Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Good Luck with That Defense!

The last couple of months, God has continued to teach me humility by allowing me to go my own way in areas of my life that I have struggled to give up. My unconscious thoughts have been something like this: "Clearly God is huge and wise and powerful, but in this area, well He's only slightly bigger and smarter than I. After all, look at what I have accomplished!"

Ha! Laughable. Our gifts and our talents are simply a loan that He can withdraw at any time. Any good that I have done is pathetic compared to a perfect God. Any bits and pieces of the good that we chose to take credit for become a disruption in our pure relationship with God. Like a clot floating through a vessel that can block an entire area of the brain from receiving the blood, considering the talents and gifts we have as ours prevents us from fully depending on God and thus further cloggs up our ability to understand His heart and plan for our lives.

The first step is realizing how raw and naked we are without Christ. A.W. Tozer put it, "Whoever defends himself will have himself for his defense, and he will have no other; but let him come defenseless before the Lord and he will have for his defender no less than God Himself." Do I REALLY want to use my talents goodness as a defense for my sin in front of the Almighty God?? Not to mention, do I want that "goodness" to be compared to Christ's perfection?

"For who make the thee to differ from another? And what has thou that thou didn't not receive?" Continuing the passage, "If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?" 1 Corinthians 4:7 We must understand that no matter how good the world may perceive us, or how successful we are, we are continually in possession of none of it and cannot brag based on whatever it is that we think we have. "Why do you boast as if you did no RECEIVE it?" It's like renting a sports car and driving it around town, enjoying the ooo's and ahh's as your friends admire it-BUT IT'S NOT EVEN YOURS!

People, what I'm getting at is deeply personal for me-this is directed at me. Living with the knowledge that I am simply borrowing this stuff, talent, body, etc-well it's incredibly FREEING! I don't have to fret about what will happen to me. I can live with the peace of knowing that God is the best of lenders, managers, and investors and as long as I am following His guidance, He will see me through. That doesn't mean I get to live ignorant and foolish, but it does mean I can "cast my cares on Him" and live a much more free life. Enjoy the freedom! You don't have to do the navigating, you just have to be humble enough to follow instructions and patient enough to wait for them!

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Journey Begins…Again

“When will God decide He’s had enough of me??? As I trust what He has said, I will not live to see that day. Thank goodness His patience is unfathomable and His love unmeasurable!”
Much time has passed since I last “published” a post. God has still been at work in my heart but I have allowed myself to become lazy when it comes sharing the blessings and challenges and lessons He has been teaching me.
I have continued my pursuit of Him and am learning to appreciate His presence and a pursuit of a greater goal than those that our ever-changing culture encourages us to pursue. God continues to humble me and teach me that I am not Him, neither am I even someone He needs to get His will accomplished. I am simply offered the opportunity to participate and enjoy the fulfilled life that is only a result of being “in sync” with His design.
As a young (ish) single female, of course the pressure is on to find a “soulmate” or the one person I am supposed to spend my life with. The pressure is everywhere and the loneliness of not having another human to share each step of life with and to be your “person” can be crippling if allowed.
My prior approaches to these pressures have been to either ignore it and secretly hope for opportunities to fall in my lap, or to “put myself out there” in an effort to find “the one”. As I have done this for many years not, I will share my perspective on both. Neither have worked for me. Neither approach has given me peace and both have been a distraction. What is my new solution?
As 2018 begins, I am praying for God to use me to the fullest extent in ways that I could never even imagine. I am praying that God gives me the strength and courage to live as a single person with the same peace that everything around me says can only be found when you find the person you are meant to spend your life with. I am also praying that God will change my perspective to understand that He can use me if I am willing. Period. I don’t need to have any ducks in a row and I don’t need to have a certain level of education. He can use me if I am willing to be used and accepting of whatever that means.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭121:1-3, 7‬

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Faith in Funny Places

"Sometimes the greatest faith is found in the most surprising places, simply because faith depends on a relationship rather than a religion. Religion can be one of the greatest hindrances to faith because it creates a dependency on a ritual rather than on the God of the universe who can do all things." -from Kingdom Woman



I recently read this quote in a book that I have been slowly trudging through. It was recommended by a friend, but so far has proven disappointing. This piece, however, made it all worth it. I would like to share the story referenced from the Bible.

