Monthly Archives: June 2013

Shared Post: Why We Should Take Fun Seriously

Yet another fabulous article I stumbled on during my daily browsing session – good stuff! Especially since I’m an advocate for living a full life…fun included.

Enjoy!

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Why We Should Take Fun Seriously

Jason Todd

By Jason Todd
June 21, 2013

Jason Todd is Assistant Minister to Students at New Community Church in Wildwood, MO. He is currently finishing his M.Div. at Covenant Theological Seminary and his first picture book, H-Hoo’s There?, is available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Dunrobin Publishing.

If you’re having fun, you’re not wasting time.
 
love to have fun, but sometimes I feel a little guilt about it. It feels like I’m wasting my time.Should I really be throwing around this Frisbee when I could be working on something that matters? Is it OK to play video games or I am I just sustaining adolescence? As a responsible adult, should I value work as something intrinsically better than play?

We Americans tend to pride ourselves on our work ethic. We work long hours for our hard-earned wages. That’s good and commendable. Many excellent sermons and books have rightly upheld our moral obligation to fight laziness and provide for our loved ones. But if we can’t find a way to enjoy the simple God-given pleasures of life and play, we may just work ourselves to death.

God takes playtime seriously. We should too.

Of course, all good things can be abused. But what follows is an attempt to free us up from the pressure of finding identity only in our work. We can become so myopic that we miss out God’s intentions for fun and play and celebration.

God takes playtime seriously. We should too.

How do we know God likes to have fun? We need only open the Scriptures:

Israel was to have days of gladness (Num.10:10) which included victory celebrations and festivals. And their festivals would have put Mardi Gras to shame—all of the fun without any of the guilt. God’s people were commanded to celebrate for days and days during the Feast of Weeks (what the Greeks called Pentecost) and the Feast of Tabernacles (Deut.16:9-17).

Think about that. The Israelites were under divine command to celebrate and give thanks to God for good food and good wine to have fun with. God took their happiness so seriously that He threatened to exile His people if they did not “serve the Lord [their] God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things” (Deut.28:47-48).Even the restoration of God’s people from exile involves laughter and fun and dancing (Jer.30:19; 31:4). After the return of Christ, His people will enjoy an incredible marriage feast (Rev.19:6-10). Let’s not forget God created wine for the purpose of gladdening our hearts (Ps.104:15). If Jesus made great wine at the wedding of Cana, how good will that heavenly vintage be? How glad will our hearts be then? What kind of reckless celebration will that be? When David brought the ark of God back to Jerusalem, he was “making merry before the Lord” (2 Sam.6:5, 21; 1 Chron.13:8). He was celebrating with all his might and it was a form of worship. It was right and good to be at play before God.

Gladness has a purpose. It’s meant to point us to God in worship

Psalm 104:26 says God created the Leviathan for a very specific purpose. Whatever the Leviathan was (a crocodile, a whale, a now-extinct sea monster, etc.), the Bible says God created it to play in the sea. Its very purpose was to frolic and romp and celebrate the joy of swimming.What kind of God creates such an animal? What does such a childlike creature reveal about the heart of our God?

God has an eternal sense of playfulness that we are free to imitate.

Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is a time to weep and a time to laugh. The word translated “laugh” is the same word used to describe the playing of the Leviathan. There is a time to frolic. You might not be in that time right now, but understand that God gives his people an enormous freedom to enjoy playtime.

Gladness has a purpose. It’s meant to point us to God in worship (Acts 14:17). If God loves to have fun and if He loves for His people to have fun, we need to consider how we think about fun.

If I bear the image of God and if God seems to revel in pure and honest playfulness, perhaps I don’t take fun seriously enough.

Yes, do a hard day’s work. Yes, be responsible with your time. But the God who worked six days also took the seventh to rest. The God who holds the universe together also created our bodies to play and our hearts to be glad.

conquering fear

Fear. Hope. Courage.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you lacked one and felt an excess of the other? I have. Numerous times.

Fear.

Webster’s Dictionary defines fear as follows:

1) to be afraid or apprehensive of

2) to have a reverential awe of (God)

Now, the latter is good for you, but the former is, well…I’d like to dig into that.

Fear.

We all experience it.

I have both irrational and rational fears. You do too, whether you are fully aware of them or not.

  • I fear both failure and success and sometimes, both of those keep me grounded where I’m at, not moving forward or taking steps back.
  • I fear fire; of losing something to a raging inferno. I guess you could look at that fear from multiple angles: losing a loved one or valued objects (so petty of me, I know – I’m sometimes a tad bit too sentimental for my own good) to a house fire, being “burned” in a relationship, being burned by fire myself (there are a few interesting stories to go along with that portion of this fear) and more. I used to have nightmares about a never-ending inferno combined with the screams of someone who mattered burning alive and to this day, I can remember the last one I had quite vividly.
  • I fear snakes.
  • I fear certain situations in life never coming to fruition. I also fear those same things coming to their full potential (i.e. waiting for that metaphorical shoe to drop/what if it doesn’t?).
  • I fear any relationship coming to an abrupt end, whether it be because of a difference of opinion or lifestyle, a change in life’s circumstances (i.e. moving away), or the loss of a loved one. I’ve been blessed in the fact that I haven’t lost an immediate family member or a really close friend. Someday though. After all, we’re not guaranteed tomorrow, much the less the next minute.
  • I fear not being loved back; of never being someone’s choice; of being alone.
  • I fear that the things I enjoy most in this life could be snatched away from me at any given moment. This goes for relationships, a job, volunteering opportunities, people, my church, etc.

These are just a few on a list that seems to grow the more aware I become of my fears as I experience the ins and outs of everyday living.

I had never thought of myself as the anxious type, but in reading a book about insecurity and doing a study on it a year and a half ago changed my perspective on that and made me oh-so-aware of where I fall on that chart.

Is anxiety a disease or an affliction? Perhaps it is something of both. Partly…because you can’t help it, and partly because for some dark reason you choose not to help it, you torment yourself with detailed visions of the worst that can possibly happen. – Frederick Buechner

Yeah, I’ve been there. I’m a worrier. I’m a woman for crying out loud…aren’t we worriers by nature? Ugh! Can I just state that the amount of time I spend worrying over things beyond my control frustrates me to no end? It does. Oh, how it does.

Erwin McManus (a very, very wise man) once said, ” What you fear is what you are subject to. Your fears define the boundaries of your life. When you fear God, you are subject only to Him.”

