose. I believe that is part one of what we seek--our calling, our place in His Kingdom. How can I serve? How I can I be a witness to those outside the Kingdom? Or, to use the word Jesus had just spoken, seeking the Kingdom of God is simply stating, "Your Kingdom come [here, in this place you've given me to rule], your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven" (6:10). It means not focusing on your problem at all, but focusing on eternal things, focusing on how you can be used, and focusing on how you can be selfless and loving toward others.
The second part, then, goes all the way back to chapter five--righteous living: His righteousness. Jesus gives a new law in these three chapters that steps up the standard. If it seems hopeless and discouraging that we could be righteous, it's not. It may seem impossible, from our limited view, to think that we can be useful in His Kingdom or that we can be selfless and loving toward others--as He has commanded us--but we can. That's another blessing, another gracious act, that Jesus delivered on the cross: "For our sake, He made Him to be sin, who knew no sin, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (1 Cor 5:21).
In seeking the Kingdom of God and in pursuing His righteousness, Jesus promises our needs will be met. But, as we saw from psalm 62, the trust and hope that we must place in Him as our source of security is absolutely necessary.
Monday, July 27, 2009
1 Truly my soul silently waits for God;
From Him comes my salvation.
2 He only is 1 my rock and 2 my salvation;
He is 3 my defense;
I shall not be greatly moved.
3 How long will you attack a man?
You shall be slain, all of you,
Like a leaning wall and a tottering fence.
4 They only consult to cast him down from his high position;
They delight in lies;
They bless with their mouth,
But they curse inwardly. Selah
5 My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For 4 my expectation is from Him.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.
7 In God is my salvation and 5 my glory;
The rock of 6 my strength,
And 7 my refuge, is in God.
8 Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us.
9 Surely men of low degree are a vapor,
Men of high degree are a lie;
If they are weighed on the scales,
They are altogether lighter than vapor.
10 Do not trust in oppression,
Nor vainly hope in robbery;
If riches increase,
Do not set your heart on them.
11 God has spoken once,
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God.
12 Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy;
For You render to each one according to his work.
1. My Rock: Figuratively—someone who is strong, stable and dependable.
2. My Salvation: Hebrew meaning—help, deliverance, victory. In the abstract sense it is something [already] saved or delivered.
3. My Stronghold: Literally—fortified place or fortress; place of survival or refuge. A defense.
4. My Expectation: Hope—to have confidence or trust in something with the expectation of its fulfillment.
5. My Glory: Hebrew meaning—weight, honor, esteem, glory, majesty, abundance, wealth. Poetically it refers to a soul or a person.
6. My Strength: The power to resist strain or stress; durability. The state, property, or quality of being strong. The power to resist attack; impregnability.
7. My Refuge: Literally—protection or shelter in times of hardship, a source of help, relief, or comfort in times of trouble.
Therefore I will…
Trust: Hebrew meaning—to attach oneself, to trust, to confide in, to feel safe, to be confident, to be secure, to be careless. The word expresses firmness and solidity. The folly of relying upon another type of security is strongly contrasted with depending on God alone. This type of hope is a confident expectation, not a constant anxiety.
Pour out: Hebrew meaning—to spill forth, to pour out, to shed. Metaphorically, it means to bare one’s soul, i.e. in tears and complaints. This word is used to describe the helpless condition of the psalmist.
My heart: Hebrew meaning—literally in noun form, it is the heart, the center or middle of something, meaning the physical heart, the blood-pumping organ. However, in the bible, the whole spectrum of the human emotions is attributed to the heart.