In 1 Kings 17, the Nation of Israel was submerged in a drought brought on by King Ahab and his idolatrous influence on God's people. The prophet Elijah had warned of the drought then retreated to a place where God fed him by way of ravens and a brook. When the brook dried up, God commanded Elijah to go to Zarephath in Sidon where a widow would feed him. 

Just a backstory on Sidon-the current and very wicked Queen Jezebel hailed from Sidon. Sidon was ruled by King Ethbaal, her father who lead in their worship of idols including Ba'al. If you remember, Ba'al dates back to the Canaanites and the struggle Israel had years prior with idols. This was not a new idol for Israel and being a Prophet, Elijah would have been very aware of that. 

Add to that, women at this point in history were not well respected and whatever attention they received was often due to their husband. What business did the "great Prophet Elijah" have getting aid from a widow woman?

God tells the great Prophet Elijah to leave Israel, where there were an estimated 7,000 still faithful to the Lord and who would have been honored to feed the prophet, to leave and go to idolatrous Sidon and find a widow woman who would feed him. Talk about humbling!

Elijah obeys and locates the woman who is out collecting sticks. He asks her for water and as she starts to get him some, he then asks for food. She proceeds to tell him that she is in the process of collecting supplies to make a "last meal" for her and her son before they die of starvation. Elijah then tells her, "Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land."

Now customs in these days were much different than ours, but the facts remain that he was clearly an outsider and a stranger who approached her and is, in essence, commanding her to believe the God of another land, go against her motherly instincts to feed her child, and give her family's last meal to this complete stranger. What on earth is God doing? Both perspectives are crazy! Why does he have to go to Sidon for a woman? And why should she trust some God? She doesn't even have Paul's promises to the Gentiles to fall back on!

God chose the most unlikely of sources to do His work. Undoubtedly Elijah could have gone to the widows of Israel who were surrounded by their church family and actively involved in the right "religious" circles, but would the result have been the same? Would they have turned the prophet away and suggested he try a wealthier member of the community? 

"Sometimes the greatest faith is found in the most surprising places." God doesn't demand that we come from a background of faith or require a strong line of ministry-minded generations before us. God requires a heart of service and faith-the faith of a child that doesn't look at their circumstances or look at the odds stacked against them, but instead looks at their Daddy and says, "My Daddy is the strongest one out there and if he says it will happen, I believe it!"

Working as a traveling nurse, I have had some time out of being involved in direct church ministry. Finding a church family while on a three month assignment and working two weekends a month is challenging. After being immersed in the church for the first twenty years of my life, it has taken some time for God to show me that there are seasons of life for everything and sometimes the ministry He has for you at times in your life does not involve a church. Sometimes it is two small children that you are struggling to raise as a single parent while working several jobs. Sometimes it is a sick neighbor that you are able to spend time with. Sometimes it is a coworker who's shadow will never cross the threshold of a church but who will know about Christ because of the reflection of your life. While the church is an hugely important part of our lives and growth as Christians and can be such a blessing and help, do not underestimate the times where God may pull you aside for a "time-out" and help you develop your faith outside of the church.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Handicap Representative

Consider your physical abilities. The ones we take for granted each day. Imagine never having been able to walk without assistance. Imagine the inability to prevent a continuous stream of drool from escaping your mouth. Picture your reality limited by whether or not your wheelchair could make it through the door or up the ramp of the places you enjoy going. 

Many people are born with or develop debilitating reality. Both are challenging but the I want you to consider those that are developed. As a nurse, I see the scenario on repeat. The CEO who used to command the respect of a company one night goes to bed and wakes up with partial paralysis from a stroke. He is no longer able to walk and his memory is skewed. The mother who is used to taking care of three generations who has been ignoring increasing lack of coordination and muscle weakness is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and watches as each day her independence slips away from her. The people who want their bodies to perform but are constantly left embarrassed at the lack of performance or sometimes inappropriate over-performance.

I wonder if, when God chose for us to be "made in His image", he tossed around the idea of doing so AND providing us with free will. As representatives of Him, how many times a day do we embarrass Him? Just like a handicap person is more than just what you see on the outside, when we are Christians we have more to us than just our physical being. That being said, we are still human and make some pretty fantastic mistakes that poorly reflect on God. 