Chew on that with me for a moment. My fear of fire could confine me to the boundaries of whatever room I’m in if I were to be caught in a structural fire. My fear of success and failure could keep me from exploring the possibility of starting and running my own business. But…when I fear only God, the possibilities are endless. He has no end. He is eternity. And He is all I need to fear. Everything else pales and shrinks in comparison to Him. Always.

Moving on…

I’ve been reading a book by Jerusha Clark through which God, in His amazing love and the truth of His gospel, has been setting me free: Every Thought Captive. Ever wonder whether we can control our wandering thoughts; our worries; our fears? We can. Transformation doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow process, this transforming of my mind from the inside out, and I’ve begun to see the evidence of this in my own life.

In chapter 3, Jerusha Clark shares the stories of three women, who, like many of us, worry and/or deal with anxiety. One worries over her grades, relationships and her future. Another worries about the day-to-day mundane tasks and the details of life. And still, another fretted over things that were beyond her control, like what other people thought of her, past mistakes, family, work.

Unfortunately, I’ve been in the shoes of all three to some degree and I’m sure you can relate. Regardless of what you believe, lots of women live fear-filled, anxious or worried lives. We worry about everything from whether or not we left the coffeepot on to whether we’ll ever get married or have children. I worry about where I placed my Bluetooth and if it will be there when I need it. I worry about my car falling apart when it doesn’t sound right. I worry about my mom and her diabetes. I worry about my relationships with my girlfriends when we’re at odds. I worry about being single when I’m ninety. I sometimes worry about the storms that we get overnight (particularly this time of the year) and whether I will be here in the morning. I worry about leaving projects unfinished. I worry about the future of my relationship with this incredible guy God brought into my life. I worry about what I will wear in the morning. I worry about the unknowns. This list goes on. I’m sure I’ve probably worried myself sick at times. We have a tendency to plan and manipulate every detail of our lives, desperately trying to avoid the things we fear. Oh, how true that statement is!

While I don’t feel that it rules my entire day as I am slowly learning that I have a choice in how I spend the majority of my time (when not focused on work or a conversation at hand), I choose to converse with God. Nine times out of ten, I probably look insane…that girl, talking to herself. But, I do struggle with this.

I’ve been dealing with my suffering, troubled and distracted mind for quite some time now, and the sick part is that I get some sort of dark, twisted enjoyment out of the whole thing…on some level at least. Dave Ramsey once compared a person’s debt to a toddler’s poopy diaper and the need to change. The toddler sceams: No! It’s warm and it’s mine. Gross, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought when I first heard him say that. Thing is, it’s true when it comes to the things we worry about/fret over (and many other  things in life). We think that these concerns are ours and should be handled in our way and on our time table and we don’t need the help of anyone else. It’s our junk. Thing is, the warmth fades and all you’re left with is this rotten, raunchy, rancid odor that can reek into every other part of your life. Who wants that?

Worry causes us to regret the past and fear the future…Worry robs the present of our presence, for we are ever living behind or ahead of ourselves. Joylessness and discouragement usually follow. Jerusha Clark

Satan likes to see me down and is determined to keep me there. Just when I think I’ve gotten a grip on being content in any situation I find myself in (not to mention finding joy there), he does all he can to disrupt that steady stream of peace that can only come from my Savior, Jesus Christ. I often find myself standing in awe (the good kind of fear mentioned earlier) at how many times Jesus has lifted me from that pit and I start asking how many more times will there be? Thing is, I’m human…a sinner turned saint, yes…but I’m human and the things that try to tie me down in this life are the results of a fallen world (see Genesis 3). Why do I keep crawling back into that hole? Partly, because I think I deserve it and partly because I don’t truly believe, with all my heart, that God could love me enough to keep me out of it; that He sees me as righteous and clean; as His.

To make this a little bit clearer, I’d like to paint a picture for you. I recently read up on a bank robber who robbed 29 Wells Fargo stage coaches between 1875 and 1883: Black Bart. The man managed to strike fear into the hearts of his victims. He used his evil demeanor to ignite fear in anyone unfortunate to be on or around a Wells Fargo stagecoach during a robbery. He used fear to get his victims eyes on their current circumstance. He knew distracting them from what was true was his only hope for a successful robbery and get away. The truth about Black Bart was in the 29 robberies history documents; he never once fired his gun or took a hostage. I wonder if the victims in his later robberies would have been as afraid if they had just set their mind on that truth. And like Black Bart, the Evil One uses fear as a tool to distract us from what is true.

Satan’s understanding of who we are in Christ is evidenced by his repeated attempts to get us to submit to fear. When we are fully aware of the truth of who we are in Jesus; in the truth that He overcame everything, we will not be afraid. The only thing Satan can do is distract us from this truth. He does so by attempting to re-direct our focus from our riches in Christ onto our seemingly fearful circumstances. Satan knows he can’t rob us of those riches, so he has no choice but to encourage us to lose sight of all we have and all we are in Christ.

He speaks lies into our minds that we find ourselves believing. Jerusha Clark debunks a few of those in her book and I’d like to share those incredible, God-given insights with you for a brief moment:

Lie #1: If only… You know the saying: “Hindsight is 20/20.” Like Jerusha, I’ve often found myself despairing about my past, wondering whether making a different decision would have radically changed the course of my life. And when I think about those things, my imagined response or action is almost always better than what I said or did. But…when these thoughts come at me, I have to keep one truth in mind:

Truth #1: I can trust God with my past, my present and my future…
“Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43.18-19 NRSV
What truth there is behind those words! While we may not “forget” former things, we need to see the good in the moment.  God, in His amazing grace, will make a way…even when I make a complete mess out a situation or make the worst possible decision. God. Will. Make. A. Way. He always does.
Beth Moore, in her study on Esther, writes, “You cannot amputate your history from your destiny, because it is redemption.” Think about that for a moment. I cannot black out my past because it defines Christ’s redemption in me. It’s also a tool in reaching others for their redemption. The Bible is the story of redemption…His children’s past, present and future.
The point here is not so much “whether or not I made the ‘right’ decision but whether I choose to see God’s presence in every choice.” Words to the wise, huh?

