Monthly Archives: November 2011

Quote of the Day

To the optimist, the glass is half full.
To the pessimist, the glass is half empty.
To the radical child of God, the cup runneth over.

A Resolution to Give My Best

Note to reader: The following is the result of further study, research and reflection after reading a portion of The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer, a book written upon the influence of the movie Courageous, which hit theaters nation-wide in September/October of 2011.

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory. 1 Corinthians 10:31

In the next section of The Resolution for Women, Shirer points to giving God our best and using our best to serve others.

All too often, we tend to spread ourselves (especially us women) too thin, thinking we have to do it all. We’ve got worship team for three services on Sunday mornings, the luncheon in the afternoon, work from 8-5 Monday through Friday, teaching yoga on Monday and Thursday mornings, Bible study on Tuesday nights, Awana and youth group on Wednesday evenings, volunteering at the local food pantry on Thursday nights, the kids’ soccer game on Friday and Saturday and then kids ministry the following Sunday. All of these things crammed into one week is a little much, don’t you think?

In spreading ourselves too thin, we are unable to perform a single task 100%. We simply cannot do a thousand things to the glory of God all at one time. We can only handle one or two things at a time.

Bring your best. Without the martyr syndrome. Even if no one notices (remember, God sees). Do it anyway. For His glory. His opinion of you is the only one that matters.

Week 38: Thankful

You say, “If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.” You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled. – Charles Spurgeon

This past Thursday, most of us gathered with friends and family. I had three such instances and only two were around a table. One, with my Dad’s side of the family, we all fill our plates and gather around the living room. There is no table. Just trays and console tables.

Many of us probably didn’t truly enjoy the holiday. I know I was on the brink of that due to exhaustion over all the preparations. Along with that exhaustion, many of us forget to take the time to focus on the blessings God has given us this past year.

His blessings are so numerous and unending that we should be grateful every moment of every day. It’s so easy to get caught up in our routines that we lose sight of all that He has done for us. That’s why, when trials come, we wonder if God still loves us, and whether He actually has a plan for our lives.

Rest assured – In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul writes that we should rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances, even when walking through those “valleys” that we all experience.

Someone once asked the question, “What if one day in Heaven, we discover that God wasted nothing in our lives on earth?”

Our trials take on a whole different light when we see them from that perspective. If we allow Him to, God will use even the most painful circumstances of our lives to help us grow and draw us closer to Him. We need to be content through it all.

That’s just it. Being thankful comes down to being content and grateful for what you have. It’s that time of year… Have you said thank you to God yet today?

Advent Week 1: Hope of Christmas

“A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” ~~ O Holy Night

Does Christmas thrill you?

Children get excited at the coming of the season. Some in anticipation of Santa, other simply because it’s Christmas. I still feel that same wonder. And maybe it’s because I’m single. Maybe it’s because I have the heart of child and, boy, do I hope that last through the rest of my life!

And yet, I have the same distractions every other adult faces each year. Trim the tree, plan a party (or parties), whatdo I get this person or that person, wrap, ship, write my annual Christmas letter.

And that is why I’m thankful for the season of Advent. In going through it at church, I can shift my focus on the things that truly matter this time of year.

The word advent derives from the Latin word for coming – the Lord is coming. The entire focus? The birth of Christ and the anticipation of His return as King. Advent is far more than simply marking history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ so that all of creation might be reconciled to God.

The first week of Advent brings Hope. Or Expectation. This draws attention to the hope we have in Christ and the expectancy of His return.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Did you catch the parallel between things hoped for and things unseen? Try applying assurance to something your five senses can’t detect. It’s challenging, isn’t it? The benefit of this is that hope, through Christ, is available to us no matter what we see, hear or feel. It’s above our circumstances.

Max Lucado agrees with Paul’s claim that hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:3-5):

Hope is not what you’d expect; it is what you would never dream. It is a wild, improbably tale with a pinch-me-I’m-dreaming ending… Hope is not a granted wish of a favor performed; no, it is far greater than that. It is a zany, unpredictable dependence on a God who loves to surprise us out of our socks and be there in the flesh to see our reaction.

Isn’t that amazing? How many times has your hope in Christ knocked your socks off?

Love…hopes all things…but now abide faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:7, 13

Have you ever wondered why those three are written in that order? Maybe hope isn’t something we automatically do. Maybe it’s something we receive, like grace. Check out Hebrews 11:6. Could it be true that without hope, God wouldn’t be able to please us? The same verse says that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Is hope that reward?

Think about this. If faith is what we give to God and hope is what He gives to us, then we have the dynamic of a relationship. With that in place, we can love. So love is built on hope, which is built on faith.

