Friday, October 29, 2010

My Story

I have had three people within the last week mention "your story" or "your testimony". Around here, we call that an echo from God. Perhaps He is trying to tell me something!

Until yesterday, I didn't think I had a testimony. It seems silly now, but there wasn't a big life changing experience or a flash of lightning. After some reflection, I don't think that testimonies have to be that way. Some are big and exciting and "flashy" and then there is the rest of us. Normal everyday people. With normal everyday stories.

I was raised in the church by Christian parents. We went to church most Sunday's (unless someone was sick or we were out of town) and Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. In High School, I joined the Youth Group and got very involved there with activities and work/mission trips. Then college... I didn't do as well. I didn't completely walk away from God, but I am pretty sure I didn't follow the path that He had planned for me. Looking back, I know that God was with me even though I wasn't seeking Him. He put people in my life that were strong Christians and they were a good influence on me when everything else was so bad. I tried attending church there and did a few times, but it never became habit and it was so easy to just sleep in.

After college, I moved back home. I went back to church with my family and was welcomed with open arms and even taught Confirmation that year. Shortly after moving home, I met my husband and while we were dating, we often attended church. Either his or mine. Looking back at that time, I see now that I still wasn't following God. I did my best and fooled a lot of people including myself. Maybe it wasn't fooling, but ignorance on my part. 

Life went on. I went to church on Sunday and I did my own thing the rest of the week. I thought that was enough. I had the label "Christian". I had accepted Jesus. I knew right from wrong (in my own mind). I tried to be a good person, helping others, not stealing or killing. What more was there? 

This season lasted about seven years. During that time, I almost completely quit going to church. Things did not really start to change until I was trying to get pregnant for the first time. Typical of the season I was in, I didn't turn to God until I needed Him. I was fine on my own, until a crisis appeared. Then, I treated God like my personal Genie. I went through tests and took fertility medication, until I couldn't live with the side effects any longer. A month later, I was pregnant. I would like to say that I had turned to God and said, "You are bigger and You know what is best. I surrender my life to you."  But, I didn't. I thanked God and moved on. 

But, I began thinking (or rather, God placed it on my heart and I finally started to listen) that I needed more.  I wanted my child to have a good foundation. I wanted to give my baby the good morals that I had been given. In my heart, I knew there was something to the "whole church thing", I just didn't know what it was. I began "church shopping". I tried several local churches and decided on the one that was the most comfortable. I got involved with the Children's ministry and made some great friends. We stayed there for almost three years, until the church changed and I no longer felt comfortable. I took a step back to analyze the changes.

On Thanksgiving morning of 2008, I was getting ready to go to dinner at my parents house. I had the TV on for news and background noise. Joyce Meyer came on and that is when things really changed for me. I don't remember what she said exactly, but I was at that point I realized there was something more to church than "religion". That was the turning point for me, I began to find my own faith. For so long, I was living on what my parents said or the way they raised me. It wasn't until I really started doing it for me that I was able to understand what so many others already had and what God wants for all of us. I began to read my Bible, although I didn't understand it, and we found a new church. 

The new church has made a huge difference. I am really being fed the word! I didn't realize how hungry I was until I heard someone who really spoke to me. I also joined a women's Bible study. That has been a big step for me and really encouraged me in my daily walk. I enjoy reading the Bible and reading books that take me deeper in the word. I love being around Christian women who share the same values and beliefs that I do. I miss it when I am not there and have made it a priority in my schedule.

Everyday, I work at being more open about my faith and my Savior. Throughout my life, I hid my faith and beliefs (and still do to some extent) from others out of fear of rejection. What I didn't understand is that our choices are either good or bad. So, fear of rejection from people caused me to reject God. I should have feared Him more than people. I am getting better at it, and stepping out on faith more than ever before. I am trying to be open with my children, so that they will learn that God's opinion is much more important than people's opinion. I am trying to teach them that their faith is not something to hide or be ashamed of. As the women of my Bible studies have taught me, it is in the sharing that we grow.

