About Me

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I'm a wife, a mom, a singer/songwriter, an author, a public speaker, an abolitionist, an encourager & freedom coach, a seminary student, a worship leader, a lover of life and joy, and most importantly, a follower of Jesus Christ.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Monday Morning Meditation: Hark The Herald Angels Sing

Having a death in the family right before Christmas can certainly put a damper on the festivities. I've been asking God to help me find the joy of the season. I know I am certainly glad that Jesus came! But the feelings of missing my father are strong and ever-present. We now live in the town where he lived for the last 8 years, and where he died. I'm driving his car. There are many constant reminders that he is not here.

I just miss him.

The world also has constant reminders that Jesus has come, but not yet returned. Thus, it's difficult to put myself in the shoes of those 2,000 years ago who experienced Jesus' birth and coming firsthand.

One thing that is helpful to me are Christmas carols.

I've been especially struck by Hark The Herald Angels Sing this season. You likely know the first verse:

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”


The profoundness of Jesus' coming, the joy of His arrival, is continually touched upon in subsequent verses. Here are some of my favorite parts.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.


Emmanuel - God with us. He was pleased to come here, to become a man with all the challenges and weaknesses of humanity.

Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.


He became flesh so that we may have life, and spiritual healing (and even physical healing if His power is present to heal, Luke 5:17).

Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.


New life. Eternal life. I keep telling myself that my dear father is having his best Christmas ever.

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.

Jesus, make Your home in me. Let the enemy have no place there.

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.


Help us become like You, Lord.

I hope you are able to take some time to focus on all that Jesus came to give. That is by far the best Christmas present ever.

You are deeply loved. Worth knowing, worth loving and worth creating.

Angel in The Jesus Storybook Bible
If you're looking for a slightly different mp3 version of this hymn, I love the Take 6 version from the "He Is Christmas" album: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Freedom Friday: Avoiding Moral Failure

This is a topic that has been brewing in my mind for a while. This is due in part to things I've been reading in the Bible (Isaiah, Acts & James right now, with a little of Hezekiah's story mixed in), assignments I've been working on for grad school (a big essay on plagiarism), and partly because of life events I see occurring around me.

I also just needed to write this for me. It's a timely reminder that we don't just "fall into" sin. We will sin. Otherwise, we'd be perfect like Jesus :) But there is a difference in the way various sins impact your faith and your life. I may lose my temper with my spouse today, and that may break trust a little momentarily (especially if it's a pattern of mine), but if I were to have an affair, that changes our relationship in a different way.  All sin may be equal in the eyes of God (in the sense that there aren't particular sins that are more difficult for Him to forgive or required Him to hang from the cross longer), but some sins are inherently different because of the way they impact our lives.

There are things we can do to actively avoid finding ourselves in major situations of compromise. Here are some suggestions.

1. Be watchful over your thoughts
Your thoughts matter. Proverbs 23:7 says “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.”

In the article 5 Lies that Lead to an Affair, author Julie Ferwerda shares her experiences about how she ended up choosing to have an affair. She writes, "Few people fall into adultery overnight. As with other 'big' sins, having an affair is usually the result of a series of small compromises in our thoughts, choices, and behaviors." And the place it began for her was in her thoughts.

It begins with a thought, a temptation. Temptation isn't sin, as I've written before. It's our choice to nurture that temptation that can become sin, rather than choosing to lay it before the Lord.

One of the Freedom Steps is Think Like a Free Person. I share there how God commands us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. The battle of freedom is a battle that begins in our minds.  “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV1984)

Be watchful over your thoughts.

2. Be honest with your intentions
James says that we have "evil desires at war within you" James 4:1 (NLT). Believers are not immune from this. James writes earlier in his letter, "Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." James 1:14-15 (NIV1984)

We need to dig deep inside of ourselves and pray that God would help us be honest about our intentions in every challenging situation. 

Toward the end of 1999, I had been a Christian less than a year when I met a girl who had been raised in a Christian home but whose family had walked away from God. I couldn't fathom how anyone could do that, and I desperately wanted to help her. I do believe that initially, my intentions were pure; however, my resolve for purity quickly faded, and we entered into a physical relationship.

Jeremiah writes (17:9 NLT), "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?"

I wanted this woman to know Jesus, but I was still deeply broken beyond my own understanding. This is why I wrote Who's Got Your Back? The disciples went out two by two for a reason. This is why we need community, to lay ourselves as honestly as we can before others, and trust the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13), including truth about ourselves.

Be honest with your intentions.

3. Be upfront about your actions
I don't like the phrase we often use in Christianity to describe our sinful actions. We say we "had a fall" or we "stumbled." To me, those phrases do not take responsibility for the choices and compromises that led to that "fall." It's not as if we are walking down a path and all of a sudden, sin jumps out and grabs us! No. That's in direct contradiction to the end of 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT): "When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure."

In the relationship mentioned above, I didn't simply "fall" into it. I made a series of questionable choices (not all of them sinful) that ultimately led to grave sin. This is why we need to, once again, stay connected to believers, honestly sharing about our choices and actions, and even the things we are thinking of doing.

