March 27, 2014

The Weight Of Life...

This post is coming to you today from a very personal perspective, but one that I hope will support and encourage you in your own journey somehow. As I sit here, with it almost 10 o'clock at night, the kids are asleep in bed, and I just finished a 30-minute "cry-fest". I don't think I have ever cried so hard in my life. All of the kids were just hugging me and telling me it's going to be okay. In our crying, there is healing, and a desperation that draws us closer to God than anything else, I believe. Tears are the stairway to the Father, and the release of toxins from our heart and soul. The weight of my life, the responsibilities of it, and the reality of bearing this load alone for the majority of my life has been weighing very heavily on me the last week or so. I feel it now more than I ever have before. As each month and year passes, it gets harder to be everything to everyone all the time. Mother, friend, disciplinarian, teacher, taxi, cook, maid, confidant, provider, caregiver, comforter, advisor, wage earner, student, nurse, encourager, delegator...and so much more. I am overwhelmed, sad, longing, exhausted...but through the tears I am also grateful, appreciative, determined, and hopeful. So of course, I turned to God and asked for His comfort, and He brought me to the Scriptures. I found comfort in these tonight:

"...for each one should carry their own load." (Galatians 6:5 NIV)  I am doing this and carrying the full load for my family, and although very hard, I should be proud I am doing whatever it takes to bring provision and honor to my family and the Lord.

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)  I must will not be easy, but there will come and end time after this human life in which I will be able to rest and enjoy the fruits of my labor.

"Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Timothy 5:8)  There would be absolutely no excuse for me to not provide for my family, I do not want to be worse than an unbeliever, so I must shoulder what is necessary to maintain our survival and comfort.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:17)  Things may be hard, but in all things there is good. God brings beauty out of ashes and if we are thankful in all things, He will make sure we are blessed tenfold for all we are put through. We must look through the trials to see the blessings.

I just thought I would share these things with you, and what showed me the way to endure and persist throughout the years, no matter the situation. I love God's Word! <3  I listened to my favorite song, which always helps me cry every last tear out...both in anguish and in love! This is my favorite song:

 "Blessings" by Laura Story

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
 Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
 We pray for healing, for prosperity
 We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

 And all the while, You hear each spoken need
 Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

 'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
 What if Your healing comes through tears
 What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
 What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

 We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
 We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
 We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
 As if every promise from Your word is not enough

 And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
 And long that we'd have faith to believe

 'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
 What if Your healing comes through tears
 What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
 What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

 When friends betray us
 When darkness seems to win
 We know that pain reminds this heart
 That this is not,
 This is not our home
 It's not our home

 'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
 What if Your healing comes through tears
 What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near

 What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
 Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
 What if trials of this life
 The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
 Are your mercies in disguise

March 15, 2014

What AREN'T You Doing with Your Time?

This is a question that we do not ask ourselves enough. We all assume we already know the answer. “I’m busy. I am always doing something. I work, I take care of children, I clean the house, and I run errands. What am I NOT doing with my time?” Hmmm…good point. What AREN’T you doing with your time might be a better question than what ARE you doing with your time. I'm sure that most people would agree that too much idle time and laziness are no good, but what if your days never have enough time to accomplish all that is on your to-do list? Let's take a minute to look at this; you’re a parent involved in your children's lives, you drive them back and forth to school functions, back and forth to leisure activities, appointments and everything else that calls your attention to raising them. This isn't so bad is it? Oh, but don't forget, you work a full time job as well. Who's cooking dinner? Who's keeping the house clean? Who's doing the yard work? Does any of this sound familiar? Is there any time left in the day for you? How about those of you who are doing this all yourself? By the way, did you remember to brush your teeth on the way out this morning?

It sounds like there's not much time in the day for any extras that aren't centered around checking items off your never ending list of to-do tasks. Where in the busyness of our schedules are we fitting God into the equation? Does He even have a set place, or is His place whenever you can find time for Him? Unfortunately, many people are living their lives with God as an afterthought, "If only I had more time..." So, if what you AREN’T doing with your time involves: you AREN’T putting God first, you AREN’T taking time to be alone with God each day, you AREN’T taking time to read God’s Word, you AREN’T increasing your prayer life, you AREN’T allowing yourself to rest and listen for the Holy Spirit’s voice…then is everything that you really ARE doing really mattering in the way it should? Time is a precious gift and unless we take the initiative to allow time for God then our days, months, years and our lives will pass by I the blink of an eye as we remain stagnant, still caught up in our hectic schedule with no peace to be found because we are lacking a relationship with God. 