Those who have known me for a while can appreciate that this blog was a big, scary step. I don't really know where this is all going- meaning the blog. I just felt like this was the direction that He was leading me. I have never been a writer, but it seems like He is using me for something. My wonderful and supportive Mom recently told me, "you don't need to know why, you just need to obey and trust in Him who always knows".

That is the cool thing about God! He is not normal or everyday. He is creative and exciting and unexpected. When we follow Him, our lives are that way too. Looking back, I see that His fingerprints are all over my life! This is not really my story it is our story.

1 Kings 19:11-12 (New Living Translation)

 11 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.

Lord, I am a sinner. On my own, I am not good enough to come into your presence. I believe that Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sins. I believe that he rose and ascended into heaven. Through my belief in Jesus I am able to come to you at the throne. Thank you Abba, that you were faithful when I was fickle. Thank you for pursuing me when I turned away. Thank you for loving me when I was unloveable. Amen.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Have you exercised recently?

I recently read that our faith is something that needs to be exercised in order for it to grow. I will be honest, the mention of the word exercise stirs up many emotions in me and none of them are very good or happy. My husband and my children are very active! They love and play several different sports and they work hard at learning to be better athletes. I am active in other ways. My activities include vigorous cleaning, running up and down stairs to do laundry, running the kids to school or activities and walking up and down the grocery store aisles. I know these are not technically the best way to exercise and they are not really helping my body, but some days that is all I can manage.

So, when I read that we need to exercise our faith, I wasn't entirely happy. But I will say, I was somewhat relieved. I have often wondered how others seem to have so much more faith than I do. It didn't seem right that God would give some an extra helping, while others are getting the leftovers.

Mark 7:24-30
The Faith of a Syrophoenician Woman

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. 

"First let the children eat all they want," he told her, "for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." "Yes, Lord," she replied, "but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."

Then he told her, "For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter." She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

This passage confused me for a while. Why are they talking about dogs and table scraps? There is a  sweet child out there possessed by a demon! Jesus, do something!

But, we need a little background in order to understand this story. He was a Jewish man. She was a Gentile woman. She had two strikes against her. In that time, she was at the bottom of the food chain (the dogs). Women, especially Gentile, women were not supposed to approach a Jewish leader, such as Jesus. But her child was home, suffering. She got word that Jesus was in town, and she had heard stories about the miraculous healings he had performed. She decided that her child was worth going against the social etiquette. She stepped out on faith.

Now, I don't think that Jesus was calling this woman a dog as a put down. I think he was helping her exercise. She had risked coming to see him, which was the warmup part of her exercise. She begged him to heal her daughter, which was the first part of her workout (she was still fresh and motivated). He questioned her request. She had to keep her eyes on her goal. She needed her daughter healed and had faith that he was the one to do it. She asked for just a little bit of what he had and that was the last part of the workout. She could have quit halfway through, but she didn't.

He daughter was healed. Her faith was strengthened. As a woman and a mother, she was heard, recognized and confirmed. But, none of this would have happened if she had stayed home with her daughter hoping for a miracle. God can, and does, perform miracles everyday. But, we have to leave the house! We have to take the first few steps on faith. We have to go out into the world. God is waiting and He is faithful, but it is our choice to get moving!

At times, I go through seasons of faithful exercise, they don't usually last long and then I am back to going without. I feel so much better and stronger when I do get regular exercise, but I don't make it a priority. The same, goes with my faith. There are days I feel strong and others where I haven't done the work.

I have a few things on my to do list that I have been avoiding! I am off to do them now. I am stepping out on faith and I know that God is waiting there for me to show up.