Be upfront about your actions.

4. Be desperate for the Lord
God is able. Really. He is able. He is strong enough, He is big enough, He is loving enough. He is enough. Say it with me: He is enough.

So often we live our lives, making our plans, living as we wish (and not even in a sinful way, necessarily), inviting God in occasionally. We simply forget to include God in every decision, every thought, every actions. 

We need to cling to God as if our lives depended on it - because they do. "Apart from me, you can do nothing," Jesus said (John 15:5). 

Later in James 4:4b-5 (NLT), James writes, for emphasis, "I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy this world, you can't be a friend of God. What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the Holy Spirit, whom God has placed within us, jealously longs for us to be faithful? He gives us more and more strength to stand against such evil desires."

Sin is crouching at our doors, always (Gen. 4:7). Through God's strength and power, we can subdue it and be its master. 

"Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be dismayed. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will triumph." Isaiah 50:7

Satan deceives; that's his nature. Sin is always crouching at the door, desirous of us. Yet we can receive God's help, determine to do His will, and know we will triumph.

Lord, help us.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Freedom Friday: The Reality of Freedom

Yesterday, I read this, God's Word through Isaiah (44:21-22):
“Pay attention, O Jacob,
for you are my servant, O Israel.
I, the Lord, made you,
and I will not forget you.
22 I have swept away your sins like a cloud.
I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist.
Oh, return to me,
for I have paid the price to set you free.”
The price has been paid. The cross is empty.

I keep telling you all that this season has been so challenging. I'm starting to think maybe all seasons are challenging, in their own way.

So many things are uncertain. No steady jobs, our home back in Boston still unsold, my father passing away, no beds or dressers or couches (but we do have a kitchen table!).

I've taken my father dying especially hard. I suppose that's within the realm of normal. I'm not even sure during this time I've had the faith of Mary or Martha, as shared in one of my favorite Biblical stories (John 11). They struggled to see God's power and promises through their tears of grief. While Martha stated that she believed Jesus could do anything, her words showed the unbelief that still lived in her heart.

When Martha first saw Jesus:

"If you had been here, my brother would not have died."

When Jesus said Lazarus would rise again:

“I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

And when Jesus asked that the stone be moved:

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

And yet, she believed in the midst of her unbelief.

******

I am Martha lately. I believe, yet often I act or think as if I don't. I have lots of good excuses as well. I'll spare you the details.

A few weeks ago, I tweeted:
Freedom is not a dream I made up; freedom is a reality Jesus created.
Freedom is real. It's possible. It's within reach.

Martha wanted to believe that freedom for her brother was possible, yet she focused on the appearance of what she could see.

I know freedom is possible. I've seen it, felt it, tasted it.

It's time to get back to basics folks.

As I shared at a recent conference, a free person actively overcomes life-controlling issues through grace-inspired, spirit-empowered choices.

Spend time with the Freedom Giver.

Spend time with Freedom Seekers.

Embrace grace.

Think like a free person.

Act like a free person.

The reality of freedom is simple a series of good choices. One foot in front of the other, with God's help.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Freedom Friday: Embrace Discomfort

We are in Boston.

I'm back in our condo, the place we've lived for the past 6 1/2 years.

It's comfortable here.

I know where everything is. I know what to expect. Sure, it has its cons, but at least it's predictable.

As I walked in for the first time in 6 weeks, I couldn't help but wonder:

Did we make the right decision?

Change is hard. I've written about this before.

Since May, I've been training for a marathon. I kept thinking that because God called me to register, it would get easier. I'd get faster. Maybe I'd even get that light and fresh feeling that runners talk about.

I have some issues with my legs. They hurt, a lot. They feel like lead sometimes when I run. They never really feel good.

I had a hope that God would heal them while I was running, that He would be glorified in how quickly and how gloriously I finished.

Well, God did not heal my legs while I ran. And while I started off strong, I kept getting slower and slower. My stomach revolted. My body screamed at me for pretty much 20 miles.

But I didn't give up.

I decided since God called me to run to raise awareness about a cause about which I am deeply passionate, since He asked me to be a voice for the voiceless, it wasn't about glamor.

As part of our transition to Virginia, I am leaving the ministry that God has allowed me to shape over the past 9.5 years and be shaped by. As I spoke to my dear, dear friends at Alive in Christ this week, I remembered something.

Often we must embrace the discomfort in order to be obedient.

We must embrace the discomfort to get to the Promised Land.  I wrote about this in Stepping into your Jordan (one of my favorite posts, and a timely reminder).  I wrote about it years ago in Craving Egypt.

The Israelites did not want to embrace the discomfort.

Egypt was familiar. Yeah, they might have been slaves, but there are meat to eat there, not this miracle bread from heaven!

And the Promised Land was scary. There were giants there, and rivers at flood stage, and towns with high walls around them.

I finished the marathon. It was not pretty.


