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Take Out The Trash

Once a week my husband rolls the garbage can to the end of the driveway to be picked up by the garbage truck. Some weeks we have so much garbage that my husband can be seen climbing up on top of the garbage and jumping to smash it down so we can get one more load of trash into the can.Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 7.49.03 AM

Why is it so easy to let go of that kind of trash and yet the personal trash in our lives we choose to hang on to?  In a sense, we fight to push it down into ourselves like my husband stomps our trash down in the can.  By pushing down our trash (our past sins that we can’t let go of), we can never really be free and clean from our sin.

My pastor talked one night in church about how when we repent from our sins Jesus forgets about them.

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12 (NIV)

For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more. Hebrews 8:12 (ESV)

He puts them in the garbage and puts a lid on it.  So why can’t we do the same?  We often repent and then we take it back.  I know I wouldn’t want to dig through my garbage can to pick some gross garbage out so I can stick it in the back of my closet. And yet it is so easy for us to go and dig our sins back out and hang onto them.

I love knowing that Jesus never holds our trash over our heads. He won’t bring up our sin to cause us shame. Jesus knows how to take out the trash if we would just let Him. If you have been carrying around a sin, let it go. Hang on to Jesus and not the trash that Satan loves to pile on us. There is freedom in Jesus, you just need to get on your knees and give up your sin. He paid the price; we don’t pay anything to dump our trash. Any day can be garbage day, so what is stopping you?

There is no right or wrong prayer in asking God to help you dump your trash, but if you are not sure how to start, let me help you.

Pray this:

Dear Lord, I am tired of dragging around with me the hurt from my past mistakes. I want to live in freedom and I want to know Your forgiveness. Please help me to let go of the trash that is holding me back from really living the life you want for me. Today I give you ______________________ (name it. Whatever it is, you need to give it to God). God, help me overcome the urge to drag that trash back into my life. Quicken my heart any time I try to drag the trash back in with the truth from Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He (You) removed our (my) transgressions from us (me).”   Thank you so much, Lord, for forgiving me. Today I believe with all my heart that what Your word says is true and that I am forgiven. Amen

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The Importance Of Being Vertically Centered

10954215_553447656161_602363106_nGuest Post By Josh Wallace

I grew up in a strict Christian family when I was a kid, my parents were (and still are) very spiritual and strong Christians, for better or for worse it was a sheltered life. I’m not saying being sheltered was a bad thing, just giving you a little insight on how I was raised. From the eyes of a little kid being a Christian was going to church, praying before you ate your food, before your went to bed, following the rules and getting baptized.

I was baptized at a young age; I didn’t understand why everyone wouldn’t want to be baptized. I thought I was doing what I was supposed to be doing like any good young Christian, I wish I had waited. A little while later I got caught up in the middle of some church politics and experienced my first buffeting in my faith. I couldn’t understand why anyone who professed to follow Christ would act so un-Christ like.

For many years I allowed this to affect me, I floundered along spiritually through high school and college. I would have spiritual highs during week of prayers and times spent with my high school Chaplin Fred Riffel, but they wouldn’t last long. I would refer to my Christianity during those years as lukewarm. I still went to church, I still prayed, but the zeal for Jesus wasn’t there.

After college I wasn’t able to find a job. I applied, interviewed but never got a job, it was a hard time for me. The positive of the situation was that it gave me time to spend with my grandparents. During morning worships I saw just how close to God they were, I knew of the struggles they had earlier in their life and how they overcame them with God’s help and it pointed to their being hope for me. I talked at length to my grandpa (Poppie) one day10965167_553447651171_1704685783_n while golfing about my past; he asked me why I would let anyone affect a relationship that they weren’t involved in? “What does anyone in the church have to do with your relationship with Jesus Christ?” he asked.

It started to hit me that I was allowing outside forces that were not directly involved mold my relationship with God.

It’s been over six years since that talk, but I won’t forget it. It was a turning point for me in my relationship with God. Luckily I didn’t have to travel it alone, I was blessed to spend a lot of time with my grandparents between 2009 and 2012. Having worship every morning with them was a big help for me. I started having my own worships when I wasn’t with them, whether it was reading a chapter of Proverbs or reading devotionals.

The time with my grandparents taught me a lot of what being a Christian really was, it wasn’t just following rules and going to church. It’s about building a relationship with God and then doing what Jesus did when he was here, he went about doing good. Following Jesus and focusing on a relationship produces the fruits of the spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23.

Would I go back and change my past? Absolutely not, all the up and downs led me to where I am now in my spiritual walk with God. I would advise others though to take your decisions about God seriously, don’t let others come between you and him. Make those decisions for yourself, don’t feel rushed, God will meet you where you are at, focus on building a relationship with him and everything else will fall into place.

As I have grown older my idea of what being a Christian has changed from what it was when I was little. I now see that Christianity is more than just praying before my meals, my bedtime and going to church. It is about having an undisturbed vertical relationship with God, and allowing him to use me to do good to others.