Lie #2: What if…? This one is my downfall…major downfall. My personal list of “what if” questions and scenarios is endless. Satan uses those thoughts against me, lying to me by saying that God doesn’t care about me enough or that He isn’t good enough or strong enough to get me from point A to point B. Most of the fears I listed above fall into this category: What if I fail? What if I succeed? What if this relationship is taken away? What if I’ve let it become an idol? What if…? The question rings on. I’ve discovered that either because of past sin or general insecurity, many women, including myself, “fear that what they enjoy will be snatched” from them by a “pernicious, exacting, ‘you reap what you sow’ God.”
“Life is an overwhelming force. Relationships are an overwhelming force. Even God is an overwhelming force.” And all too often, I’ve bought into the lie that I can control my life to some degree. I try to make plans for how I would deal with the outcome of certain trials (i.e. my next conversation with a friend, not seeing another for x number of days, a baptism ceremony gone wrong). Even when a bad thing I’ve anticipated actually does happen, the situation definitely never unfolds the way I expect it to. “Life, people, and an infinite number of potentialities make it impossible to discern what might happen.” I cannot discern my own future any more than my friend, pastor or accountability partner can. Only God can see what’s around that next river bend.
I’d like to echo Jerusha’s comment here: “Great. Thanks. Now what?”

Truth #2: Jeremiah 29.11 If you don’t know that one, look it up. Even though we are vulnerable and life spins out of control on a regular basis, we are not powerless. Quite the opposite actually: we have the greatest power conceivable within us – the Holy Spirit of a very living and breathing God. However, this power is not ours to wield. We are called to submit to His movement in our lives – His work is out of our control. We are called to trust that He knows what is best for us even when we cannot see it ourselves. Trusting Him in this does not mean that everything will be grand all of the time. In this world, we will have trouble. But…He has overcome the world.
The worst that life could throw at you – your worst nightmares becoming reality – will not “take His steadfast love, compassion, or peace from you. Our minds need to be just as active, alive and conscious to worry as they are to exercise faith. Why don’t we start the rewarding journey toward using our vivid imaginations to hope and to have faith in the Anchor of our souls?”

Lie #3: If I don’t control my circumstances, no one will. I often feel that if I just simply let go, everything I’ve held on to will spin out of control and there will be nothing left but ashes when all it’s said and done. How false is that?
I often find myself using excuses (much like Moses did prior to leading the people out of Egypt) like “Sure, I trust God…but I’ve disobeyed so long, I need to get myself right first before I let Him have control of my life again.” We tend to make loopholes, or excuses, in God’s promises. In doing so, we undermine His character in destructive ways.
Everyone questions God at some point in their lives. I have and there’s a good chance I’ll do so again. I question His ability to calm me in the midst of any storm I might face. I don’t like not feeling safe. I fear it, actually. Being out of control equates not feeling safe to me. And since that doesn’t feel safe, I try to control my little world in order to avoid being hurt. Thing is, when I fall for Satan’s lie about God’s control and try to do it on my own, how much hurt would I save myself if I just let go? Good question.

Truth #3: Only God has the power to bring all things under His control. Philippians 3.21 states that God (Yahweh) has “power that…enables Him to make all things subject to Himself.” How can I not even consider that the Creator of the universe, of all things seen, can’t control my own little world?
In the last few years, I’ve discovered that God has a tendency to show His love for me through my battles with anxiety and worry. I’ve learned to love Him more; that I fall more in love with Him in those moments. I’m learning from my fears what I really value and, what I may be investing too much concern in. I’m learning to let go.
Remember the other definition for “fear” mentioned at the start of this entry? That fear, that awe that we are to have for God drives out the worries that harass us. In His presence, our worries and fears shrink.

Lie #4: If I don’t worry about someone or something, I must not care enough. Doesn’t that statement just evoke the feeling of carrying the entire world on your shoulders? It does for me and yet I’ve bought into that lie more times than I care to remember. Webster’s dictionary defines worry as this: to torment oneself with disturbing thoughts (among others…). Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? When I worry, it’s usually more about me than it is about the other person…I don’t like admitting that, but it’s true. With each situation that I worry over, the afterthought always seems to twirl around What’s in it for me?
“Anxiety torments the worrier because it is really about the worrier. Fear seizes us by the throat and mangles us. Worry harasses, repeatedly bites, and disturbs us because, again, we don’t want to face our own pain or the pain of others.” – Jerusha Clark

Truth #4: God cares for my loved ones and my life more than I can. Read the following from 1 Peter 5.7 (multiple translations):
Let Him have all your worries and cares, for He is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you. TLB
Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about what happens to you. NLT
Live carefree before God;
He is most careful with you. MSG
Truth in its finest form.
However, let me make a note on this – along with Jerusha Clark: a woman cannot simply “cast all [her] cares” on the Lord in one glorious moment. I’ve tried. There are days when I attempt to do this in the morning only to receive a bill that I don’t have the funds for that afternoon…worrywart all over again.
However, I’ve discovered (and am still learning at times) that a “moment-by-moment exchange of my misconceptions for truth is the only solution to the problem of anxiety” and worry. When stuff starts to crop up, I need to choose in that moment to let God have that concern. We’ve been given an “amazing opportunity to toss all our troubles upon Him who will care for and love – more than we ever could – everything and everyone who concerns us.” We have to choose to trust that.
(Every Thought Captive. Clark, Jerusha. Pg. 53-61)

Now, you may be asking: What can I do when worry/fear rears its ugly head?

First, keep your eyes on Jesus. Fear and faith cannot reign together. Where fear reigns, faith fades. Where faith reigns, fear has no place. It’s when we choose to look at our circumstances and take our eyes off Jesus for a split second, we sink.

Second, admit that worry accomplishes nothing. It only wastes emotions better used elsewhere and wears out the soul, robbing you of today. Personally, I’ve never fixed a situation by fretting over it. Worry does not need to be the force that motivates you. If I focus on that, I miss out on God’s hand moving in my life and in the lives of those around me, orchestrating the Divine Romance He began at creation. I also miss out on learning how to love genuinely and am instead driven to make my own way in an attempt to protect myself. I don’t want to miss out on that or waste my time trying to add a single hour to my life by worrying.

Third, make the choice to show up in God’s presence. When you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you…God promises that in His Word. If needed, ask the question: Who is bigger – God or your problem?

Fourth, learn to lean on others. We, as the body of Christ and family of God, are called to carry one another’s burdens. I’ve all too often discovered that when I hit those pits, I want to run and hide and simply be alone. No more. I’m learning to let my sisters in Christ know when I’m struggling and when I’m down. In turn, God uses them to lift me up via words of encouragement, a piece of scripture (usually Psalms) read in prayer, a hug or simply just being there in the silence. It doesn’t take long for me to realize how deeply I need someone else’s input; someone who has an unbiased opinion on any situation I may be fretting over; someone whose compass is better than my emotional one to guide me back to the arms of Christ.