Heavenly Father, you are so good and faithful and patient. Thank you for calling me toward you and helping me grow in your love. Help me to see the opportunities that you have prepared for me, to exercise my faith. I know that you are with me and that you are guiding me through it all. Thank you Jesus, that you know exactly what I need to become more like you. Amen.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you are going to do to exercise today.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I love that God’s word is so consistent. I still amazes me, that you can take two completely separate books in the Bible, like today’s reading, and find so much commonality. It is comforting to worship a God who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8).
In 1 Timothy 6, Paul is warning Timothy and his church of the evil that is spreading through the people around them. In Jeremiah, God is warning the prophet about the growing wickedness that surrounds him. God tells Jeremiah, be careful of everyone around you. In both cases, the questionable people, had turned from God and were seeking the wrong things. They claimed to be good and yet they were going from sin to sin. They loved money and were seeking it more than anything else. They craved material things that would show their status. They sought success according to what others defined as successful.
These warnings came thousands of years ago, and yet they are still true today. It is so easy to listen to the worldly people and messages that surround us. 
“You will be happy when...” 
“To be a success...”
“If you owned...”
With only this little bit of information, it would be easy to start analyzing all of our
relationships, identify the “bad eggs” and toss them out of our lives. But, this is not God’s way. We will never learn to be victorious in a fallen world if we are trying to get rid of our problems instead of learning to overcome them.
So, what are we to do? The answer is simple: B.F.F.
  1. Boast- Do not boast of your riches, your successes, or your wisdom. Boast in the fact that you know the Lord, who is kind, just and righteous. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
  2. Flee- I found humor in the fact that Paul says, “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Timothy 6:7). All of the material things that the world tells us we “need” to make us happy will still be here when we are gone. These things don’t really matter. “Flee from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness”.
  3. Fight- In a dark world, we have to fight to hold on to truth. “Fight the good fight of faith take hold of the eternal life to which you were called”. (1 Timothy 6:12) We need to know God’s way and hold tight to it.
My husband is a good judge of character. Within the first few moments of meeting someone, he has a fairly good idea of who they are and what they are about. I on the other hand, am not. It takes me a while to know someone and even after being around someone, I am often surprised that they turn out to be completely different than I first thought. It is so hard for me to know who to trust, who to believe and who is truly a person of good character (not just good at acting).
It is hard to find someone who is always a good influence on our lives. But, there is someone we can trust every time, who we can turn to for answers, who will guide us and teach us the right way. God only wants the best for us. He wants to bless us and give us good things, but He will not do it if the cost is our relationship with Him. He wants to be our best friend! He wants to be the first one we reach out to. He wants us to follow Him because He knows what is best for us. The bonus is that the more time we spend with Him, the better women we become.
Lord, I thank you for always wanting the best for me. I don’t want to be a rebellious child. I don’t want to go after the things of this world, but I know at times I do. Please forgive me for the times that I did not seek you first. Please teach me your ways. Change my heart, so that I will pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness rather than the material things that do not last. I want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. I want to seek you first today and everyday. I love you and I thank you for loving me so completely, just as I am. Amen.
Who is your B.F.F? He is calling you right now. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Every Season Is God Season

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

A Time for Everything
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

The seasons are definitely changing here in Michigan. We are wearing longer clothing and we even dug out the hats and mittens to walk to the bus stop yesterday.

This morning, I started thinking about the different seasons of my life. I am in an unusual season right now and I'm not sure how to describe it. There are changes happening within me. I am closer to God than ever before, which is a great thing! I long to spend time with Him and when I don't have my morning time with Him, the rest of my day seems off balance.

Things around me are changing too. My kids are in school more. We are moving out of the preschool stages and into full time school. It is scary for me! That is all I have known for the last seven years. I loved having the kids at home. Don't get me wrong, there were days I watched the clock move slowly towards bed time and it couldn't come fast enough. But, I have adjusted to being a stay at home mom. For the most part, it suits me just fine! As the kids are in school more, I begin to wonder what will I do during my next season? I am turning to God for guidance and answers.

I know that God is working in my life. He has brought new people into my life, and removed others. Sometimes it is painful and sometimes it is a relief. As I grow closer to Him, I see that my old ways were not His ways! This removing of people has also drawn me to Him. I turn to Him as a friend and counselor.

Although most days, I don't feel I am making a huge impact for Him, He is working in me to make me a stronger person. The books that I am reading, the passages of scripture that He brings to mind, the songs I hear and the messages from others all seem to be focused on the same topic. I know it is not coincidence those are God-incidents.