"I know, O Lord, that a man's life is not his own, it is not for man to direct his steps." (Jeremiah 10:23) 

As Christians, our lives are not our own, we've given ourselves to God and He should be the first place we go to balance the time in our lives. It's not about removing something from our schedules to make time for God, it's about God being the foundation of your schedule and building everything around Him. How do we find balance? How do we prioritize time? How do we find the energy and the strength to do everything that a typical day demands of us? Well, if we AREN’T looking for those answers in the Word of God, we will never find them, and we will never have balance, or the strength to accomplish the priorities of our lives. The power to persevere, accomplish, and prioritize is given to us, after we give ourselves fully over to Christ, Our Savior. He comes first, and everything else is secondary.

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)

With God as the foundation of our lives, what should our time with Him look like? A better question might be, "What am I looking to receive from Him?" The answer to that question is simple. If your are consumed by the distractions of this world, you'll receive nothing. Jesus says, "My sheep listen to my voice..." How do we even hear His voice if we don't take the time to listen, if we're constantly in a rush? Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God." Be still and listen, be still and hear His voice, be still and know that He is God. Now does this mean we have to sit in a silent room, void of other things and people, for countless hours every day in order to give God the time it requires to deepen our relationship with him? Absolutely not. God is with you, wherever you go. You can find him in your morning routine, in your lunch hour, in those moments after work when you kick your shoes off and close your eyes for a moment, or before bed when you help ease yourself to sleep by reading His Word. You can seek Him constantly throughout your day, but you have to make a willful attempt to do so.

“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.” (Haggai 1:9) 

Our lives are filled with responsibilities and other activities, but these shouldn't be the things that pull us away from God, instead it should be the craziness of our lives that draw us near to Him. Our time is not our own, it belongs to the Lord. The busyness of our lives can take us away from our life with God, and away from doing God’s Work. He doesn't want us to be overwhelmed by our circumstances; He wants us to find peace. We do that when we seek Him first, and through Him, everything else will find balance. How do we seek Him? By giving Him your time, taking the time to be still and listening to His voice. When we hear Him, when we allow Him to place all of our responsibilities into His rightful timing and perspective, when He turns chaos into order, it is then when we are confident in knowing He is God and can find peace and rest from the world.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

Without God as our main focus in all things, we're living for ourselves. When we live for ourselves, we falter. Only God can keep us on the straight and narrow path, and bring us up out of the pit when we are being crushed by the demands and responsibilities of life. Are you using your time to live for yourself or are you honoring God by using your time to build a relationship with Him, to live for Him? Take time to think about how you are spending your time, or again, how you AREN’T spending your time.

March 7, 2014

Temptation, Intimacy, Lust, and Pleasure: Twisting Biblical Terms For Worldly Accommodation

Our society in this day and age has powerfully skewed us in the way of our thinking, and in the things that we strive for and that we notice as important. The true things I importance and motivation have fallen away from what should be long ago. God's design from the beginning was for us to live an abundant life, to appreciate and desire beauty, to feel closeness and fellowship with others, to crave fulfillment physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We were not meant to simply live this life, we were meant to live it joyfully and abundantly. In saying this, I have noticed how many individuals (and even churches) seem to twist Biblical principles to either reinforce an argument they have, or to make God's laws, commandments, and words for into the needs and desires of their own life, so that what they feel and want would then be okay. The way I noticed this most is in people's use of certain terms God used in the Bible. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be looking at each of these terms individually and dissecting the difference between human nature and God's nature. Let's take them one by one...spend these few days with me as we study the world's view of these terms versus Our Creator's:

"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)

Temptation: The worldly definition is "to perform an action that one may enjoy immediately or in the short-term but will probably later regret for various reasons." It is also noted as meaning "the state of being attracted and enticed without anything to do with moral, ethical, or ideological valuation." Sounds pretty good right? And much of that is true. However, the way the world views the word "temptation" is almost always meant in a physical or sexual instance. Temptation of a man wanting a woman, temptation of a woman wanting a man, temptation to be intimately involved with someone outside of their relationship. Temptation to look at something that you believe brings you pleasure, temptation to have something or someone that you currently don't have, temptation to think about someone or something that you shouldn't be thinking about. All of these are sexual in nature, and all of these are what the world is focused on. The world urges us to indulge, and tells us that we can get away with it, and it's not that bad.