And finally, do not be discouraged when fears reassert themselves. Reoccurring fears are part of our human condition and a fact in this fallen world. When fear knocks, don’t hesitate to run to God. The consuming fire of His love will banish those thoughts (or at least shrink them) in that moment. God is more than capable of (and will keep) reminding us of His truth (John 14.26-27).

Remember my mentioning how Satan tends to mess with our thoughts?

He made one such attempt on my own thought life this morning, at 3 A.M. of all times; at a moment when my mind was at its most vulnerable. The “if only” and “what if” questions started to swirl in my mind after I had gotten up to get some water. I remember mindlessly attempting to make my way back to my bedroom and the next thing I know, I’m on the floor in a fit of tears and “what ifs” raging through my mind. My overactive, idealistic imagination kicked in (Me? Have an overactive imagination? No! Never!) and my mind jumped from one scenario, one conclusion to the next. Some brought tears, some frustration and anger, and others, a hopeful smile. It’s the former two that tend to lead me down a dark road I’d rather not take and this morning’s episode was no different.

However, I found that I could control my wayward thoughts by fixing my eyes on Jesus, just as Peter did in Matthew 14. I turned the bedside lamp on and poured over scripture (particularly Joshua 1:9, Romans 8:37 and a few of the other 365 times Scripture references “Do not fear”/”Do not be afraid”) and prayed. Success! In less than 30 minutes (these tirades can last half the night and sometimes into the day…even days on end), I was at peace and was soon able to fall back to sleep…tears of joy and all. It was in choosing…I repeat: choosing…to fix my eyes on Him that I was able to confidently rise above those lies and fears and trust in Him; to trust in His perfect timing; to trust that He knows what He is doing with and in my life. I simply have to choose to trust Him…to pick up that cross and follow Him, daily.

Now, don’t get me wrong…today has been a struggle thus far. I’m exhausted, but happy; emotional (just a tidge) in a good way; and spiritually drained. I’m also very aware of my surroundings, which has made work very difficult. But, in this, God is still good and I’m choosing to trust Him with today. I don’t have the energy to deal with what may come my way. He does.

This hope is for you, too. We can overcome anything in this life if we’d only make the choice to keep our eyes on Jesus, the only One who saves. He already overcame this world. Through Him, we are more than conquerors.

**On a side note, I recommend purchasing this book. I recommend reading it and making your own notes in the margins. I’ve discovered that when I lend out a book with so much insight (especially when it comes to the spiritual lives of us women), I may never get it back. So…if it was worth me marking up the margins in mine, I can only guarantee you’ll mark the margins in yours. Every Thought Captive can be purchased at any Christian book store (if in stock) or here, at CBD.com.

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Shared Post:

Ah research…and reading. I came across this entry on Boundless.org this morning and felt the need to share with you as this is one desire (among many) that has been placed on my heart lately….it’s also something I’m currently learning. Enjoy!

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Posted by: Amy Seed – Jun 19, 2013 12:56 PM – Found here

As I made a batch of banana chocolate chip cookies a few nights ago, I started thinking about all the ways I can use my state of singleness to prepare for my future marriage.

There are different skills men and women bring to marriage. Relational skills add depth and speak volumes into marriages that practical skills cannot. And there are different aspects of character each need to work on in order to make marriage successful.

Men are expected to be spiritual leaders and should therefore make cultivating an attitude of spiritual leadership a priority. A husband’s job is to love his wife as Christ loves the church, and he does this through servant leadership. His duty is to ensure his decisions reflect his wife’s best interests and not his own selfish desires. This means he must learn to consider his wife’s input as much as his own.

Wives must learn to submit to their husbands as to the Lord. This means respecting any decisions he makes and encouraging him in faith. Wives should encourage their husbands to be active — not passive — leaders by honoring their leadership and forsaking any desire to usurp it. Women must also learn to think of their husbands before themselves and cultivate an attitude of helpfulness.

Marriage itself cultivates many of the attitudes required for a successful union as it refines our character to be more Christlike, but there are things we can do now to help prepare us for that giant commitment we’ll make someday.

The most important thing we can do for our future spouse is grow daily in Christ. We need to become people of Scripture and of prayer. In doing so, we will gain priceless wisdom and strength. With Christ as our solid foundation, we will be able to love and encourage our spouse in a selfless way.

For our future marriage to reflect Christ and His love for the church, we need to practice loving others with a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love. We need to cultivate attributes of patience, kindness and humility. We must learn how to put others before ourselves. We need to practice forgiveness daily and recognize that marriage is a lifelong union between two sinners.

For me, a big part of preparing myself for marriage is looking at my mom as an example of a godly wife and mother. There are practical skills I’ve learned from her over the years about managing a household, but I’ve also learned something by observing her character. She is always thinking of other people and their needs above her own.

She recognizes my dad as the head of the household. He asks for and considers her input, but ultimately, he makes the final decisions. My parents set an example for me of what it looks like to have a successful complementarian partnership in marriage where the husband is the head and the wife the helper.

What characteristics of husbands and wives do you think are crucial to a successful marriage? Share some things you are doing in your life now to prepare for marriage later.

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Please share your comments. I welcome any and all feedback!

Be blessed!

a healthier me

So…I’ve been keeping a small secret from you all. One that includes the rest of my life…not just the spiritual, important and heavy stuff I typically write. So…mind if I share that with you? Good.

Did you know that I also maintain another blog (granted, it hasn’t been updated since January of this year, but I digress)? I do. On my health journey – and it can be found here. I wanted to start cross-referencing this stuff and share my success with you in an effort to motivate or encourage you, no matter where you’re at. Here goes….

Change is beautiful.

I, for one, have never made a resolution in my entire life. I grew up in a home where they weren’t made and I remember thinking that people who did were strange. Why reach for some out-of-this-world resolution and set yourself up for failure from the get-go?

Example:
Day 1: Starting from nothing, I’m going to work out at least an hour every day and eat only veggies, fruits and lean meats.
Day 4: Oreos, where art thou? (I chose Oreos because they are one of my weakness…that and bacon).
And before you know it, you’ve caved and burned your way through a package of Oreos rather than torching 400 calories on the treadmill. Guilt sets in and you decide to throw in the towel, thinking, “Better luck next year.”

My mom and dad always made a list of goals, both large and small, as to what they wanted to accomplish in the next year and mapped out the progress one could make one step at a time. Success was usually the result. We, as a family, have learned over the years to become fans of taking it one day at a time. After all, I’m not guaranteed tomorrow. And that technique has branched over into my adulthood (I’m still learning).