10962023_553447646181_327057833_nMy grandparents have taught me so much in my walk with Christ and I want to share the wisdom he has shared with me. Below I’ve added a list my grandpa gave me that has helped over the years; it is what my grandpa has attributed his relationship with God to. I hope they help you too!

The Gospel of Joy and Happiness according to Poppie

  • Have a thankful heart
  • Have a forgiving spirit
  • Have a child like trust in God
  • Have an optimistic attitude
  • Give more-expect less
  • Live simply
  • Love generously
  • Care deeply
  • Speak kindly
  • Free your heart from hatred and your mind from worries. Worry is pain suffered for something that hasn’t happened and most likely won’t
  • Get in the word-Bible- morning worship
  • 12 Leave the rest to God

I hope you have enjoyed this awesome post from Josh.  I love what he said about being in a vertical relationship with God. Take a moment to really think about your relationship with God.  Are you vertically lined up with God? This is the second post in this series that gives the awesome wisdom of “Poppie” and I hope to meet him some day. 

If you have not caught the other posts in the “Dirt, Trucks, and Faith series” you can read the other posts by going to the tab in the menu bar and clicking on the series name.  Blessings from the Midlife Domestic Goddess 

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Stop Trying To Prove It

5By Travis Niles

I have been asked to share with my fellow Christian men something that God has taught me. As a man speaking to other men, the most important thing I can offer is this:

God made you a man. Accept it and get over yourself.

That is, don’t spend time trying to prove it to yourself or to others. “Trying to prove it” means that you haven’t yet figured out a good enough answer to the question, “How do I know that I’m (really) a man?”

You’ve probably never confronted the question head-on, but much of what you say and do might be (subconsciously) directed at answering it. At some point, someone gave you the idea that “real men do X” or “real men have/own Y,” and it can’t be otherwise. And that has real consequences. In order to prove that he belongs to the club, a guy becomes obsessed with doing X, and he just needs to have Y, even if he’s not interested in those things.

But what if he didn’t need to prove it? What if the question of his manhood had already been settled? Could that bring more freedom into his life?

What I want to tell you, is this: Nothing other than the simple fact of your creation as a man will give you assurance that you are, indeed, a man.

Looking to the triune God who made us is the only appropriate starting point to form a Christian viewpoint of what it means to be a man. A creature can’t be known apart from its Creator, so we can’t start by looking at ourselves, our inclinations, and our desires. Whatever a culture defines as truly masculine (whether that culture is reactionary, conservative, progressive, or liberal) cannot be a sure foundation for knowing oneself to be a man. A social scientist might tell us that each culture has generally accepted standards of male/female activity and behavior, but for our purposes here, those judgments are irrelevant.

God created you as a man, so you’re a man. Period. The only thing that has the right to decide your manhood is something your Creator has already done. “Proving it” is not a right that you’ve been granted. God’s sovereign choice nixed that from the get-go.

This means that being a man is something categorical, not a matter of degrees. You are either a man, or you’re not. There is no “more” or “less.”

Let’s take a look at this from the first angle: Being a man is not decided by your “extracurricular activities.” As I mentioned earlier, some men think that in order to be a man, one must do X, or must have Y. But is that true?

On our culture’s terms, I’ve done enough to “earn my man card.” For a long time, I had a nice 2beard. I had a big truck. I have multiple tattoos. I played football in high school and college. In both settings, I was voted in as co-captain, voted as Most Inspirational, and also earned All-Academic Team honors. I was a valedictorian at my high school and a top student at my university. During the summers of my college years, I ran a stump and tree removal company and also worked as a strength coach for a local high school football team. After college, I moved overseas, alone, to a place where I didn’t know the language, fought to learn it, and then had a great year and a half of preaching and teaching in multiple congregations in the region. Then I came home to spend a summer working on a commercial fishing boat in1 Alaska, which I’ll do again this year. (And yes, commercial fishing is America’s deadliest occupation, second only to the logging industry!) Now, I’m in graduate school, back in the academic game.

Does all of that truly prove that I belong in the club?

Is there something else I ought to do to convince someone of my manliness? Should I grow my beard back? Should I go get another big truck and give up the tiny ’89 Cadillac that I inherited from my grandma? (Really, my current car is an old-lady car!) Should I only wear Wrangler jeans and dink around on cars in my free time? Start building up my gun collection? Build my own house? Go hunting and fishing?

I could definitely do all those things, if I wanted. But the truth is that those things don’t excite me. I enjoy good literature, German poetry, artistic films, and going to art museums. Sure, I enjoyed my time living in a little village in the German countryside, but I also enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city and the cultural opportunities it has to offer. I’d much rather watch a good political satire than watch Bear Grylls. And I love hearing my friends play concerts with their indie-rock bands or read slam poetry. I feel comfortable doing those things because none of them change the fact that I’m a man. In the same way, none of the things I mentioned three paragraphs ago made me more of a man at the end than I was at the start. They have no meaning when it comes to answering the question, “How do I know that I’m a man?”