Thoughts for today.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Mercy

At some point in life we all want mercy. We want the law enforcement officer who pulled us over for to look past the law and rules and cut us some slack. We want that bill that we were late on paying to not count against our credit score. We want to pull on the "everyone is human" strings and count on those to provide us a blanket of mercy in our time of need. But do we want to give it? Particularly to those we have the most conflict with; those we interact with on a daily basis who are the "nails-on-chalkboard" to our day?

Jonah was sent to Nineveh to preach their destruction if they did not turn from their evil ways and repent. Jonah disobeyed and in trying to run from God, found himself in the belly of a whale. As he sat in the darkness with the stench of gastric juices and partially digested whale food, Jonah cried out to God and repented of his actions and vowed to turn back to God if God would deliver him. We know the story, the whale vomited Jonah onto dry ground. Jonah immediately traveled to Nineveh and told the city that if they didn't repent from their wickedness that God was going to destroy the city. Jonah delivered his message, then stepped back to watch the city destroyed. Strangely enough, the city "from the greatest down to the least repented in sackcloth and ashes...and God saw what they did, how they had turned from their evil way, and God relented of the disaster".

As much as I wish the story ended there, it doesn't. Jonah witnesses an entire city of positively changed hearts and lives and becomes "angry". The most ironic part of the book, and one of my favorite of the Bible is when Jonah tries to "call out" God. He says," O Lord, is this not what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster." Understand what is happening here-Jonah is upset about God's love and mercy-the same love and mercy that allowed him to be saved from the whale. Jonah calls out God's "soft spot" in His heart for his creation. As Robert Frost said, "After Jonah, you could never trust God not to be merciful again."

Jonah stomps off to fume in the desert where a vine provides him shade from the scorching desert sun. Then a worm comes and kills the vine and Jonah becomes so angry at the plant dying that he says to God "just let me die". God points out the irony of Jonah wanting 120,000 plus souls to perish while a single plant lives. As stated in "Robert Frost: The Ethics of Ambiguity", "Quantitative assessment of mercy is always secondary to the ethical quality of the act itself."

Remember this, if nothing else. We want God's mercy, therefore we must extend mercy. God surprises us with extending His mercy all throughout the Bible, therefore we must pray that He give us the same and help us to give mercy to those who are the most challenging in our lives.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Foolishly Called Love

Love is an action, not an emotion.

   Loving people is hard. There are good people and bad people, selfish people and kind people, people who have everything going for them and will never do anything for you and people who just need someone to show them love.

  God does not expect us to love people on our own. Christ set an example of what it means to love one another. Our job is merely to tap into Christ's strength and to love one another using that example.
























 The story of Desmond Doss at Hacksaw Ridge during World War 2 is a story of love. Doss had a strong relationship with God and his church and a conviction that he was not supposed to use a weapon. He also felt a strong call to support the war effort as a "non-combatant". Doss was ridiculed by his fellow soldiers and his commanding officers and was put through many trials including an attempt to "Section 8" discharge him on grounds of mental instability. His charges were dropped and he was labeled a "Conscientious Objector" and sent off to war. At the tender age of seventeen, Doss and his men deployed. In April of 1945, they found themselves on Okinawa in a battle referred to as the deadliest in the Pacific Theater during WW2. The Japanese were embedded into the small island and for the Americans to even get to them they had to scale a thirty foot ridge. After a particularly bloody counterattack by the Japanese, Doss' entire battalion retreated down the side of the ridge. Doss, however, stayed and felt the God was leading him to do so. He scurried around the rugged and bloodied battlefield, ducking Japanese patrols who were finishing off wounded soldiers and trying to beat them to his men. The men he found who were still alive would be treated and lowered down the ridge. Working through the night and under gunfire, Doss' 150lb frame was able to retrieve 75 wounded men, drag them through the destroyed terrain, and lower them down the side of the ridge. Doss said of the feat, "I just kept praying, 'Lord help me get one more. Just one more'." This was certainly a supernatural feat and one that earned Doss the first Medal of Honor awarded to a conscientious objector. Doss was eighteen at the time.




True and pure love knows no age. It knows no circumstances. It is stirred up inside of us after experiencing God pouring it out on us and it is what we are able to turn around and pour on others. Only when it is a reflection of God's example is it true love.