And as I spoke to my wonderful perseverers at Alive in Christ the other night, I reminded them (and myself) that sometimes we need to embrace the pain of discomfort in order to take hold of all God has for us.

Today, I pack. Today, I keep answering the same questions: did you sell the condo? Did you get jobs? No and no. This move doesn't make any logical sense, yet we embrace the discomfort in order to walk forward in what we believe God is calling us to.

Lord, I don't want to wander aimlessly in the wilderness for decades when the journey need only take 2 weeks. I want all You have for me. Help me to trust, to step out, to take hold of Your hand as You guide and lead. Help us to embrace discomfort, believing that the Promised Land is on the other side.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Last Year's Freedom Friday: Black Friday Edition

Friends,

In Thanksgiving 2011, I woke up at my dad's house, went to a race in his town, and ran a 10K.  I ran a personal best, beating my 10K from 4 months before by 3 minutes.  I went home and had a wonderful day with my family (dad, my sister's family and my family).

This Thanksgiving, I woke up in a hotel, went to that same race in town, and gave it my all at the same 10K after spending the day before moving.  I once again ran a personal best by 1 minute 45 seconds (I hadn't raced a 10K since last years).  We went back to the hotel, finished packing and had a very simple Thanksgiving meal in our new home.

So we moved yesterday and the day before and are just now getting our internet set up.  There are boxes to pack and unpack (as most of our things are still in Boston, we will return there in a few days), movers to call, grief to process and a big paper to write.

The race was hard, and I'm sore.  Sore, but also full of joy.

I wish my dad had the opportunity to see me run.  I'm not fast, but I am passionate, and I ran hard.

2012 Ashburn Farm 10K, Finish Line
I miss my dad.

I didn't even remember it was Friday until I logged on to the internet (thank you, Casey from Verizon for coming out to set up our internet!) and someone had posted about Black Friday.  Then I remembered this post from last year:

Freedom Friday: Black Friday Edition
Please read, especially if you are reeling a bit from the upheaval the holidays can bring.

I miss sharing my heart with you all.  I will get back into it - eventually.

Love to you!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Freedom Friday: Will I Choose to Love?

I first heard the song "Legacy" at a mom's group I attended.  A member had lost her battle with cancer, and her friends put together a slide show to celebrate her life with all of us.
I wanna leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?
It hit close to home.

I've mentioned here in passing that I have a dear loved one battling terminal illness.  A week ago today, he lost his 12-year battle with cancer, but won the race of life and was received into Jesus' arms.

My dad.

His joyous smile
When my parents divorced, my father was awarded primary custody of me and my older sister.  I was already living with him and continued to do so throughout high school and into college.

Prepping to walk me down the aisle
My father was such a role model to me. What I've learned since his death is the impact his life had on so many others.

The comments that have come have been truly astounding. His generosity, humor, fullness of life.  His magnetic presence, his joy, his clear love for his family (including my mom's 9 brothers and sisters, as my dad was like an older brother to them).

My dad lived a life that impacted far more people than he likely ever realized. He was a role model to many.

I don't remember hearing him say an unkind word about anyone. He was not one to complain. Even to the end, he alternated telling jokes with displaying his concern for his loved ones.

Did I choose to love?

He wasn't perfect, of course.  Neither am I.  We certainly had bumps in our relationship.  But I can honestly say that my grief over his passing is not at all complicated by some of the questions that plague many who lose a parent.  I know he loved me and my sister deeply and was overflowing with pride at what our lives had become.

I just wish he didn't have to leave so soon.

My father never failed to ask a store clerk, "How's your day going?" with all sincerity.  He even would ask the nurses and doctors this during his long cancer battle, even when the situation was an emergency, or he was in a lot of pain (I witnessed this myself when I accompanied him to the emergency room).

He once shared with my stepmom that some people aspire to greatness in their lives; he aspired to goodness. This is what he instilled into me from a young age.

This is the legacy he chose to leave behind.

There were other things instilled in me from a young age, though not by my father. Venomous things that taught me to emphasize people's flaws, to expect perfection of myself and others, that taught me not to trust.

Sometimes that venomous voice is so loud I cannot hear anything else. It's also insidious. I'm only now starting to recognize the hold it still has on my thoughts.

What legacy will I leave?  Will I choose to love?

On the days when it's hard to breathe, the days when I can't imagine taking another step without my dad around to see, I remember his strength battling cancer, I remember his kindness and huge heart.  I remember his daily choice to love.

Oh, Lord, let that be my legacy.....

Dad, thank you for all you taught me, even if it was taught through silence (a skill I need to work on!). While I grieve that you were only here 64 years, I rejoice for the 37 1/2 (exactly to the day) years you spoke into my life. You had an amazing heart, and I can only pray that my life will be a light to many as yours was.  I miss you so much.  But since you are in heaven, give Bunny Boo and Grammy a hug for me, and could you please tell Keith Green I said, "hi"?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Morning Meditation: Remind Him of His Promises

Friends,

I'm not up for writing a new Monday Morning Meditation, so I'm going to direct you to the most popular Monday Morning Meditation, and my 2nd most popular post of all time:

Remind Him of His Promises

How often do we go timidly before God, as if we somehow   have to beg Him to keep His Word?