For hope to exist, hopelessness would have to exist first. We didn’t have hope prior to Christ. That, among many other reasons, is why God sent His Son. After all, a perfect world wouldn’t have the need for a Savior. Deliverance arrives undeservedly and perhaps, unexpectedly, just as in the unlikely way God came to earth to provide a once-and-for-all substitute for the sins of all men on that first Christmas 2000 years ago. That’s why circumstances in life can look bleak, but that’s where hope lives and thrives.

The good news? We can’t hope enough. That’s why our senses  and minds are inadequate to judge God’s design and methods and hope becomes more a function of God’s involvement than our desires. I, myself, could not have created the plan of salvation or the virgin birth. My creative imagination could not have concocted the plan for the walls of Jericho to come tumbling down, for the Red Sea to part and offer up dry land, or create all that we see (or Eden for that matter).  Nor do I have any idea what the answers are to my problems  or know what I will be blessed with this Christmas.

My prayer is this: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

Week 37: My Cup Runneth Over

The optimist says the cup is half full. The pessimist says the cup is half empty. The child of God says my cup runneth over. – Anonymous 

Being an optimist by nature, I tend to see the glass as half full. There is so much potential there! But, in having stumbled across the quote listed above, I have come to realize that, the majority of the time, the cup is actually overflowing.

The psalmist’s words in Psalm 23 come to mind when I think about how God has provided for me this past year. I pondered this as I made the 3.5 hour trek home from work Wednesday afternoon and my thoughts took me back to my freshman year of college and beyond.

God has given me more than I could ask for. I was raised in a loving home. My parents are still together after 28 years in a world torn by tragedy, sin and divorce. I have younger siblings. My brother has a wife; I’ve gained a new sister. I was taught what it means to be hospitable; to open my home to those in need. I had a roof over my head, a place to sleep and never went hungry. God gave me the gift of music and creativity; most of which got their start on Saturday afternoons with my Barbie doll crew in tow. He has kept me safe from harm.

In college, He guided my steps to CRU; to the place where He would begin to utilize me for His Kingdom and glory. He provided an exceptional worship leader to encourage me. He opened the doors to my first mission trip and then on to Oasis, the college ministry at Brookings Wesleyan, where I spent the next six years playing for Him. I have friends, both near and far. He provided a job in Sioux Falls after graduation and several places to live.

A year and a half ago, He opened a window to where I am today through my pastor asking if I would join them in planting a church in Minneapolis. He has since paved the way by providing housing and shelter, a job downtown and now a place to live. He has brought all of us from the Vine here and He continues to bless that ministry by allowing it to grow. He has blessed me beyond what I deserve and my cup overflows.

Week 36: Breaking Dawn

Vampires. Wolves. Love triangles. And the beauty of science fiction!

I recently finished reading Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga for the third time and recently watched Breaking Dawn in theatres.

This last read-through consisted of more than just my enjoyment of the tale. Many Christians have been questioning whether the books and movies of this saga are good. I read through it this time (as well as watched Breaking Dawn) looking specifically at the religious implications placed in the story. Have you looked at this aspect? Or even wondered about it?

There is a lot of skepticism on the morality of the Twilight series. I found the following ideals that go along with my Christian faith.

First, Edward struggles with the idea that he might not have a soul and therefore might end up in Hell. The fact that Heaven and Hell are even brought up in mainstream fiction is very encouraging. Also, the reader will note that Edward’s ultimate goal is to get Bella to a better place (Heaven), even if he doesn’t.  Edward demonstrates a very sincere, selfless kind of love, the kind a Christian should have for the people in their lives.

Second, there’s the theme of abstinence…until marriage. Very rarely is this theme even written about in mainstream fiction.

While with some secular fiction, you have to be very careful of what we allow ourselves to see and hear. In this series of novels, there are a few places where the characters are cursing to express themselves, but would I be wrong in supposing that it is less than many of us hear in our everyday lives?

Overall, I would recommend them. But if you find yourself uncomfortable with the idea of even glimpsing at the words or film, then don’t. We shouldn’t do things just because our peers do. Follow your own heart and the Spirit’s guidance.

Feel free to share your thoughts!

Love Came Down – I Believe

I believe
Love came down and rescued me
Love came down and set us free
For God loved this world
His Son, Jesus, our hearts beheld
He in tiny infant form
That early Bethlehem morn
So that we could be His
Forevermore

Week 35: Annual Recipe Extravaganza

Food sometimes equals comfort…at least for me. And maybe that’s my problem. J Then again, maybe not.