1 Corinthians 13 describes the many attributes of love:

  • Love is patient
  • Love is kind
  • Love is not jealous
  • Love does not brag
  • Love is not arrogant
  • Love does not act unbecomingly
  • Love does not seek its own
  • Love is not provoked
  • LOVE DOES NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT A WRONG SUFFERED
  • Love does not rejoice in the failure of others
  • Love rejoices with truth
  • Love bears all things
  • Love believes all things
  • Love hopes all things
  • Love endures all things
Those are deep. I will be exploring the individuality of each of these on my own time but considering each of these attributes can become overwhelming. Instead, consider what Christ would do in the individual circumstance. If ready to fine-tune your love, then do so but do not try to tackle the entire list when beginning. Small, consistent steps are what it takes. God knows our hearts and if we are truly seeking to love like Him, He will help us.

I waited a long time to tell a man "I love you" and when I finally did, I was disappointed. I had forgotten the reason I had waited so long and in so doing had forgotten the actual meaning of the word "love". To truly love someone comes with no chance of disappointment. Do you think Christ is truly disappointed in our imperfect love? Not truly so because He knew that He was getting imperfect lovers and thus expected imperfect love. 

To return to the story of Doss, he was young and in many ways simple, almost childlike. Captains, Majors, and even Generals would look on him and scoff at his "ignorance" and attempt to talk him out of the war. His fellow soldiers berated him and made life as difficult as possible. The difference that allowed Doss to perform the supernatural was that he loved God and truly understood loving his fellow man. He did not need a degree from West Point to be able to love his brother. The best love we could ever afford to another would be simple and childlike; knowing and trusting that our Father is the biggest and the strongest guy out there and will always look out for us!


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Dissapointed in God


Pity party. We all do it at some point. We hear how well our friends are doing or see the posts on Facebook and comparing our struggles begin to question if God really is paying attention to us. It's ok, even the best of us do it. Jesus said of John, "among those born of women, there is none greater than he". Yet even this "Hero" questioned God. When John was arrested and sitting in jail and hearing of how Jesus was healing complete strangers yet not doing anything to help His own cousin out of jail, John began to wonder. John could only see the jail cell in front of him. He didn't have social media to update him on Jesus' whereabouts and as he sat there thinking about his potential being wasted in a jail cell, he began to wonder if his whole life of preparing the people for Jesus had been wrong. The more he wondered, the more upset he became so he sent Jesus a message asking if He really was the Messiah.

Jesus could have responded in an offended or ungracious way, but He did not. He put Himself in John's position and told the messengers to update John on the wonderful miracles Jesus was doing. At the end of his message to them, Jesus said something that I find incredible. He said, "Blessed is the one who does not fall away on account of me." 

Step back and think about that statement. Jesus was saying that he could be a hinderance to others who are trying to do what God would have them do. Essentially that He could "get in the way" of their serving God. How is that possible?? 

Andy Stanley put it like this, "Your personal circumstances do not necessarily coincide with how God feels about you. Proof of how God feels about you is His Son given for you on the cross." We have all heard those people who talk about the bad circumstances in our lives meaning that we must be in sin, but that is not the case. We don't always get to understand the bigger picture and we shouldn't use that as an excuse to turn away. When God is silent, it doesn't mean that He is absent or doesn't care. It just means that it is time for us to reflect on the goodness that He has done in the past in our life. 

Jesus says, "Blessed is the one who does not fall away on account of me". Another version says "Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me". WE are that blessed! We are called BLESSED when we are consistent with God in spite of our circumstances and what appears to be God's absence. 

We each have trials to face, but how will we respond? "Your personal circumstances do not necessarily coincide with how God feels about you". 

Some of the best advice I have ever gotten from my mother was to "get out of the way, it's not about you." I came to her with my hurt and my pain. I had CLEARLY been wronged and was upset. Momma listened to me pour out my heart, she did the verbal hug that showed me love but did not feed my pain, then said "Sweetheart, I understand you hurt and are upset, but there is a bigger picture. You need to stop making it all about you. If you are able to get out of the way and realize the bigger picture, you will not be as personally hurt." Disappointment stems from expectation. Expectations from humans ALWAYS have the potential to be let down. God's faithfulness, however, will never disappoint.  

Two things to remember:
"Your personal circumstances do not necessarily coincide with how God feels about you."

"Stop making it all about you."