A friend of mine once wrote on body image and how her thoughts/actions could affect her daughter’s self-esteem and I agree with her. Most women struggle with it in different ways, some more than others, and I’m not a stranger to the whole issue. 

I enjoyed playing as a child (prior to 1st grade), hated recess and gym class all through grade/high school, opted out of the wellness program while I was in college (oh how I wish I would have gone instead!), and started paying little attention to my health afterwards. Sure, my athletic ability was challenged in high school during the volleyball and softball seasons and when we had to run the mile for those presidential wellness tests…I truly loathed that day and yet, I made myself run that blasted mile anyway, whether it took me 12 minutes or 17, I dragged myself over that finish line.

I was scrawny when I was little, ballooned the summer after my fourth grade year, no thanks to a crash course in junk food (i.e. Little Debbie’s, chips, pop and Twinkies…my stomach turns now just thinking of that), survived a disease-riddled “crash diet” when I was 12, rushed through puberty and packed on the Freshman 15 (and then some) when I went off to college and moved away from home.

Two and a half years ago marked a change in my life. A photo taken at a Christmas party sparked outrage at myself for letting myself go. We are each our own worst critic, right? Yep. December of 2010 (I could not wait until January 1st to make aforementioned resolution) marked a change for me and it’s one that I’m proud to say has become a lifestyle change for the better.

I started eating better, choosing fruits, veggies and proteins over bags of chips and soda.  I gave up soda completely prior to that horrid Christmas photo and I’m proud to say that as of this past March, it has been three years since I’ve had soda/pop of any kind and my body thanks me for it (as do my teeth). I haven’t had chips in forever (seems like it at least) and fruits are usually my go-to desserts when I’m dealing with my sweet tooth. I also started going to the gym more, doing what I had learned by watching videos on YouTube or any reading material I could get my hands on.

It wasn’t until my move to Minneapolis in 2011 though that I really started noticing a change. I went from driving to and from work to walking everywhere, putting in anywhere from 10,000 to 17,000 steps a day. I joined an excellent gym downtown (2013 makes this two years and going strong) and my calendar marks more days spent at the gym than any year prior. I started taking yoga classes. I now have a couple of personal trainers who encourage and motivate me week in and week out. I do Pilates. I’ve gone through five pairs of sneakers.

I prefer mornings, but both the location of my gym and my work schedule keep me going in the afternoons, with the exception of the weekends, and I’ve learned to love it. I’ve learned to love my body and who I am at every changing step along the way.

My core is stronger that it’s ever been. I’m fitter than I’ve ever been. And now that I’m looking back on where I’ve come from, I personally think that gym class teachers have it wrong. One doesn’t just take any kid and tell them to run a mile without building up their endurance first. My running today is better than it was when I was in grade school and I can easily make it in under 9 minutes now.  

In the last two years, I’ve dropped just over 40 lbs, have gained muscle and am more toned in places I never thought I would be. I’ve also lost nearly 60 inches over my entire body and am learning to love what I see in the mirror with each passing day. God, in His goodness, created me and He sees me as beautiful; He deems me as good (Genesis 1.27-31). How is beyond what my finite mind can fathom. I simply trust that He does. That, my friends, is motivation for this entire movement.

It’s not easy. It takes work, dedication and strength to ignore the voices that tend to drag me back. It takes determination. It takes discernment in knowing who you can share your success with and who you can’t. There are a few who will see it as a negative habit and will feel obligated to tell you so and there are those who don’t; those who will share in your successes and encourage you to continue onward.

I’m not sharing this information to make you feel bad. I’m sharing it to motivate you, to offer support and encouragement, and so you, my friends, can share in my success. It’s motivating and encouraging to hear success stories – it promotes the thought: if he/she can do it, I can too.

The remainder of 2013 stretches before me with goals I’d like to reach in all aspects of my life: physically, mentally, emotionally, financially and spiritually. I’m focusing on maintaining my healthy lifestyle and living beyond the number on the scale, building deep relationships and maintaining them, blogging and writing more, finding my security and identity in Christ, spending more time in the Word and prayer, learning to live on a budget and getting out of my comfort zone. So far, all of these have either happened or are happening.

What are your goals for the remainder of this year? What is your motivation; what keeps you going?

I pray that God will carry you through if those goals and plans fall into His will. Be blessed! Be you! Be-YOU-tiful!

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

And remember, no matter how fast you’re going, you’re still lapping everyone who is still lounging on the couch.

Until next time…

the three ‘L’s: living fully, loving completely and “letting God”

Broad topic, eh? Yep.

I’ve discovered that these three often go hand-in-hand and during this season of my life, the following words couldn’t be truer today.

I.  Living life to the full

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller

What does it mean to have life to the full as Jesus states in John 10.10: “I came so that everyone would have life, and have it to the fullest”?

The desire for fulfillment is universal. Everyone wants it. Everyone needs it. From the moment we’re born, we recognize our need, our hunger, for more of life. We try to hold onto every experience, enjoy every relationship, and maximize every opportunity we come across. We try to fill that God-shaped void with everything this world has to offer and we always, always find ourselves still feeling empty after those brief moments of fulfillment subside. We discover that no matter how many adventures we seek or things we attempt fill our lives with, we never seem to be satisfied.

It is not by chance that we seek to live fulfilling lives. God created us this way. We are, after all, created in His image and this facet of our humanity sets us apart from the rest of creation. We have the ability to feel emotion, to hunger to grow and learn because of those same characteristics in God. This is what causes us to be creative and drives us to enjoy and treasure the very lives we live.

Why the disconnect? Why do so many of us feel like we’re always running on empty? Why is it that even with religion, we still feel as though we are not living our lives to their fullest potential? Because we seek that fulfillment in everything but Him. We were created for relationship and that longing is only made complete when we have a relationship with and in Him.

God gave us many things which are pleasurable and which He made for us to enjoy, but their sole purpose was only to point us towards Him. Instead, we make these things into idols and continuously seek to fill that void with them. Without that relationship with God, every other experience is dulled by being limited to itself. It no longer satisfies its original purpose – to point us toward the Creator of all things who imagined it.

This is the truth that I’ve been discovering the last decade of my life. Granted, this all started when I was four years old, but a child can only comprehend so much. Believing was easy (childlike faith). As I got older, even that became more and more difficult as Satan used culture, legalism, and worldly views to “teach” me what to believe, how to act, etc.

What does it mean to live the Christian life, a life to the full?