Let’s see it from a second angle: What you have and your proficiency at what you do (e.g., how legit your beard is, or how athletic you are) doesn’t decide whether you are more or less of a man. Let’s be honest, guys. If someone gives us activities that “define us” as men, it doesn’t take long for us to start sizing each other up. Whoever is better at an activity, or whoever possesses a “manly trait” in stronger fashion becomes “more” of a man, and the others become “less” than truly masculine. What you end up with is a never-ending competition and men who constantly despair of their manhood if they’re not “winning.” This mentality is a house of cards.

What’s ironic is that the thing which unsettles men in their masculinity and seems to “rob them” of it is not something like the radical feminist movement (as some might suppose), but the very mindset I’ve described. It’s when men try to establish themselves as men in the sight of other men that things go south. Those who lose at this game either get depressed and give up or they become neurotic in their drive to win. And those who win enjoy their success and devote their passions and energies to staying on top. Or, some men just change the terms of the argument. Perhaps a man doesn’t have an athletic bone in his body, so he takes refuge in the fact that he’s a “Field & Stream” kind of guy, and “everyone knows” that those guys are the “real men.” So, instead of death by outside forces, this system eats itself alive, from the inside.

Here’s a concrete example: I knew some football players in college who had been studs in high school. At the college level, though, they were second and third-stringers. Somehow, some of them began to doubt their manhood. I watched confident men deteriorate as their self-image crumbled. To these few players, only the first-stringers were real men. The reason why this way of thinking is neither realistic nor practical is that your vantage point continually changes your conclusion as to who the “real men” are. Among the first-stringers, the “true studs” were the all-conference players. We were a D-3 school, by the way. How would D-1 players look at our “studs”? They would probably dismiss them, and in this way of thinking, rightfully so. But now tell me, how many D-1 players make it into the NFL? Who are the “true men” at the end of the day? This whole way of analyzing manhood is simply nonsense. It broke my heart to see these otherwise fine gentlemen subject themselves to low self-esteem and to be denigrated by the higher-ups on our squad.

To take it a step further: A significant number of the best men I knew in college were not athletes, yet were looked down upon by some of the athletes as being something other than “real men.” It didn’t take me long to figure out that something didn’t add up.

Manhood can’t be defined by our activities, hobbies, and material traits or possessions.

How many grown men worry incessantly and waste their time in their pursuit to prove that they are truly manly men? Pursuing the purchase of a bigger truck? A faster motorcycle? Showing off your beer, wine, and cocktail acumen at parties? Chasing better proficiency in hunting or gaining more athletic prowess? Bagging a trophy wife? Getting a bigger house?

When does it stop?

My hope for Christian men is that they set aside their silly games which reveal them to be boys rather than sensible adults. What if you could just accept the fact that you’re a man and stop trying to prove it to yourself and others?

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Building site in Romania. Travis is in the blue shirt

The more time you invest in your personal advancement, the less time you have for what’s truly important. My hope is that Christian men set their sights on their task as Christians to seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and to do what they can to bring the Gospel to a world who is desperately in need of it, instead of focusing on themselves. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Don’t be a Martha!

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Romania…Be the kind of man who is more concerned with serving God than what the world thinks of you.

The practical payoff is that this truth sets you free. Because you know God created you as a man, you can freely, confidently, and joyfully pursue the things you want to pursue without having to worry about what other men might think. Perhaps it’s just that kind of free, joyous person that God can use for his purposes.

Come on, man. Accept the fact that you were created as a man, and be yourself

 

I hope you liked the latest post in my “Dirt, Trucks and Faith” series.  I am looking forward to more posts from some awesome men of God. If you missed the first two posts, here are the links. Issac and Steve

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Never Leave Wiggle Room For Doubt

Originally Posted on Living Better 50

When my daughter was little she had a knack for wiggling herself right in between my husband and I. Whether we were sitting, standing or, laying in bed, she would wiggle herself right in. It became a joke with us. We would sit as close as we could on the couch and in no time she would be on our laps. Than it started, her famous wiggle. It was such a subtle movement that she used and before long she would be sitting between us. Every time she accomplished this she would look up at us with her big brown eyes and a little wry smile as if to say, “look what I just did”.

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 9.06.40 PMWith our daughter we could let our guard down. We could leave her wiggle room. There are some things however that we cannot let our guard down to. Doubt is one of those things. If we give doubt any wiggle room you better believe it will wiggle it’s way in. Trust me, when doubt wiggles in it won’t be looking up at you with big brown eyes like those of my little girl. On the contrary, it will sit there with an “Eddie Haskell” like smile on its face. You know the kind of look that says, “Trust me I would never lead you astray”-wink, wink. The truth is, doubt wants nothing more than to lead you so far off track that you no longer believe what is true to be true.

As I was asked to write for different things, doubt began to creep in. It pulled up a seat next to me with its “Eddie Haskell” smile and tried to take to me off track. Doubt tried to make me believe there was no way I would be able to do the one thing I had prayed God would open the door for me to do. I had prayed about writing for a ministry for mothers and daughters and I prayed about writing for this a magazine. Yet, as God began to open the doors I began to doubt I had the ability to do it. I started to feel God had called the wrong person.