Several of my childhood memories consist of my mother, sister and I toiling away in the kitchen. I remember making applesauce and canning sweet corn every summer. The smell of Ziploc bags still gets me every time. I remember baking (mostly in the winter as the summers were too hot) and cooking (year round). There was some sort of magic in creating a meal or trying out a new recipe.

Every year for the past three years, my mom and I have set aside one weekend prior to the holidays where we just go crazy in the kitchen. We pick up the newest recipe catalog by Taste of Home and spend some of our time browsing new recipes online, choose the top ten and spend an entire weekend cooking and baking and then trying them out.

This year, the pumpkin cheesecake and cheesy vegetable bake were solid hits and I can’t wait to try them out at my grandparents’ Thanksgiving dinner on the 24th. It cannot come soon enough!

A Resolution to be Faithfully His

Note to reader: The following is the result of further study, research and reflection after reading a portion of The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer, a book written upon the influence of the movie Courageous, which hit theaters nation-wide in September/October of 2011.

 

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8

Are you devoted to Christ? Are you defined by His Word? Have you heard heaven’s call to God’s purpose for your life? Are you seeking to discover it as you wake each morning and live each day?

Not only are we called to be surprisingly satisfied, purposefully feminine or authentic, we are called to be faithful to the call God has given us each individually and corporately. The corporate level is a bit easier to live out with accountability and the strength that comes in numbers, but it’s the individual faithfulness that is the challenge. Did you know that the author of Hebrews calls Moses faithful?

We’re talking about the guy who was raised and educated in Egypt, in the palace, none-the-less. This was the guy who murdered one of his countrymen and then split, taking up a job under his pay grade and hiding…until God found him. Moses didn’t immediately heed the call God had given him from the burning bush. He kept making excuses as to why he couldn’t fulfill that role. And when he finally accepted the position, he was often known to lose patience with the inconstancy of the Israelite people and he usually allowed his anger to get the best of him. And yet, he is called faithful. Why?

His faithfulness is marked by the calling that he had been appointed to. Moses wasn’t perfect, but he was purposeful. He wasn’t sinless, but was marked by God’s presence. He marched to God’s standard; a force that drew him to desire what mattered to God and not what mattered to other people or his culture. Moses was persistent.

What does it mean to be faithful then? Priscilla Shirer refers to being faithful as heeding the call by heaven – an “appointment that ordered His priorities, pursuits, and passions. Not perfectly, but persistently” (72). God has also called us to be more in our own lives; in the time He’s given us, here and now. That call is “what causes us to feel a bit unsettled, sensing an internal ache we’re never quite able to quell, one that will not allow us to find complete satisfaction” in our culture (Shirer, 72).

God in Christ has made us different, and now He invites us to desire the things He made us different for. This is what qualifies the faithful – those who recognize, accept, and pursue God’s path, knowing He will see to it that His calling comes to fruition. The “faithful” are those who resolve to despise the pathways of earthly success in exchange for the divine mission given specifically and uniquely by the Father. – Priscilla Shirer

We’re called to lean into His voice; to listen, heed and conform our will to His. We’re called to uphold the basis of Scripture in the face of the contrary opinions offered by our world. We’re called to not only answer to earthly authority but to answer to the One who created us, loved us, and called us to Himself. We are called to live with God’s purpose in view and His voice in our souls. We are called to be in the world and not of it – not controlled by it, consumed by it, or compelled by it. We are called to pursue His purposes and to be driven by the passions He has placed within our hearts.

I keep thinking about the reason behind my move to Minneapolis. I came because God called. Two years ago, I had no idea what He had in store for me. I had committed my life to him when I was 18 (even though I had believed in Him my entire life) and found myself waiting for His call…and I knew it was coming. I could feel it. God has called me to something extraordinary. I may not be able to see the end result or even understand what it all entails, but I’m trusting in His good and perfect plan; in Him. I’m banking all that I am, all that He’s given me on Him. He would not have called me here for nothing.

I have faith in Him; faith enough to remain faithful. The difference between the two is belief vs. a physical outworking of action. According to Shirer, faithfulness is “born when the outward expressions of your beliefs are lived out over time…difficulty is where faithfulness is honed and brought to life” (76).

The key to being and remaining faithful to God is being rooted in His Word. I’m not talking about reading it during the Easter and Christmas holidays or just on Sundays when you’re at church. I’m talking about having a relationship using the Bible. I’m talking about daily taking time to just hang out with Him. We need to realize that being faithfully rooted in His Word allows us to learn from and enjoy Him. The Bible calls out the desire for relationship with God that He’s planted deep within our souls. The Bible speaks to our hearts and shows His people who He is. God uses His Word to “actively [renovate] us even when it seems like nothing unusual is taking place” (Shirer, 80). It’s not just to read. It’s to be absorbed; to be breathed in; to live by.  It’s life. It’s love. It’s living truth, solid as a rock and soft baby’s skin.