First, a life to the fullest is a life that is characterized by being in a relationship with Jesus, because He Himself is the definition of life.  John 14.6 identifies Jesus as the life: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” A bold statement, yes. This is a truth that we must first understand and embrace. There is no way to live life to the full except through Jesus Christ. Life to the full means having abundant, eternal life and only He offers it. Call me intolerant; call me narrow-minded – whatever you like, but this is truth. We cannot pick and choose which parts of Jesus we accept and which we don’t. We have to accept all of Jesus.

Second, following Christ is a choice that must be made daily: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”(Luke 9.23) Did you catch that one word in there? Daily.

Third, we need to understand that we are a new creation: I am no longer who I was. I’ve been made new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Fourth, we must allow Him to transform and renew our minds (Romans 12.2). We’ve been conditioned to think the way our culture does…about everything. Only God can transform you from the inside out. All too often in my life, I’ve fallen for the lie that I’m not good enough; that my insecurities will always be there to hold me down and that I’ll never rise above them. But, here’s a staggering thought: Jesus already overcame them. He did so when He gave His life for me on the cross. I’m covered. Because of His sacrifice, I have the authority through Him to rise above temptation; to rise above those insecurities. I am healed. I have been set free; free to live my life to the fullest in the only way possible: in and through Him.

Fifth, we must treat others with love, the way Christ commands us. See the next section of this entry.

Sixth, we must live out His teachings. We don’t do this because we have to. We do so because we want to honor Him…these commands are lived out in us because we want to honor Him with every fiber of our being. This is an outflow of the love I have for God. There are moments in my life (I say moments because I am finite in comparison) when I can’t wait to express my love to Him.

Lastly, I’m able to have life to the full through sharing my faith with others. Nothing brings me more joy (or the Spirit more joy which I, in turn, experience spewing from within me) than living out my life the way God calls me to. Living this way brings up questions from those my life directly touches…”Why do you do this?” “Why do you do that?” “How can you stand on that conviction?” “Where do these thought processes come from?” “Explain your faith.” “Are you sure you’re only 28?” (That last one makes me chuckle just a bit.)

“Life is an exciting business, and most exciting when it is lived for others.” – Helen Keller

Along with living life to the full, there are several things I would never want to regret in this life I’ve been given:

  • To never spend time discovering the amazing life that God has for me to live. God has a great plan for me. He even has a great plan for you. And the only way to discover that great life is by spending time with Him and living it. He gave you a life. Live it.
  • To not spend quality time with family and friends – to never have the time to build those relationships. You don’t ever want to look back over your life and realize that you put everything else above family and friends. Yes, it is a fact that we have responsibilities outside of our family and social lives, but it is very important to have balance. No relationship is worth climbing the corporate ladder or winning that next prize. What is the point of achieving success if we have no one to share it with?
    We were created to relate to one another and bring glory to God in doing so, not spend our days toiling for that next paycheck. Now, don’t get me wrong, there isn’t anything wrong with work in and of itself. God gave us work to do at the beginning of creation, but don’t let that become your life. Relationships and the time spent in building those are very important. Keeping close contact with the people you love during the process of achieving success won’t leave anyone feeling like you neglected them. Making that commitment to set aside quality time to spend with them can not only leave you feeling fulfilled, it will leave them feeling fulfilled and valued as well. One of my co-workers once said, “I don’t live to work. I work so I can live.” She’s right, you know.
  • To never enjoy the life He’s given me. You deserve to enjoy your life. You deserve to take a day and rest (God set that example back in Genesis 2.2-3, again in Hebrews 4.4); you deserve to do the things that make you happy and spend quality time (as mentioned above) with those you value most. And the beautiful part? We can choose to do this every day. Yes, every day! This doesn’t have to include taking a vacation. For me, it’s reading a book. It’s going on a long walk down by the river. It’s exploring my city. It’s touching the keys (piano for those of you who do not know what I’m referring to). It’s heading to this little woodland nature preserve and taking in all that God has to offer me. It’s going on a walk with Him while pouring out my heart on my darkest days. There is so much fulfillment in that.
  • To never pursue my dreams. One of my biggest fears is success. I’m not so much afraid of failing – it happens all the time – (granted, starting a new business always has its risks), but what if I succeed? What then? I’m not out to boost my ego or anything, but what if? And, at the same time, I also fear not taking the chance. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take and this dream of mine has been mulling in the pipeline for well over a decade now…since before college. It’s time to take that chance; to live out a dream I’ve been given, God willing.
  • To never not eliminate the opinion of others. What God thinks of me is by far more important that what others think of me or even I think of myself. It’s sad when one looks back on life and realizes that they’ve allowed other people to dictate who he/she could be and/or what they could do. Throughout my childhood I had various teachers and adults tell me that I couldn’t do this or couldn’t do that….that I wasn’t qualified. What a crock of lies! When you concentrate on what others think of you or their opinion, you start living to please them and that is not the life God calls you to. Focus instead on His opinion of you and know that in and through Him, you can do all things because He gives you strength (Philippians 4.13). I’m not a gambling woman, but I would bet that He thinks pretty highly of you.
  • To not stay in the race He has laid before me. I don’t have it in me to quit. I made the decision long ago to never give up. Now, this doesn’t mean that I keep knocking on a door that’s obviously been closed; this goes for situations where I could simply throw in the towel when times get tough. Instead, I must carry on, relying on the strength of God, who is the only One who can carry me through.
  • To continue feeling that I don’t deserve to live a fulfilled life. Again, the lies Satan spins to keep us from living. Jesus died so we could live and take back our authority over the evil one. Embrace that truth and the truth will set you free.

Living life to the full does not mean enjoying a life of ease and never experiencing problems. I have my own set of hang ups, temptations, insecurities, let-downs and what-nots that I get so caught up in from time to time that I forget Who I’m living for. In 1 Peter 5.8, Peter writes about the enemy who wishes to destroy us. Life isn’t easy. I’ve been battered and bruised through situations I would rather have not lived through, but I was able to emerge stronger relying on His strength alone (Philippians 4.13). I repeat: life isn’t easy. It doesn’t come with a roadmap. God gives a guidebook – His Word – His living, breathing, breath-taking Word – to fall back on. We have this hope (Hebrews 6.19).

No matter what opposition you face – whether that be the lack of a job or difficulties at work, the loss of a loved one or the end of a relationship – living the Christian life is worth it! I’ve discovered that in enjoying the relationship I get to have with my Creator, a God who loves me (oh the thought!), and His Son, Jesus, being confident of where I will be spending eternity, and living in day-to-day fellowship with Him is far greater than any opposition I may face in this life. There is no life fuller than one lived for the King!