Yep, doubt had snuggled in between God’s promises and myself. I had to get it out of the way so I did the one thing I knew would work. I gave my doubt to God. Raising my shield of faith I prayed:

“God you opened this door so I trust you will give me what I need to write about. Please give me your words, the topics, and take my pride out of the way so that my words are your words. Please God remove the doubt”

I told God that I felt like Moses who did not have the words. I knew God sent Moses’s brother to be his helper and I asked Him to give me a helper too. That night as I slept God sent me a helper. He sent the Holy Spirit to help me. I woke up singing this scripture.

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you. Matthew 6:33 (KJV).

God showed me that night if I seek Him first and trust Him with my writing, he would give me just what I needed. In that moment doubt was kicked out of the comfortable seat it had made next to me. God had opened this door and I had to trust that He would not open the door and leave me standing there empty with nothing to say.

God has given me what I need to write for both places. My writing began to come easier as I have trusted Him. Still, I was faced with another issue. I am not the best when it comes to spelling and my punctuation is sometimes all wrong. This time however when doubt tried to wiggle back it failed. I was now tightly pressed into God so that doubt could not wiggle back in and I trusted that God would send me another helper. My prayers were that God would help me find a friend who could do some editing. Sure enough He came through with that and I didn’t even have to go looking for her. God would cross my path with godly woman who was an editor and is now someone I can call my friend. Doubt no longer had a strong hold on me.

If you find yourself doubting what God has for you the best thing you can do is to take that doubt right back to Him in prayer and ask Him to show you his truth. You need to believe that God is not going to open a door and than leave you standing there with nothing but doubt in front of you. If God has called you to do something and you feel He as called the wrong person think again. It is most often the person who seems the least qualified that God chooses. Remember, with Him anything is possible.

Our daughter is 19 now and if she ever wants to wiggle in between us you better believe we will give her all the room she needs. As far as doubt goes I learned an important lesson and I am not going to give it any wiggle room.

With the New Year upon us, and the resolutions you have made, it is important to grab a hold of God tightly and never leave wiggle room for doubt in anything.

Happy New Year

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The change of a young man’s heart

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 8.13.31 AM

By Isaac Crandall

A simple story for the men out there; Kim had asked me if I could write a small MAN segment. I am honored to be a part of “Dirt, Trucks, and Faith”-seeing God through the eyes of young men.

My Background:

Growing up in a stricter Christian home I had always gone to church in my little suit and tie. When I got older I got more freedom from my parents to make the decision to go to church or not go. As a young boy I chose not to go to church.  I would rather have fun riding my dirt bike, watching movies, playing games and, etc. Sounds pretty normal so far right?

I kept my personal relationship with God although it was distant and I only kept him there when I needed something or if something bad was happening. I had never experienced God before. I had never really felt Him or seen Him.  Lastly, I had a small obsession with cars which leads into this story.

My story:

It started when I was kind of a careless, absentminded, 16 /17-year-old boy. I had just gotten my license and I was on my way back from Schweitzer 6630_490588280991527_77155941_nMountain Ski Resort. It had been an awesome day of skiing. I was amped up! I had landed a few 540’s and that was a big deal to me.  Being so amped up I figured what better thing to do than see how fast I could get home in my Honda Prelude that I had just finished rebuilding. I was on my way through Coeur d’Alene Idaho passing a few cars, driving a bit aggressive at 85 mph or so.  When I got to the straighter part of the freeway I decided to crack open the throttle a bit more. I passed under an overpass and all the sudden lights flipped on in the distance behind me. My mind was contemplating between running to the exit or pulling over and being responsible. The Lord led me to pull the car over.

As the officer came up to the window, I was shaking and almost crying. He said,  “Son do you know how fast you were going?”  “Umm, no I don’t?” I said.   He told me,  “I clocked you at around 106 mph”.  I was thinking I was lucky he didn’t catch me doing the actual speed I was doing. “Do you have any idea how much trouble you’re in?” he said.  In a quivering voice I answered “no”.

I gave him my license and registration and he said, “I will be back”.  Meanwhile, tears are coming down my face as I am thinking of how mad my parents were going to be.  Two more police cars show up so I have a three state troopers on my case.  At that point, I thought for sure I was going to jail for reckless driving.  I started praying and praying hard. I asked God to get me out of this predicament. The officer finally came back and said, “Do you know how many families and people’s lives you took in your hands tonight driving like a fool?  These roads are slick, it is dark out and, you are not an experienced driver.”

I had never thought of it in that prospective before……

The officer then said, “I get a vibe from you that your Dad is going to kick your butt when you get home because you are an honest kid and you will tell them what happened tonight.”  I said “yes sir you are correct”.  “It’s lucky you are still in Idaho” he told me. “Here is your speeding ticket now DRIVE UNDER THE SPEED LIMIT ALL THE WAY HOME TONIGHT”.  I said “yes sir” as I slowly started my way home.  I knew I was going to get a not so nice talk from my parents, be disciplined and, have my car taken away.