My gracious father, once again I have neglected to remember who you are and who I am in you. You are my rock. You never change father. You are constant and dependable. You will not fail me. Your promises are true. You are stable. You are my salvation. I am depraved apart from you. I was in need of a savior, and you saved me. You are my help. You have delivered me. You are my defense. You are my stronghold—my refuge in time of need. You are the place that I can run to—my shelter. You are my glory. This means that you are my esteem, my honor, my wealth, my abundance, my happiness—you are, Jesus, my soul. All of me! You are my strength. “The rock of my strength.” You give me the ability to restrain, the ability to resist strain or stress, and the power to resist attack. And because you are my rock, and the rock of my strength, this strength is dependable; it is a constant source. You are my refuge—my source of help, relief, aid and comfort. You are my protection—my shelter. I am reminded of Colossians 2:10 “You are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” You complete me father, nothing else in this world. You are better. “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” You are all these things and more. Your very character and nature is indescribable…there are not words enough to cover your attributes. I will meditate on who the word says you are when I am at a loss. And I am reminded that you demand preeminence in my life. You are to be first, “for the Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously.” (James 4:5). But so often I fail you Lord. Instead of surrendering to you, I try to reign and control. Instead of trusting, I worry. Instead of resting, I move. My heart, Lord, my motive, truly is to please you in all things, to glorify you in everything I do. But I don’t trust. I don’t rest. My flesh wins, and I end up grieving your heart. I am sorry. I can say it no other way. I will pour out my heart before you. I will give you my complaints, my tears and all of me. If the heart is the whole spectrum of human emotions, then I will pour out to you my whole heart. You are a refuge for me. And I will place my trust—my hope—in you. In nothing else. For you never fail! You never waiver. I will attach myself to you and confide in you. In you I can be secure. I can be careless—I love this. It means that I can be without a care—without a worry. You supply every need of mine. I will not want. In you, I have a confident expectation—NOT a constant anxiety. You are sufficient. You sustain. You are faithful. Give me these desires of my heart—may they be truths in my heart. Your love for me is irrevocable. It is unchanging. May I always trust in that. May you strengthen my Spirit—it is willing, though my flesh is weak. I need you father. Remind me of who you are, when I am weak and forget. Be that still soft whisper in my heart, to take refuge in my confidant, in my rock. I love you. May my life be a reflection of that. Continue to teach. Continue to grow. In Jesus’ powerful name—let it be so!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Here are a few pictures from our new house:
Thursday, July 2, 2009
We closed on our first house on Monday. I can't really describe the feeling that gives me-- accomplishment, pride (in a good way), and yet humility (at God's goodness). To drive up to our home, I was overwhelmed with joy at God's faithfulness in working everything out. I know that Hal and I won't spend a lifetime here, but this will always be our first house. We'll always come back to Lubbock (if we ever move away ;-)) and say "That's the first house we ever lived in." And then we'll have a bunch of stories to tell (probably beginning with Riley did this and Charlie did that--and remember how we used to always do this or that). I just think that's an amazing beginning. And even though Hal and I's "beginning" began August 2, 2008-- this is another beginning. A new chapter. And I feel very blessed to be turning the page, as we continue to grow and mature.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Proverbs 3:5-8: "5Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. 6In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. 7Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn from evil. 8It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones."
Proverbs 4:23-27: "23Keep your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life. 24Put away from you cooked speech and put devious talk from you. 25Let your eyes look directly forward and your gaze be straight before you. 26Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. 27Do not turn to the left or to the right; turn your foot away from evil."
The Lord has been speaking to me about guarding my heart--keeping my heart secure and steadfast. For days, I have not really known what to do with that or really what he meant by His instruction. I do guard my heart!--I said defensively to Him. What am I missing here? And then this morning, He took me to Proverbs...
In chapter 3, verses we are well familiar with, I am struck by the instruction for humility in these words:
"Trust in the Lord...not on your own understanding"
"Do not be wise in your own eyes."
"Fear the Lord"
The command for humility is so obvious! More importantly, I never realized that this command has a sowing and reaping effect: If you do steps (verses) 5-7, you will reap verse 8: the promise of healing and refreshment! Just what my heart needs!
In chapter 4, the same promise is true ("healing in your flesh"--verse 22)--but the instruction is different. Where before, we were commanded to live in humility, here we are commanded to live in purity and righteousness. By guarding our hearts, we are keeping out:
Essentially, keeping our eyes and feet from anything that leads to evil paths. We are instructed to have our gaze intently on whatever our goal is or should be, so that we walk straight.
It is no mistake then, that in 4:25-27 he commands us to walk straight and in 3:6, he promises that when we
1. Trust in Him, not our own understanding, and
2. Acknowledge Him in all our ways, then
He will make our paths straight!
When we do one, the other follows. He is the AGENT (the do-er) of making our paths straight, not ourselves. But to see that requires humility that says "God, I can't do this, but you can. I need your help and your strength cause I don't have it all figured out." And for the wanna-be know-it-alls (like me, sometimes), it's humility that says, "Oh yeah-- you saved me! I serve you, not myself!" The second thing it requires is the discipline to live a righteous life, described in chapter 4. But if you're trusting in God and keeping Him close to your heart, this should follow as a natural response.
And further, the harvest we reap when we sow a life of trusting in the Lord and not ourselves, is a life of healing and refreshment. When we come into His presence and come aligned with His authority, acknowledging Him to be in control, we have entered into the holy fear of the Lord. And we experience the fullness of His restoring process that touches, heals, and refreshes us to do His work.
Monday, June 15, 2009
That's how my life feels right now. For the last month, it has been one storm after another. I have seen the grace of God in new and amazing ways...but I also reach the point of exhaustion. I know that He is a good God. And I believe that my foundation has been built on solid rock. But I'm tired of the storms. The winds and the rain and the hail that beat against my house. They damage my roof and shatter the windows. Each time I run to Him for repairs, but then another one comes. But the foundation remains. I know that God is a God who restores. And He is God over this house--over the house that is my heart.
Keep my faith, that is my foundation, strong. Help me to see YOUR goodness--even when life doesn't seem all that good or fair. Come Holy Spirit. Bring joy and peace in the midst of my storm.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
However, I know that I have been called to write. And for the last several years, I have done everything to run from that calling. But it's time to stop. So, this is me--stepping out in obedience.
More to come later...