So, during this season, I wait. Waiting on God is not wasted time. I am still seeking Him. I am studying. I am spending time with other Christ-centered people. I am reading scripture. I am using this time to prepare for the next season.

Isaiah 40:31 (New King James Version)

But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

Lord, as I wait upon you during this season, make my time fruitful. I don't want to waste any of the precious time you have given me. I want to make the most of this season, as I grow closer to you. Please help me to see your path clearly, so that I am following you and not the paths that other people offer to me. Strengthen me so that when your time is perfect, I will be ready. Thank you for your guidance and for the perfect example you set, through your son, Jesus. Amen

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dangerously Straight

I recently got a new haircut. I have discovered the key to making it look its best, is to straighten. As my hairdresser suggested, I went out and bought all kinds of products to help me achieve the desired effect.

My new shampoo is called Dangerously Straight, and this morning, it reminded me of a conversation I recently had with a friend. We were discussing the boundaries of having fun as Christian Women. We both agreed you can take it too far. In fact, we got a good laugh out of remembering her concern about dying her hair red "because Christian women don't have red hair". We can laugh about it now, but I think this is a real problem for Christian's. We tend to make up our own rules and put such strict boundaries around our life, that we end up not having fun. This "church lady syndrome" ends up being a terrible witness to the world around us.

Our goal in life should be to become more like Jesus. In the second part of John 10:10, Jesus said "I came that they may have life and have it to the full". Strong's Concordance defines full, as abundant. God wants us to have a full, abundant, happy life. He has given us boundaries. It is our job to live within those guidelines, not set up more of our own.

Why are we giving ourselves more boundaries? I think the key is in the first part of John 10:10, The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I think that we have bought into the rules of this world. I can't think of a better way to destroy the people of God and keep new people away from Him, than to make a relationship with Him look like drudgery. Satan tells us lies and we believe them. Good girls don't ____________. Before we know it, our lives are not filled with joy and fun. Our faces hang low. We are not experiencing the freedom that Christ died to give us. We accept Christ in order to be set free from the penalty of sin. This does not mean we can't have fun, it means we have a different kind of fun.

After the conversation with my friend, I did a google search for: what do Christians do for fun. I was amazed at the "hits" that I found. Some people poked fun at others who asked this question, some people provided extensive lists, one poor woman said "I accepted Christ and now I'm bored. I can't do any of the things I used to do". This woman, who received poor advice, quit reading anything but her Bible, unplugged her tv and quit calling her friends. I know that this is not what God had planned for her life!

We need to know God for ourselves, know his boundaries and keep Jesus at the center of our lives. This will help us discern what is Godly and what is worldly. The more space Jesus takes up in our hearts, the less room for the ways of the world. The more we pursue this kind of fun, the easier it will be to identify. The more we practice this kind of fun, the more uncomfortable the old kind of fun will become.

We also need to know our stumbling blocks. If we have strongholds or addictions, we need to avoid the triggers that could cause us to fall. God may set up additional boundaries for us in these areas. We need to listen to His prompting and obey! He is trying to keep us from sin.

Growing up, we had a collage of pictures of Jesus that hung in our dining room. The images portrayed Jesus with various expressions. Some of them were pained, some were content, but my favorite was the one of him laughing. I found this picture years later at the book store. I keep it in my Bible now to remind me not to be too serious. My Dad always says, "Don't take life too seriously, you'll never make it out of here alive".

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your son to die for me. I know that you want me to enjoy this life, that you paid for. Please teach me your ways. I want to see the beauty, the comedy and the joy that you created. Please give me discernment to see the ways of the world and the strength to avoid them. Thank you for loving me and giving me the boundaries that keep me safe. Your word says your will fill me with joy and laughter (Job 8:21). I claim that today in the name of Jesus. Joy and laughter are mine and I will not let Satan steal them from me any longer. I love you, Lord and I live to serve you, joyfully. Amen!


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