After the talk it was late. I snuck out to our field by our house, knelt down and starting praying to God as if He was a great friend I had let down. Before that night I had been driving a dangerous road very aggressively. I now see that night as God’s way of communicating to me that I needed to slow down and take a step back. I needed to look at my life and ask myself, “Am I driving too aggressive? 553483_4069941953155_1067940942_nWas I driving as the world would want me to drive?”  In my personal life I found the answer to those questions a few months later. I found that I need to be driving strong and steady for Him and for the benefit of others.  By this I mean do not  just sit at an idle……God wants us to put on some low profile “Y” rated tires and really grip His highway.

I asked for forgiveness that night and asked if He would start guiding my life in the direction He intends me to go.  I prayed for myself to take more time and initiative to consider other people’s lives instead of my own.  I had been being selfish. I prayed that He would help me grow into a man of God. A man He would be proud to call His son. I asked Him to help me understand that He is real and that He is all-powerful.

Keep in mind it was a cold night and I was freezing. After I sat in silence for a few minutes a warm comforting wind seemed to come around me and almost hug me. It was like a warm blanket filled with mercy and grace, letting me know that He is was there and He forgave me.  I can’t explain the feeling even to this day.  I broke down and started crying.  From my perspective, it was as if God was showing me that He still loved me after years of turning my back to Him.  I had chosen my highway rather than His and yet He still loved me.  The same is true for you. God1613857_10203743427092415_6056444948780037742_n loves you even if you have chosen your own highway for a time.  He loved me when I fell away and He loves you too. That experience has never left me till this day; God reaches us all at different times and in different ways. I think it is amazing the way he can take an experience that pertains to you as a specific person and make you realize certain things. He can help you on your specific path.

I love the way He loves me. I have to say, “Lord I am amazed by you”.

 

You can follow me on Facebook at Heartfelt ramblings of a midlife domestic goddess and on Twitter at @Mom4Godalways.

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 7.01.52 PMI have some other great guys lined up to be guest writers in this series so I hope you check back.

 

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Taking Him at His word

20140901_141537Guest Post by Kari Villarreal

 

“Then [the remnant of Judah] said to Jeremiah, ‘May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us. Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the Lord our God.’”       [Jeremiah 42:5-6]

So I read this passage a few weeks ago and cheered inside, thinking that God’s people had finally woken up to their sinful, disobedient ways. Here, they finally decided to seek direction from the Lord, and not only seek His direction but then vowed to obey whatever He would tell them to do, “whether it is favorable or unfavorable”! That sure sounded like renewed devotion to me! God responded quickly, speaking through Jeremiah and giving specific instructions to His people. He even went as far as to warn them of exactly what will happen if they did not follow His instructions. Pretty clear, no?

As the reader I’m thinking, “Okay people, how can you possibly ask for anything more? God answered your specific questions with specific directions and promises attached, to boot!” Apparently, their ‘renewed devotion’ was quickly thrown out the window. The answer they received from God through Jeremiah wasn’t the answer they wanted, so they chose to ignore it. Not only that, but when warned AGAIN about the idol worship that was angering God Almighty, this was their stubborn response (just two short chapters after vowing to obey whatever the Lord spoke to them through Jeremiah):

“‘We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord. We will certainly do everything we said we would: we will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our fathers, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.’” [Jeremiah 44:16-18]

Anyone else exasperated by these crazy people?? The two passages above sound like they have come from two completely different people. This was their arrogant response: ignoring the Word and warnings of the Lord, they chose to look with eyes of flesh at their situation and draw their own conclusions (i.e. ‘we were so much better off when we were worshiping this idol’). How easy it was for me to sit back and scoff at the arrogance and ignorance of God’s people…but then there was that gentle and loving, yet firm and convicting stirring in my spirit, and it hit me. How many times have I done the same thing? Too many to count. In many different areas and contexts of my life.

Currently my struggle is with bitterness and un-forgiveness. It’s absolutely toxic. I didn’t even realize the extent to which it had begun to consume my heart until I asked Him back in June of this year to search my heart and reveal to me the things that were not pleasing to Him. May I just say, be careful and be ready if you ask God this question? Because He will, and when I did I was not at all prepared to see the blackness that had grown in my heart that I was mostly unaware of (or maybe just deep down, unwilling to give up). So for almost three months I have spent time digging deeper into His Word and praying through what He revealed to me. Seeing not much progress, I became discouraged and confused. “Lord,” I prayed, “I’m asking You each day to please remove this ugliness from my heart! It’s going to eat me alive! Where are you? Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it, I just want this gone!” (Sound at all familiar?) Looking back, I realized there have been times in my life when some things were “easier”, yet at many of those times I was spiritually dead or asleep-or worse, jut flat-out disobeying Him-ignoring His very Word, the bread of life, to worship my own idols (again, sound familiar?).