Psalm 138:2 says:
I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness;
for your promises are backed
by all the honor of your name.

Praying for you all!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Freedom Friday: Who's Got Your Back?

I'm reading the book of Acts right now.

In Acts 10, Cornelius, a God-fearing Roman army officer (in other words, a Gentile, not a Jew), saw an angel who told him to send men to Joppa to find Simon Peter. The next day, Peter has this vision:
[Peter] saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners.12 In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”  
“No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.”
But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.
The scriptures go on to say that Peter was perplexed: what did this all mean?  Then Cornelius' servants arrived. After confirming that Peter was the man they were looking for, we read this in verse 23:
So Peter invited the men to stay for the night. The next day he went with them, accompanied by some of the brothers from Joppa.
Despite having a vision that was clearly from the Lord, Peter used much wisdom in deciding not to travel alone (in Acts 11:12, we learn it's 6 men).  What he felt God was proposing seemed contrary to what he knew.

He wanted some trusted brothers there to have his back.

The concept of having others come alongside in the spreading of the Gospel, as well as walking with God, was not new, of course.  In Mark 6:7 and Luke 10:1, Jesus sent the disciples out two by two.  Several times in Scripture, the importance of several witnesses is emphasized, both for confirming a crime or an accusation (Deuteronomy 17:6, Matthew 18:16, 1 Timothy 5:19), and as well as for confirming prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:29).

But why is this important?

1. There is safety in numbers.
Jesus told the disciples, as He sent them out two by two, "Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves" (Luke 10:3). The disciples didn't know what they'd encounter out there.  Since our recent move, we now live in an area with few streetlights and incomplete sidewalks.  At our old home, I ran in the dark without fear because there were always cars passing by as I ran on well-lit streets with wide sidewalks.  Here, I run with a buddy.

When Peter returned from Cornelius' house, he was criticized by some of the Jewish believers for his actions (Acts 11:2). Peter was able to tell them, with the agreement of the brothers who had been with him, what God had done.  He had witnesses to God's work who had his back.

2. There is strength in prayer support.
Paul asked often in his letters to the churches that they pray for him.  Prayers that doors would be opened to the gospels.  Prayers that Paul would declare the Gospel clearly and fearlessly.  Prayers that he would be rescued.  The author of Hebrews requested prayer that he would be restored to them soon.

Paul prayed of the Ephesians church: "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Eph. 3:16-17a).

There is strength is having others come alongside and pray for you: for your growth, for your kingdom work, for healing, and for support.

3. There is comfort in companionship.
Paul often sent believers to various churches to encourage and uplift them.  Here is one example:

"But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow workerand fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill.  Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.  Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety." Philippians 2:25-28

And another:
"Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything.... I am sending him to you for this very purpose...... that he may encourage you." Ephesians 6:21-22

Paul also requests that people come to him.  He asks for Titus in Titus 3.  He tells Timothy, "do your best to come to me quickly," he tells Timothy (2 Timothy 4:9), and then lists several people who have deserted and harmed him.  And then he said, "Do your best to get here before winter" (v.21). 

Timothy, my dear apprentice and friend, so many have deserted me, but I know you are faithful. I need you.



Who has got your back?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Some Non-Partisan Post-Election Day Perspective: Isaiah 40

My scheduled Bible Reading today is Isaiah 40 (NLT). It seemed very appropriate after Election Day.

Whether you are saddened by the results or encouraged, may these excerpts from Isaiah 40 be a timely reminder of God's view of this world.

"The grass withers and the flowers fade,
but the word of our God stands forever.” 
Who else has held the oceans in his hand?
Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers?
Who else knows the weight of the earth
or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale? 

The earth as seen from Apollo 17

Who is able to advise the Spirit of the LORD? 
Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him?
Has the LORD ever needed anyone’s advice?
Does he need instruction about what is good?
Did someone teach him what is right
or show him the path of justice? 
No, for all the nations of the world
are but a drop in the bucket.
They are nothing more than dust on the scales.
He picks up the whole earth
as though it were a grain of sand.
To whom can you compare God?
What image can you find to resemble him?
Can he be compared to an idol formed in a mold,
overlaid with gold, and decorated with silver chains?
Or if people are too poor for that,
they might at least choose wood that won’t decay
and a skilled craftsman
to carve an image that won’t fall down! 
God sits above the circle of the earth.
The people below seem like grasshoppers to him!

“To whom will you compare me?
Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One.
Look up into the heavens.
Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
not a single one is missing.
 
O Jacob, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles?
O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
 
Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday Morning Meditation: Prisoners of Hope

Good morning, my blog readers!

Monday often brings such mixed feelings.

If you have a Monday through Friday job you like, Monday likely brings excitement and anticipation of what the week brings.

Most of us, though, are left wondering where the weekend went!  Some of us head off to jobs we dread or situation that appear hopeless.