II.  Loving others the way God loves me

The most important aspect about God is love. God is love. All will know that we are His disciples by how we love one another (John 13.35). And this love is nothing like what the world teaches. I’ve mentioned before how twisted it is. The world teaches you to withdraw from it rather than embrace it…it claims that you must first protect yourself; it also teaches that it’s a feeling that you must dive into and seek out. The thrill of life. The love of Christ isn’t a mere feeling. It’s a lifestyle that is lived out every day. It’s a choice. In Matthew 22, we are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. It’s selfless and giving; not expecting anything in return. It’s respect for others. It’s mercy. It’s compassion. We are commanded to love one another the way Jesus loves us (John 13.34). We love because He first loved us (1 John 4.19).

We are even called to love our enemies (Matthew 5.42-48). I often think of the phrase “Kill them with kindness.” Have you ever tried that on someone who wasn’t kind to you? I have and the resulted benefits were huge.

If you haven’t loved in that way, you haven’t truly lived. To live life to its fullest, you must dive into the ocean of love. God is calling you to experience it and live it. His Word is full of it; from beginning to end – a divine love story. Paul defines love quite eloquently in his letter to the Corinthians:

If I [fill in the blank]…but do not have love, I am/have nothing…
[Love] is patient
[Love] is kind
[Love] does not envy
[Love] does not boast
[Love] is not proud
[Love] does not dishonor others
[Love] is not self-seeking
[Love] is not easily angered
[Love] keeps no record of wrongs
[Love] does not delight in evil
[Love] rejoices with the truth
[Love] always protects
[Love] always trusts
[Love] always hopes
[Love] always perseveres
[Love] never fails
1 Corinthians 13.1-8a

Try something with me. Where I placed the brackets around the word [love], insert your name. Can you say that that’s true of you; day in and day out? It’s not for me. I can’t strive to meet that mark all on my own; I’m only human. My humanity gets in the way; my own sinful desires get in the way.

Jesus was human too, but He was also God incarnate. He was able to see the people He created in a way that we can’t. He’s been teaching me, through His Spirit, that He can love others that way through me. In allowing Him that access, the way I see the people that cross my path on a day to day basis changes. The child of God in tattered, stained clothes walking down the street didn’t ask for the life he’s/she’s living. Their personal choices may have gotten them there and this fallen world we live in doesn’t make things any easier. They’re broken and God loves them just as He loves me. Whether I offer a smile and a kind word in passing or share one of those care totes from Hope for the City with them, I’m choosing to love in spite of myself; in spite of my own comfort level and meeting a need I could have easily ignored. I alone am not love. I can love, but I can’t do it perfectly. In my choice to allow Jesus the right to love through me, He gets all the glory.

III.  Letting go and letting God

Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. Psalm 55.22

We hear it all the time, but few of us really live our lives this way.

“Let go and let God.”

We tend to want to hang on to everything – I know of a few hoarders and refuse to become one. We do the same with relationships and situations we think we deserve.

How many times have I set something down at His feet only to pick it up again down the road? That happens and I find myself asking the question, “When will I ever learn?” followed by a bout of hysterical laughter  and tears.

I am one that believes in doing a job well done and doing that job until no longer needed. I was taught to finish what I started and never quit. But, I’ve been learning lately that there are some things that God needs to handle in His time…not mine. I’ve found myself to be anxious, tense, concerned and emotionally exhausted/stressed when it comes to certain situations and things in my life and I’ve discovered that they only way I can find peace is by letting it go and letting God fill my need.

I’ve mentioned before that life is an adventure. However, there may be times when the journey isn’t as clear or as smooth as we would like it to be. My own life is littered with ups and downs, peaks and valleys, highs and lows and it’s during those “down” times that I relearn just how much I need Him to take the reins and lead the way.

If you find yourself in a similar situation – a valley or low – you too can seek Him out.

God’s wisdom is ever present and available. He’s more than able to fill you with understanding, light and life. The void you have was created to only be filled by Him, not an earthly relationship or object that you find affection in. These things, men and women included, will fail you…over and over.

When you let go; when you make that agreement with God to release the entire situation to Him, you find that you can breathe a sigh of relief and bask in the warmth of His glory illuminating your life. Peace fills your mind, body and soul and you discover that you can function and live in spite of the valley that you are in. You will find renewed strength, faith and courage. God’s Spirit, His presence, becomes active from the inside out and your understanding will become clearer. You will find that God’s love will take care of what you cannot accomplish on your own.

I’ve often found Him in the words of Amena Brown – see video here (You). He is my all.

You find me when I’m hiding behind all my disguises
You see me
It takes You to keep me breathing
You are heart
Passion
Vision
You send me and You bring me close
Close…
Close…
So close
Until when You look at me You see You
You are heavenly
My present and future destiny
You are Father
Creator
Sustainer
Life changer
Pride breaker
You are the same yesterday, now and forever
You are pleasure
You are worth
Reason
Present in every season
You are worship
Devotion
You are the reason for all my commotion
You are the one that I pray to
You can tell that I’m nothing without You
So awesome that I can even pray to You about You
To know You
To sense You
To believe You more
To love You more
To obey You more
To give You more of my heart
G
od search me
Know me
See me
Examine me
Test me
Watch me
Investigate me
Question me
B
e pleased with me
Be my Reality
Sustain me
Decrease me…
Until there is no me left
Only You…
Only
You are Light
Are True
Are You
Are Hope
Are Love
Are Strength
Are Escape
Recue
Safe
You are Peace
You are Belief
You are Advance and Retreat
Of what, to what, to whom can I compare you?
You are my All Things New
You are my Place of refuge
You are my Fortress
My Rest
My Creativity in the strength of Your words to me
You are my ability to see, hear, feel, move, live, breathe, be
You are life and death all at the same time
You are Friend
Believer, Savior, Redeemer
You are truth
You transcend old age and youth
You are timeless
Priceless
Lightness and darkness
Greatness
Goodness
Sinless
And in a mess like my life You see righteousness
You leave me speechless
You alone are God

God is my constant source of hope. He is my constant source of joy; the only reason I’m able to smile some days. In knowing Him personally, I can stand in the midst of the trials life may throw my way and know that I’m not facing them alone.  He is more than able to face them with me, holding me in His mighty right hand, if only I would cling to Him (Psalm 63.8). He will never leave me, nor will He forsake me. He longs to fill that void with His love; His joy. And when I’m full, I can pour that out into the lives of others as He moves through me.