Then I came to chapters 42-44 of Jeremiah in my Bible reading plan and the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: “My Word says that if I have forgiven you, what can you possibly hold against anyone else? It also says to get rid of all bitterness […] along with every form of malice. It ALSO says that love does not envy and keeps no record of wrongs. Haven’t I spoken? And I have spoken clearly and specifically. It’s all in my Word, you have the choice to heed it or ignore it.”

OUCH!

So I suppose I’m really not all that much better than those ‘crazy people’. Was this revelation an immediate fix to a deep issue that the Lord was (and still is) working out of me? Wish I could say it was, but this time the answer is no. Does God sometimes work that way? I definitely believe so. Ultimately, I have made the choice (through His strength alone) to let go and trust that this very painful, humbling process will bring me closer to my Jesus than miraculous deliverance in a moment of revelation. I believe that is always one of His priorities, along with bringing glory to His name and building His kingdom. My hope in sharing this personal internal struggle and the revelation through His word that He so graciously imparted to me is that it brings glory to His name. He is so incredibly patient with His kids!557_10202467181544508_1797414666_n His correction is accompanied with His gentleness and His loving kindness. He is always, always good. I know the outcome of this process will be worth the (delayed) freedom, versus ignoring it or putting it aside until I feel like dealing with it.

If there’s a heart issue you know the Lord has been nudging you to deal with, I encourage you to dig into His word and hear the specific instructions He has already given us, and ask His powerful Spirit to breathe those words to life and penetrate them deep into your heart. It will probably be difficult, but will be worth the outcome because He is faithful and completely trustworthy.

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You can’t control everything….

By definition to “Control” means to have the power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events. Authority, power, sway, dominance, rule, sovereignty, management, and direction are just some synonyms of the word “control”.

We can easily slip into the trap of trying to control everything. Because of past hurts we can go through life trying to control everything as a way of protecting ourselves. We micro-mange, direct, and sway those in our lives. The need to control can cause a sense of panic when we are faced with something that we can’t control. This can become a very unhealthy place to be. If the need to be in control is controlling you it is time to make a change. God can help you but he needs you to be willing to let go.

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 7.25.19 AMMy hair is a funny reminder that I am not the one in charge. I have short hair and sometimes I wake up with it going EVERYWHERE. It is my flock of seagulls’ hair. If you were a product of the 80’s you will know what I mean. On those days my hair is a simple reminder that I can’t control everything. It has a mind of its own at times and there is nothing I can do about it. Life can be the same. No matter how hard we try to control it, we can’t.

God is the only one who is in control at all times. He is the only constant that we can count on. When I let go of things I had no control over and gave them to God I began living in victory and not panic. The same can be true for you.

Now take a closer look at some of the synonyms of “Control”

  • Authority: God is in CONTROL there is no authority higher than God.
  • Power: God is in CONTROL all power belongs to Him. Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: 
that power belongs to God, Psalm 62:11 NIV
  • Dominance: God is in CONTROL and he has dominance over all nations and all kingdoms. He has got your life handled also.
  • Rule: God is in CONTROL He will rule and reign forever.
  • Sovereignty: God is sovereign. “If you were to look up the word “sovereign” in the dictionary, you would find words and phrases like superior, greatest, supreme in power and authority, ruler and, independent of all others in its definition. But the way I like to explain God’s sovereignty best is simply to say, “God is in CONTROL.” There is absolutely nothing that happens in the universe that is outside of God’s influence and authority. As King of kings and Lord of lords, God has no limitations” -Chip Ingram, Walk Thru the Bible

I hope that these synonyms of the word control help you to see that God is ultimately in control. To keep trying to control what you can’t is just going to waste a lot of your time.  If you can’t control your hair on a bad hair day what makes you think you can control life better than God himself.

Originally written for Living Better 50 magazine. LB50ContributorSQ

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Trusting God in the evil of the world

My heart has been so heavy as I see the news of women being raped and children being beheaded.  Photos of the violence tells a story that many don’t want to have to think about.  People with guns to their backs and their heads is hard to look at.  I saw a photo of the smoking guns that were fired in an act of evil on Facebook.

This violence is happening and yet so many are not even aware of it and if they are they seem to say nothing about it.  We get upset, we mourn and we share the tragic stories of celebrities.  We are quick to hit the share button, the favorite button and the re-tweet button when a celebrity speaks.  I saw a post last night about people being mad at Rosanne Barr for making a tweet about Robin Williams actually being alive.  She used the death of an amazing actor as a joke for her gain and people were outraged.  I think they should be. It is not a joke. A man died and that should never be taken lightly.  For that matter the deaths of those by the ISIS group should not be taken lightly either but it seems to be getting sweep under the rug.  Rosanne made an out of line remark in regards to Robin Williams and it hits the social media sites.  People got fired up about it. Yet, hundreds of people are raped, shot, and beheaded and we seem to accept it like that is just part of life.  Among these people are children. Innocent children and we hear very little about it.