One of my dear friends who is going through an extremely challenging situation posted on Facebook, "Do you need hope today?"  Don't we all?  He posted a few Scriptures, and I added one of my favorites:

"Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope;
even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you."
Zechariah 9:12 (NIV1984)

Prisoners of hope! What images does that bring to mind?

What are you a prisoner to?

If your hope is waning today, make yourself a prisoner of some of these Scriptures below. Let God breath life into them and you. Let the God of hope transform any hopeless areas of your life.


Let hope illuminate itself within your soul like the glimmers of the sun as it rises in the morning.

Be blessed!

"Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him." Psalm 62:5

"You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas." Psalm 65:5

"When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer." Psalm 94:19

"You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope." Psalm 119:114

"Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying." Romans 12:12

"This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers." 1 Timothy 4:10

"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." Romans 5:3-5

Friday, November 2, 2012

Freedom Friday: What is Abundant Life?

Today, we are continuing the Jesus series as part of Freedom Friday.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

What is abundant life?  What exactly did Jesus come to give us?

Abundant life is not free of pain or trials or heartache. Instead, it's full of perspective.

Perspective.

How do you view your life? How do you view the challenges that you face?

As I began typing this, I immediately thought of Wosne.  I read her story recently in this blog post.  When her husband and the father of her 4 children died suddenly, she had no way to support herself or her family.  She wished God would end her life.

Let's stop at that point in the story.

I have never been in this woman's shoes, not even remotely, though I've certainly had situations where I wished God would just come and take me home.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy......

But God had other plans.

Two of her children were able to get sponsors through World Vision.  She was able to buy chickens and make a living by selling the eggs.  She bought more chickens, and then a cow, selling its milk. She eventually was able to purchase a modest four-room house for herself and her children: dirt walls with a tin roof.

The post describes Wosne this way:
The day we met Wosne she was radiant. Her children encircled her and quietly sat as we spoke through an interpreter. She shared her story of hardship yet beamed as she recounted God’s provision for her family. 
She had become so prosperous, in fact, she had adopted two other children in the village. She even had a couple of pieces of used furniture and electricity—a single bulb hanging from the ceiling. 
By our standards, she was still living in abject poverty. By the standards of her village, however, she was one of its wealthiest citizens.

A typical Ethiopian village

She was asked:
“Wosne, if you could have anything else, what would it be? How can we help you?” Her answer stunned us. 
“Nothing,” she declared. “Nothing at all. I have everything I need. I am the happiest woman in the world.” And she meant it.
Perspective.

When I started writing this post a month or so ago, I thought I'd write that abundant life is bountiful joy and overflowing peace and lavish love.  And it does bring all those things, if we keep a godly perspective.

Following Jesus is so much about how we choose to look at things.  Do we choose to look at our lives through His eyes, through the truth of His Word?

What frames your perspective?

There are many, many posts here about the way we think.  Here are a few to help you flesh out what I'm saying.

Think Like a Free Person, part 1 & part 2
Resources for the Journey

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Morning Meditation: God Always Wins

We are finishing the series on Psalm 71. I encourage you to read the whole psalm here and reflect on all we've considered thus far.

Today's verses are 23-24:
I will shout for joy and sing your praises,
for you have redeemed me.
I will tell about your righteous deeds all day long,
for everyone who tried to hurt me
has been shamed and humiliated.
It's interesting to note how much David talks about his enemies throughout this psalm.  He had real, tangible enemies, nations that sought to do him and Israel harm.  He even had people within his friends and family who conspired against him.

Our enemies today are often much less tangible.  Yet we can praise God because we know our #1 enemy stands condemned.  We can sing His praises because He has redeemed us from the power of sin and death.  

We can even praise Him because He is just.  I'm so thankful that justice is not in my hands!  David had a deep sense of justice, knowing that despite how things might appear, God always wins in the end.

God winning doesn't mean things always turn out how we want them to.  It simply means that because of His goodness and the good things He desires for us, He will be victorious to the end.

Is there a situation in your life today where it feels as if you are losing?  Choose praise.  Shout for joy! Sing God's praises!  Tell about His righteous deeds all day long.

Because God always wins.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Freedom Friday, Tools for the Journey: Keep It Simple

Years ago, I wrote this song.

Simple Girl
I am a simple girl
I live a simple life
I want to have a simple job
I want to be a simple wife

But I’m beginning to see that my life is not my own
And the path that I would take is not for me to choose
And all I want to be and all I’ve ever known
I’d give it all up for your sake; what do I have to lose?

My life would be nothing without You
My life was nothing before You
My life would be nothing apart from You
I can do nothing without You


© 2000 Unveiled Faces Music

I still want that simple life.

A picture of the sunset in Cape Cod

Yet I complicate things.

When reading these lyrics, I am reminded of a saying from 12-step programs, Keep It Simple.

How can we keep things simple when life seems overwhelmingly crazy?

1. Focus on what you know.
When trying to make a decision, I often think about all the unknowns and uncertainties.  It's usually unhelpful and unproductive. 