"So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." (James 4:17)

Now, let's take a look at this through Christ's eyes. With the guiding of the Holy Spirit, we can see the true intention in which God meant this word to resonate with us. Through God's meaning of the word temptation, we learned that it can mean many things. It can mean a test, proof, a trial, or an enticement. It is a way in which God tests us to reveal to ourselves and to the world our true character. Now, it is not God that dangles temptation in front of us, but God does allow it to take place and watches it play out sometimes. If temptation is dangled in front of us in the way we spoke about in the above paragraph, we can be sure it is from the enemy. If it includes wrong and impure thoughts physically or mentally or weakens us spiritually, that is of the enemy. But if temptation comes in the way of walking through a hard problem instead of trying to get around it, pushing through a rocky relationship instead of running from it, or striving to walk the narrow path when everyone else is walking the wider one...those are sometimes temptations we have created on our own that God will allow so that we can learn from them. Those temptations are still of our own doing, by allowing those thoughts in, but sometimes The Lord allows us to experience them in an effort to help us gain His strength, trust in Him, and to grow within ourselves and in our relationship with Christ.

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you're tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Temptations come in the way of our uncertainties with ourselves, our insecurities, our fears, our worries. We are tempted to think wrongly of ourselves or others, we are tempted to envy the success or achievements someone else has, we are tempted to procrastinate or be lazy in our day when we are given bold opportunities to use our capabilities to be the best we can be. So much of what God was talking about when he talks about temptation has to do with emotional, spiritual, and mental…not the physical. We will have physical temptations at times, and hopefully when we do, if we are focused on and have our hearts in the Lord, even those temptations will be in themselves kept pure and faithful within our relationships and will be grounded in our respect for God and others. There are also physical temptations that are pure in nature that God did speak about. The temptation of food when you are hungry (such as Jesus' temptation to make bread out of stones to relieve his own hunger), the temptation to take the easy route in a situation to save yourself pain or strife (such as when Jesus had the opportunity to free himself from a pinnacle by jumping and relying on angels to break his fall), or the temptation to make yourself into an idol (such as when the devil told Jesus he could have all the kingdoms in the world, if he would worship him). The temptation to go right when everybody else in this world is going left. The temptation to say, "Okay, just this time. I will let the enemy in just a little bit, and I'll repent and do better next time."

"But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire." (James 1:14)

But God uses these moments. He uses every single one, whether as a way for us to have closer relationship with Him, as a way for Him to take care of us, as a way for Him to help us live a good, pure life and walk in Christ's image. The choices are ultimately ours, but if we are grounded in The Almighty Father, we already know the right path to take and the true answers. When we want to honor God, respect others, and love ourselves…we will make sure to stay far away from temptation, and at the onset of any sign of weakness, we are to immediately turn to God and lean on His strength. For what He provides is more than sufficient, if only we will choose to seek Him above all else!

"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16)

March 5, 2014

Inadequacy…A Feeling Not Given By God

Recently as I was struggling with a very overwhelming morning of fear, insecurity, worry, and feeling completely inferior and inadequate, The Lord led me directly to the Scriptures to combat these feelings of negativity. I know in my heart these are all feelings from the devil, but sometimes they're just so overpowering and so manipulative in the way that they sneak into crevices of our mind. The slightest moment of weakness can easily take over all other senses. If we don't believe we are enough for ourselves, how will we ever possibly believe we would be enough for anyone else, or for God Himself? We compare ourselves to others, sabotage our own happiness, and see ourselves in a light that makes us less than who we are. In other words, we fall prey to looking through worldly eyes and heart. It makes us question everything, everyone. It makes us want to run away rather than risk being hurt. It brings us back to our past where we weren't enough, and we automatically assume that's the case in the present and that we will always fall short in everyone else's eyes as well.

However, when we turn to God, that weakness can be strengthened in an instant and our minds brought back to the positive reinforcement of His love. In order to avoid the pain, insecurity, and stress associated with merging two lives that both have pasts (whether a friendship, a family association, or a romantic relationship), we have to be secure in who we are and who we are with. If not, our own fears and insecurities will not only make us question ourselves and break us, but it can corrupt and destroy our relationships as well. We may never be perfect for anyone in this world, we may never be everything they want. There is one thing we can be sure of, however, and that is that we are always enough for God. We are always beautiful in Christ's eyes. We are enough, but we need to lean into God to see that and to feel that and to believe that…and then maybe, just maybe, we can believe that others may feel that same way about us as well. So in seeking the Scriptures, The Word can help us to bring to the light of God's truths instead of the enemy's despicable lies. If you struggle with any of these feelings or if damage from the past is coming back into your present, I urge you to pray over and seek wisdom on the Scriptures listed below. With God nothing is impossible, I am living proof. You are loved, you are enough, you are chosen! God bless!

"Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life." (Isaiah 43:4)

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

"Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God." (2Corinthians 3:4-5)

"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice." (James 3:16)

"A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones." (Proverbs 14:30)