Why is it that we can so easily accept the fact that someone can be killed for his or her religious beliefs?

I have been praying for those who are faced with persecution. I have been praying the God would supernaturally take the pain away that they are facing. That He would give them strength that only He can give as they face the evil acts of violence.  I pray the God is would catch the tears of the women who are raped and that He would comfort the parents who mourn the loss of their children.

In my humanness it is easy to question God.  I know I should not question because God because He is in control but it is hard not to. Thankfully God knows I will fall short from time to time.  Why? I ask Him.  Why is this happening to people who put their faith in you?  Why are you letting this happen God?  I pray that they are given a special crown when they enter the gates of heaven.  I pray for the violence to stop. I pray that people would get fed up and say something.  I pray that our Government would do more.  I pray and I seek for answers as to why evil happens.

Today I choose to open my bible and read whatever page I landed on. Habakkuk 3 was where I landed.  It is a prayer by Habakkuk the prophet and something I have never read before.  God never stops amazing me.  Here I am after days of praying and questioning and all I had to do was open the bible and let it speak to my heart.

Lord, I have heard of your fame; 
I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. 
Repeat them in our day, 
in our time make them known; 
 in wrath remember mercy.

God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens
 and his praise filled the earth.

His splendor was like the sunrise; 
rays flashed from his hand,
 where his power was hidden. 

Plague went before him;
 pestilence followed his steps.

He stood, and shook the earth;
 he looked, and made the nations tremble.
 The ancient mountains crumbled
 and the age-old hills collapsed—
 but he marches on forever. 

I saw the tents of Cushan in distress,
 the dwellings of Midian in anguish.

Were you angry with the rivers, Lord?
 Was your wrath against the streams?
 Did you rage against the sea
 when you rode your horses
 and your chariots to victory?

You uncovered your bow, you called for many arrows.
 You split the earth with rivers;

The mountains saw you and writhed.
 Torrents of water swept by;
 the deep roared
 and lifted its waves on high 

Sun and moon stood still in the heavens
 at the glint of your flying arrows,
 at the lightning of your flashing spear 

In wrath you strode through the earth
 and in anger you threshed the nations. 

You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one.
You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness,
 you stripped him from head to foot.

With his own spear you pierced his head
 when his warriors stormed out to scatter us,
 gloating as though about to devour
 the wretched who were in hiding.

You trampled the sea with your horses, churning the great waters.

I heard and my heart pounded, 
my lips quivered at the sound;
 decay crept into my bones, 
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.

Though the fig tree does not bud
 and there are no grapes on the vines,
 though the olive crop fails 
and the fields produce no food, 
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, 
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
 he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
 he enables me to tread on the heights.  (NIV)

Habakkuk’s prayer was praising God for answering his questions. God showed him that evil wouldn’t triumph forever. God is in control and this reminded me that we can always trust Him to vindicate those who are faithful to him. God will ratify the evil that his people have faced. I believe that God will give those who suffer because of their belief in Christ the strength to make it through the difficult times. I am not saying I can accept what is happening to them as okay, I am just saying I believe that God is with them.

The notes in my NIV study bible said this: “God will give his followers surefooted confidence through difficult times.  They will run like deer across rough and dangerous terrain.  At the proper time, God will bring about His justice and completely rid the world of evil.  In the mean time, God’s people need to live in the strength of his spirit, confident in His ultimate victory over the world”.   It also said, “Habakkuk saw his own limitations in contrast to God’s unlimited control of all the world’s event.  God is alive and in control of the world and it’s events.  We cannot see all that God is doing, and we cannot see all that God will do.  But we can be assured that he is God and will do what is right. Knowing this can give us confidence and hope in a confusing world”. (NIV Life Application bible, Page 1479)

That was just what I needed today as I tried to wrap my mind around the evil that is happening. My heart still breaks that society and social media has such a skewed idea of what is really important. I will continue to pray that what breaks God’s heart would break the heart’s of people too. I will pray that more people will speak out against evil and I will trust with all my heart that God is in control. I will trust that God will vindicate those that were harmed by evil.  That He will ratify the wrong.  In God’s perfect timing He will have victory over evil.

I WILL TRUST GOD IN THE EVIL OF THIS WORLD.

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They are still my babies

22 and 19 are the ages of my kids. Adults yes but in my heart they are still my babies. Just recently my daughter and I headed to Texas to work a Young Lives camp for teen moms. We were on the childcare crew and assigned to the 6-7 month old babies. Watching my 19-year-old daughter take care of those babies made me so proud and it filled me excitement as I thought of her being a mom herself someday.

1402663930001-BertramTornado-ShaneMeister

Tornado near Bertram Texas on June 12. Photo by Shane Meister

As the week came to an end a storm rolled in and we found ourselves under a tornado watch that would soon turn into a warning. The camp where we were staying at did not have underground shelter. As the storm grew we were moved to an interior room of the building with the babies that were in our care. Others found themselves in bathrooms of the buildings where they were caring for the babies. One large bathroom held about 20 people.