It's much more helpful to focus on what I know to be true.

Another saying I've taken away from my time in 12-step programs is, I can't. God can. I think I'll let God.

What a concept.

If God is really faithful, if He doesn't jump off the throne at the first hint of an obstacle, then continually choosing to believe that He is who He says He is sounds like a much better plan than drowning in uncertainties.

Here's what I know:
God is good.
He is loving.
He provides.
He stoops down to make me great.

That's what I will focus on.

2. Stop analyzing, and keep praying.
I usually spend more time than healthy trying to make sense of things that may never make sense. I try to make decisions by weighing pros and cons, crunching numbers, and creating spreadsheets.

I try and figure out what seems good.

What appears good to us is often the enemy of God's best.

"Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21

Then I remember: you have not because you ask not.

In Luke 18, we have this example of a persistent widow.  She continued to ask the judge for what she wanted until she got it.  In Matthew 7, God is described as a good father who does not give His children stones when they ask for bread.

Put your analysis on pause, and ask the God of the universe to lead you in His paths.

3. Choose to trust.
Friends, if you've been reading my blog for any period of time, you know this is one of my central themes.  If I say I believe the Word of God, which states that God is trustworthy, then I need to choose to trust Him.

Choose to trust Him in the way you think and the things you think about.

Choose to trust Him with what you say about yourself, your situation and your God.

Choose to trust Him with your actions and in the decisions you make.


God has our best at heart.  I need to remember that.

Keep it simple.


I am praying Romans 15:13 for you all this week:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Morning Meditation: Faithful to His Promises

We are (finally!) continuing the series on Psalm 71. I encourage you to read the whole psalm here.

It has been interesting to reflect on this psalm over the past month, as it has become clear my dear loved one will be going home to Jesus before too long.

I began this psalm series in August, before we knew the current prognosis.  The psalm is all about the end of life and David asking God to remember him in his old age.

Let's look at the topics we've touched on so far:



Lots of truth to be found in this psalm.

Now, here are today's verses (v. 21-22):
You will restore me to even greater honor
and comfort me once again.
Then I will praise you with music on the harp,
because you are faithful to your promises, O God.
I will sing for you with a lyre, O Holy One of Israel.
It's helpful to remember verse 20, for some context:
"You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth."

Not only will he be restored to life again, he will be restored to greater honor and receive comfort once again.

When I read those verses in the context of end of life, they take on an even deeper meaning.

David then moves back to praise.  There is so much praising in this psalm it almost hurts.  Praise is not my default when trials come, when life seems to overwhelm.

I recently made myself a playlist of worship songs that I called, Absorb Truth. I just sit and listen and take it all in even when I struggle to believe.

You are faithful to Your promises.

This is David's reflection in his old age.  God, just as He said, has been and will be faithful to His promises.

God recently answered a prayer of mine that I prayed 11 years ago.  In doing so, He showed me His faithfulness to His promises. His answer brought me great comfort.

You are faithful to Your promises.

Thank You, Lord.  Help me to trust in You.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Freedom Friday: His Goodness

Folks, I have a Freedom Friday post brewing for you.

But we've had to leave town suddenly to be with a loved one who is facing the end of life.

And my kids had food dye for the 1st time in a while, and my 2 year-old is literally bouncing off the walls, screaming, "It's fun time!" over and over, swinging from the long curtains in this extended stay suite, and riding down the table leg as if it's a fire pole.

I'm not kidding.

I just pray for you that you'd know how good God is. So often I doubt His goodness, and yet He is faithful to His promises.

I finished the marathon.  Barely.



For the kids at Happy Horizons Children's Ranch.

And I'm learning to let go of someone I love so dearly and feel I desperately need.  Jesus is waiting for him.

I am so thankful and so heartbroken.  And yet, God is faithful.  He's amazing.

Be back soon. I promise :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Morning Meditation: The God of Restoration (Psalm 71 Series)

We are (finally!) continuing the series on Psalm 71. I encourage you to read the whole psalm here.

Verses 19-20:
Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens.
You have done such wonderful things.
Who can compare with you, O God?
You have allowed me to suffer much hardship,
but you will restore me to life again
and lift me up from the depths of the earth.
I am starting this post 5 days before I will run my first marathon.

Running does not come naturally to me; it never has. It has always been hard work. I've never had that "light" or "fresh" feeling that runners talk about.

I initially just ran for the quick exercise, to maintain a large weight loss.  I didn't have access to a gym. I kept running because it's good for clearing my headspace.

I met some crazy runners in mid-2011. By that point, I had run a half marathon, so I distinguished "crazy runners" as people who ran more than 13.1 miles at a time. They asked me, Why don't you consider a marathon?

I figured I'd pray about it.  

2 months later, God spoke. How about running for a cause?

By the time you read this, I will have (Lord-willing) ran 26.2 miles to trample on child sex trafficking.

It will not be easy or quick or painless.  But I will do it, for the kids.

Kids like Madel.