The Bible is the tool divinely inspired to guide and equip you for a life lived faithfully. In a world inundated with ideas to the contrary, it is your constant reminder of who you really are, why you’re really here, and who you really belong to.  – Priscilla Shirer

Faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes through the message about Christ. I resolve to live as a woman answerable to God and faithfully committed to His Word. Will you?

A Resolution to be Authentically Me

Note to reader: The following is the result of further study, research and reflection after reading a portion of The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer, a book written upon the influence of the movie Courageous, which hit theaters nation-wide in September/October of 2011.

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light: “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10

In going through this journey to make a resolution in my life, I’ve come to realize this week that I need to value myself and celebrate those around me and the route to that point will not be an easy one.

I’ve been in the world nearly twenty-seven years and, while I am a follower of Christ, life has not been a piece of cake. I’ve been tossed about by the waves of life and have even been dunked a few times. I’ve even bought into a few of the lies; where the world promises to fulfill this need and never ever follows through with that promise.

Pop culture constantly throws these promises in our face. In high school, I was intrigued by the covers of different magazines as well as following my so called group of friends. I wore what I thought was appropriate for a girl my age, according to the latest fashion ads. I spoke and treated people the way my friends did, even though I knew that it wasn’t right. I, a girl who only wanted to fit in, continuously tried to mold myself to what our society wanted. Today, I’m a health nut and read health magazines and articles on a daily basis. Headlines and magazine covers promise results in as little as a week or you can drop two sizes by Christmas. I find myself scoffing at the idea. Things is, God broke the mold when He made me and He breaks that same mold with all of us.

We tend to focus on all the little minute details, or even choose one to center everything else around rather than looking at the bigger picture. When decorating a room, we don’t pick out the tri-colored candle that we love to be the focal point. We take into the consideration the palette of the room, the furniture, rugs or wall art; the bigger things. We don’t center it around something so small and trivial. Decorating would be difficult if we did.

Too bad we don’t always take that same perspective with our lives. I myself, as mentioned before, have based my self-worth on lesser things – like the way I look, the group I best fit into, or the way I measure up to the world’s standards – to determine the type of woman I should be. I’ve bought that candle and made it the focal point of my life, mapping out everything else around it. I’m sure you’ve picked up false information from the world and applied it to your life, just as I have.

We need to take a step back, starting now, today, and take a good look at ourselves. We need to make the bigger, more definitive decisions first. What are you going to do with God’s dwelling place before figuring out where to hang the accessories?

Once we’ve settled the larger issues – our God-given worth – everything else will fall into place. Shirer states that only then will we have the “freedom to build out lives on what really matters, discarding all the things that don’t.”

Jeremiah 1:5 reads I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born, I set you apart and appointed you as My prophet to the nations.

He chose you.

He set you apart.

He appointed you.

On purpose.

God chose you – We are all part of a divinely designed, carefully calculated, and eternally significant plan. His decision in choosing you was not half-hearted or quick. Shirer reminds us that it was a “deliberate, volitional act of God Himself made with thoughtful consideration and wisdom.” His choice was based on a deep, intimate knowledge of who you are. Know that there is a reason for why He has you living this life, now in this area of the city/country and that you were chosen for such time as this. You did not choose Me; I chose you. (John 15:16)

God set you apart. We are unique, holy vessels of God and He has set us aside for specific times when the uniqueness we each offer can fully be used and valued. You life touches the lives of many and, at times, only your words and actions will be understand, heard, and accepted by some at a time when they need it most. Only you can deliver that message. They won’t hear it from anyone else. We were each created by God to “do our part…if we fail to do it because we don’t think its valuable enough, great loss will be suffered. Someone, somewhere, needs you – in all of your uniqueness –to step up to the plate of your calling” (pg. 58).

God has appointed you. Being chosen and set apart is quite an honor and it comes with great responsibility. And because you have been chosen and set apart, God appointed us to the places and positions we now hold for His divine design. Every kind of season and weather you individually experience has been divinely designed to surround you with only the conditions that will allow your unique gifts and abilities to reach their maximum potential. You will be able to grow, yield and produce to your utmost extent. Shirer also points out the seeds God has given you will produce a crop that is yours to grow; no one else will shoulder your responsibility.

You are the only you the world has. Cherish it.