This Washington state girl is not accustomed to tornadoes and to be honest it is one of my biggest fears. As we I stood in that little room with a sweet baby girl in a front pack I became a mess of emotions. Across the room was my daughter holding a baby in her arms. The “what if’s” were screaming in my head…What if a tornado actually touches down, should I tell her I love her just in case? What if it touches down do I protect the baby in my arms or my baby? She may be an adult but she was still my baby girl.

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 5.35.26 AMTears began to well up in my eyes and as I moved across the room to stand by my daughter. I wanted desperately to reach out and hug her tight, to protect her from whatever was going on outside that little room we found ourselves in. She is not one to be afraid of a lot things and she started to tease me for being scared. What she did not understand was I was not scared in the way she thought. I was scared because it hit me that my little girl was an adult and she would lay down her life to protect the baby in her arms if needed. I to would lay down my life to protect the baby in my arms also and it was tearing into my heart that I felt that I had to choose the baby in my arms over my own baby.

I started to feel my legs shake as I held in my tears and the resisted the desire to try to hold her like she was a little girl again. Momma bear was a mess. Fear was winning and I to get a grip. I said out loud, “There is not fear in God”. Than, I simply said, “Jesus” a few times and peace began to come to me. I followed that up with “God I trust you in this”. Fear loosened its grip and peace took over. In a silent prayer I asked God to protect my baby. I told him I trusted him to take care of my baby so that I could be ready to take care of the baby in my arms if needed.

I grabbed my phone to listen to worship music but the room was too loud to hear it so we began to sing worship music ourselves. They say the center of the storm is the calmest place to be. As we waited that storm out I can say without a doubt that when you let God be the center of your storm you to will find yourself in the most peaceful place. We were off-key when we sang but I know that to God we made a beautiful noise as we worshiped him and trusted him. A tornado did touch down about 25 miles from us and a home was ripped off its foundation with the family in it.

I have always been one to pray and trust God but in that moment I saw the importance of it in one of the most concrete ways ever. If you are a parent I cannot stress enough the importance of prayer for you child no matter how old they are. They will always be your babies so never stop praying for them. If you are going through your own storm as a parent trust that God will be the calmness in the storm. Praise him in your storm and trust him with your babies no matter how old they are.

To see the story of the family who gives God the credit for keeping them safe in that real life Wizard of OZ moment so close to where we were the night of June 12, 2014 click here. http://www.kvue.com/story/news/local/2014/06/13/tornado-carries-home-with-family-inside/10499773/

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Failure To Thrive

I originally wrote this for Living Better 50 Magazine

A green thumb I have not. I have found that I can keep a cactus alive and with aphoto streak of luck I have kept an African violet alive for just over a year. I keep it by my kitchen sink in hopes that I’ll remember to water it now and then. Apparently without water the poor thing can’t thrive.

The word thrive means:

(Of a child, animal, or plant)  It means to grow or develop well or vigorously. It also means to prosper and flourish.

Just like my African violet needs to flourish and thrive so do we. There is a condition called failure to thrive. Failure to thrive refers to children who have a weight gain that is lower than the weight of other children their same age. It can be caused by environmental factors and health of the child. According to A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia a Loss of emotional bond between parent and child can lead to “failure to thrive”. No matter how old we get we are still children of God and without a strong emotional bond with our Heavenly Father how can really expect to thrive?

My violet sets by my kitchen sink and many days it is left thirsty for a drink of water that will bring it life. Without water it will surely wither and die. We need to be watered if we want to live life abundantly and if we want to flourish and thrive. Jesus is the way to a life that thrives. He is the living water poured out on us by our heavenly father.

“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:37-38. NIV

It is Jesus who gives us life and it is through Jesus that we can grow in a very deep emotional connection with our heavenly father.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:6-7 NIV

Are you thriving or are you struggling to survive like my violet? If you find yourself in a state of “failure to thrive” cry out to Jesus. Tell him you are thirsty and that you need to know His father. No matter how old you are you are still a child of the one true God and you need to have a strong connection with him.

The Casting Crowns have a song called “Thrive” and the words of the song say this:

So living water flowing through

God we thirst for more of You

Fill our hearts and flood our souls

With one desire

Just to know You and

To make You known

We lift Your name on High

Shine like the sun make darkness run and hide

We know we were made for so much more

Than ordinary lives

It’s time for us to more than just survive

We were made to thrive

Much to my surprise when I googled the words of the song I found that the Casting Crowns was having a THRIVE CHALLENGE and it is lines up perfectly with what was heavy on my heart. If you are just trying to survive I hope you check out this link https://www.castingcrowns.com/news/thrive-challenge-3156

Stop trying to make it day-by-day. Stop thinking that you are not worthy of much more. Christ came to give you life and he wanted you to have life abundantly. He came to give you hope because without hope in Him you can only hope to survive. You were made to thrive, stop trying to just survive.  

LB50ContributorSQ

livingbetter50.com

 

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