Who can compare to You, God? the psalmist wonders.

No one.

Not a single one.

Even when He allows us to suffer hardship, He restores us to life.  Even these young kids whose families often sell them into prostitution - God has something amazing for them.

Whatever depths you are in, there is a God who longs to rescue you.  Call on Him today.

If you'd like to give toward the cause for which I am willing to attempt a marathon, you can learn more here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Freedom Friday: For The Kids

I need your help, readers.

We often talk about freedom in this blog in terms of being free from metaphorical chains of bondage.  Or the freedom to be who God created us to be.

There are other kinds of freedom and other kinds of bondage.

It is believed that there are currently 21 million people worldwide caught in slavery (forced labor). Approximately 50% of trafficking victims are children, most of whom are caught in sex slavery.

Tomorrow, I will run 26.2 miles for those who can't speak for themselves.


You can help by praying.  I have pain in my right leg due to what is likely tendonitis.  I also have been having some shin pain this week.  I am just, in general, not a natural when it comes to running.

The kids need your prayers, too.

I am running for the kids.  For those still caught in sex trafficking and those trying to climb their way out.

I will share more on Monday.  But pray for us. And pray about giving.  Don't just look at your finances or circumstances and decide you're not able to give.  Pray.  

This is a general admonition, even if I weren't fundraising.  So often we wait until we have extra in order to give, but don't stop to pray as to how God would have us respond. I do it as well.  
And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44
This widow did not wait; she gave.

The God I love and serve didn't wait until He had extra to give extravagantly.  

He gave His Only.

This is not to say we should enter into giving lightly.  We need to hear God speak to our hearts, but our hearts need to first ask and then be willing to respond.

I've responded to God's call, to give of my time, money and physical resources to run for those who can't.

Thank you for your prayers.

Lord, help me to give extravagantly this weekend, as You did when You sent Your Only Son to earth.  Help me to run the race You've set before.  Thank You that Your power is made perfect when I have nothing to give. Be the Sustainer that I know You are.  Move in the hearts of many, that the hearts of these little children would have the opportunity for You to heal them.  Jesus, Your Name is power. You are mighty.  In Your wonderful name I pray, Jesus, Amen.


For The Kids
My recent personal best at the Zooma Half Marathon

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Help Me Be New

God is doing a work in me
He's walking through my rooms and halls
Checking every corner
Tearing down the unsafe walls
And letting in the light

I am working hard
To clean my house and set it straight
To not let pride get in the way
To catch an eternal vision of
What I am to become





Will you help me be new
Will you hold me to the promises
That I have made
Will you let me be new
Forgive my old self and my old mistakes

It seems easier
Living out my life in Christ
For those who do not know me
To hide the thorns stuck in my side
And all my secret faults

But you know me well
And it's you I want the most to see
And recognize the changes
A word from you empowers me
To press on for my goal

Will you help me be new
Will you hold me to the promises
That I have made
Will you let me be new
Forgive my old self and my old mistakes

When I feel condemned to live my old life
Remind me I've been given a new life in Christ


"Help Me Be New" by Sara Groves

Friday, October 5, 2012

Life


I need words as wide as the sky
I need a language, large as this longing inside
And I need a voice bigger than mine
And I need a song to sing You that I've yet to find

I need You, oh, I need You
I need You, oh, I need You
To be here now, to he here now
To hear me now, to hear me now
"I Need Words" by David Crowder

Tuesday came this week, and I realized I had not blogged on Monday.

Now it's Thursday and one of my grad school classes ends Saturday with 2 assignments due tomorrow and a final on Saturday with an essay for my other class due Saturday as well.

The marathon is a week away, and I'm furiously fundraising.

And then we got a call for a showing of our house tomorrow.  While I'm at work.  So I need to get everything in tiptop shape tonight.

I had hoped to blog.

But my world is currently imploding on me.

The move is creeping up on us, and there is much to be done.

So much is uncertain, and many days I feel as if Isaiah is talking directly to me, in my fears, my doubts, my sin, my turning to other "gods" for support and sustenance.

God is so patient with us, as a friend said last night.

I just feel like an unfaithful bride.

Thanks for your patience with me, my faithful readers.

"The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing." Psalm 34:10

Friday, September 28, 2012

Freedom Friday: The Whole World Could Not Contain

I finished the gospel of John this week.  I didn't know what to read after that.  I just wanted to sit there as I felt the weight of this final verse:
"Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written." John 21:25 (NLT)
The whole world could not contain.....

Can you imagine?

John wrote his gospel after Matthew, Mark and Luke had written their accounts.  He included several stories the others did not.

And yet still, the whole world could not contain the accounts of all that Jesus had done.

I'm stumped, as my five year-old loves to say.

I'm stuck on that verse.

I want to go back and read the four gospels again, gently processing all the miracles Jesus performed, all the words He spoke, the encouragement He gave to the outcasts, the harsh words for the pharisees and teachers of the law, the commands He shared to take up my cross, the warnings He gave to count the cost and not enter into following Him without careful consideration, the passion He possessed for the lost and for His followers, the perseverance He demonstrated at the temptation and on the cross, all the many things that I can read and imagine and almost touch.

And yet, the whole world could not contain.

I make Him so small.  With my fear, my doubt, my worry.

My striving.

I need to choose to trust.

I need to stop worrying.

I need to follow His call to the lost and the broken.

I need to follow as He beckons me to take His hand and step out on the water.

I need to be more like Him.  

The Earth seen from Apollo 17
from Wikipedia

I invite you to stop for a minute.  Imagine the whole world, the earth, covered in books.  The books are so numerous that they are literally falling off (let's suspend gravity for a minute).  These books are overflowing with stories of all that Jesus did.

For you. For me.  For people like us.

So that we may know Him and be like Him.

So that we may know how He interacted with broken people like ourselves.

So that we could see His heart, His love, His power, His strength.

So that we could feel the declaration of our worth as He hung from the cross.
"Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written." John 21:25 (NLT)
Imagine, and give Him thanks.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Morning Meditation: Do Not Abandon Me, God (Psalm 71 Series)

Blogger has changed the format for posting & I'm having trouble figuring out how to post what I want! Please forgive anything that appears random & out of place.

We are continuing the series on Psalm 71. I encourage you to read the whole psalm here.

Verses 17-18:
O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood,
and I have constantly told others about the wonderful things you do.
Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God.
Let me proclaim your power to this new generation,
your mighty miracles to all who come after me.
God, do not abandon me.

This is the 3rd time in this psalm that David has mentioned abandonment, where he has brought up his fear of God failing him in his old age.  David, a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22): why was he doubting God's faithfulness now?

God, do not abandon me.

I can relate.

As a young believer, I was sure that God would be faithful.  I felt positive that we would together take the world by storm and accomplish amazing things.  God's voice was often apparent and tangible.  I sensed His direction in my life almost as clearly as I saw the wind.

Then life happened.

Honestly, I got jaded. Or I reverted back to the hurt child who, from a young age, had a deep fear of rejection and abandonment. I heard abandonment in every request, every song, saw it in every look and every circumstance.

As an adult believer, there were times I was positive I had heard God's voice, but things did not turn out how I thought they would.

Had I been wrong?   Had I misheard God?

My faith feels weak these days.  I feel as if I'm in a similar place.

I think too much. I reason too much.  I try to figure out too many things.

It's exhausting.

God, do not abandon me.

Had David just seen too much?  In his old age, had things not turned out how he had hoped?

Will You fail me now, God, after all this time?

How shall we combat this fear of abandonment?
Let me proclaim your power to this new generation,
your mighty miracles to all who come after me.
God, today, instead of fixating on my fears and doubts, I will not treat our relationship as I have treated others.  I will choose not to act as if Your feelings are so fickle that You will abandon me now in my time of need.  Instead, I will trust in Your Word.  I will declare all that You are, all that You have done, and all that You will do.  I will pull out my stones of remembrance and declare them to the next generation.

"If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself." 2 Timothy 2:13

Lord, let me cling to that truth.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday Morning Meditation: Called to Praise (Psalm 71 series)

We are continuing the series on Psalm 71. I encourage you to read the whole psalm here.

It's certainly worth looking back over the themes of this psalm thus far before considering today's verses.

Prayer Requests Intertwined with Truth
God's Protection from the Enemy God is Our Hope
What Am I Living For?
Never Alone

David, the writer of this psalm, combines the hope he has in God and the truth he knows about God with the reality he is facing. He is getting older, and it feels as if his enemies are surrounding him. Will God continue to come through?

Verses 14-16:
But I will keep on hoping for you to help me;
I will praise you more and more.
I will tell everyone about your righteousness.
All day long I will proclaim your saving power,
for I am overwhelmed by how much you have done for me.
I will praise your mighty deeds, O Sovereign LORD.
I will tell everyone that you alone are just and good.


"I will praise you more and more."

I don't know if that's my natural inclination when trials come. I'm fairly certain my natural inclination is to complain and run around telling everyone how bad off I am. In a post back in February, I shared that when God calls for silence, we can pray, fast, wait, listen, obey and rejoice.

We are called to praise.

Despite the obstacles he was facing, David found multiple reasons to praise God and to declare to others all that God is.

David declared he is overwhelmed by all God has done for him. Usually, when I face challenges, the only thing I'm overwhelmed by is the obstacles I'm staring at.

"Look beyond the tombstone - see the Living God."

As I was writing this today, this lyric came through my headphones from the song Glorious by Paul Baloche. Even though I know he's singing of Jesus's tomb, my mind immediately went to Lazarus, given the opportunity to believe that God has placed before me and my family in this season. We were just reading the story yesterday.
“Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."

Jesus calls us, as He did Martha, to look beyond the tombstone. He calls us to praise, more and more. Even before the answer comes, even before we see that victory is on its way, we can be overwhelmed by the reality of all that God is and all that He's done. We can proclaim His saving power and call others to praise with us.