Wrapping up…

That being said, there comes a choice. Would you like to Him personally? You can. God isn’t as disconnected as some individuals say. He’s alive and He is very real. I’ve seen the fruits of this evident in my own life. You simply have to choose to seek Him out. He stands where He’s always been…at the door, knocking and asking, “Will you invite me in?” He doesn’t impose. He simply offers the choice. Will you choose Him today, tomorrow and every day after?

This is simply a suggested prayer you might want to use if you’d like to begin a relationship with God.

Jesus,
I want to know you personally. I know that I am a sinner and that nothing I could do can make up for that. Thank you for dying in my place and paying the price for my sin. I know that my sin doesn’t separate me from God anymore. Thank you for forgiving me. I know that You love me and that I will spend eternity with You. I want You to be my Savior. Come into my life and take control, make me the person You created me to be.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. This is an ongoing process and it only happens when you choose to follow Him each and every day. Know that you are not alone. Seek out a local church and get plugged in…slowly. Start by seeking out the pastor or a known church leader who can disciple you in your walk with Christ. All relationships start somewhere and, as the church, we come alongside our brothers and sisters and are commanded to walk with them, carrying one another’s burdens as if there were our own. You are not alone.

when average Joe meets extraordinary God

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16.7

Average.

Have you ever seen yourself in that light?

I have.

Some days, I still do.

I need to, but not in a negative way.

 

The essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself,
it is thinking of myself less.
Timothy Keller

Have you ever wondered how or why God would choose to use you?

I have.

Many times.

Like every human being who’s walked this terrestrial planet, I’m a sinner…well, I was a sinner who became a saint by the saving grace Jesus offers everyone. Get that? Every one. All. However, I am not perfect, nor would I ever claim to be.

I was blessed to have been born into a Christian family, where God’s commands and His gospel were taught from a very young age.

I’d like to think I’ve grown some in my walk with Christ since He first captivated my heart at the tender age of four, but I’m still average.

First, I’m not a skilled evangelist. It’s simply not my gifting.

Second, I’m not a Bible scholar (by the world’s standards).

Third, I don’t have a degree in Christian counseling or a long list of credentials to put that claim to the test.

Fourth, my prayer life leaves a lot to be desired.

And finally, I’ve believed the lie that my legalistic background taught early on: that a girl with any amount of public education could not be used to further God’s Kingdom simply because she could not be saved. She had been “tarnished” by something of this world.

I remember, quite vividly actually, the first time I heard Him call my name. I was four. A child. I couldn’t comprehend the vastness of what He was about to do with my life. I simply knew, on some level, that I had been set apart for something huge; something beautiful.

When I was in grade school, I remember enjoying my Bible classes. Little did I know that God would be using the knowledge that was being stored in my mind and heart (memorization of Scripture) to get me through some of the darkest times of my 28-year existence. He still uses what I learned then in my life today.

My call to music ministry didn’t just happen. I remember pacing my dorm room and thinking that I wouldn’t go to this first Campus Crusade meeting simply because I didn’t know anyone…and I did not want to walk across campus by myself. Thank God for Jamie – a girl who would later become one of my closest friends. She knocked on my door and made me go. I didn’t know her from Adam and yet, I went. That night started the beginning of an amazing decade and fulfilled a desire God had placed in me at a young age: to share the talent He had given me with others for His glory.

Then came the call to use those gifts in my new home church…a place I never thought I’d end up at again after the experience I had back home. I definitely did not feel worthy of that call. I was attending a public college after all…wasn’t I? I couldn’t wrap my mind, much less my heart, around the real love that was shared among the community of believers at Brookings Wesleyan Church (now Gracepoint Church).

God used me there for six years and led me to where I am now: Minneapolis, MN – planting a church. I’m still baffled by His wanting to use me…and am reminded through Scripture, which is full of examples of the ordinary men and women He used for His extraordinary purposes:

  • Noah – God jumpstarted humanity again with his family. He built the ark when God asked him to and he was a drunkard.
  • Abraham – God blessed him with descendants whose number was larger than the count of stars and sands of the seashore and yet, he lied about his wife; not once, but twice!
  • Jacob – a man blessed by God was a deceiver. He also played favorites with his sons.
  • Joseph – a dreamer who was sold by his jealous brothers into slavery and was shipped off to Egypt. God used what they intended for evil for the good of many, Joseph included.  
  • Moses – a humble man who, much like myself, didn’t feel worthy of leading God’s people out of Egypt was a murderer.
  • Joshua – an ordinary man chosen to follow in the footsteps of a God-made leader (Moses).
  • Rahab – a prostitute who hid Israelite spies who were about to destroy her home town …plus, God used her in Jesus’ family line. Amazing, right?
  • Samson had serious issues with lust and anger.
  • David, a man after God’s own heart, was an adulterer and a murderer.
  • Paul persecuted the church prior to his choosing to follow Christ.
  • Peter denied Him…not once, but three times prior to His death on the cross.

By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, rules with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Hebrews 11.33-34

Even Jesus was ordinary. He started out growing up in a lowly family and was a carpenter before the start of His ministry.

“If Christ Himself was ordinary, being a lowly carpenter’s son, why would we expect God to use only special people for His purposes…Think God can’t or won’t use you? Think again. His glory shines the greatest through the weakest of vessels.” – Elizabeth Marks

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chose the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty. 1 Corinthians 1.27

We can also look at who Jesus chose for His disciples: A tax collector named Levi and simple fishermen (Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John). These uneducated men went on to turn the whole world upside down because they had found to have been with Jesus.

“If God chose only well-rounded people with no character flaws, some of the credit would inevitably go to the people and not to the Lord.” – Dr. Ray Pritchard

What did all of these people have in common besides being ordinary? Faith. The believed in God in faith: And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him. Hebrews 11.6

They also willingly submitted to His will in their lives, even when it meant giving up their livelihood to follow Him. Some left family and friends, some left their countries to live in a foreign land and still others gave up their jobs to follow God’s leading. Their faith was real and it was demonstrated by action. They were obedient to God’s commands and when He said go, they went.

Because we are weak in our imperfection, we’re sometimes oblivious to the Holy Spirit’s urging. Worse yet, there are times when we actively fight against that urging. We not only turn a blind eye on occasion; we sometimes plug our ears and barricade our hearts.

I remember such a time in my life. I had opted to finally go on a short-term mission trip out to Wildwood, NJ (yes, there are places within the United States that need Christ just as much as third world countries do). I was chosen to serve on the worship ministries team and half way though that summer, my group’s leader asked if I’d consider being a part of the administrative and creative arts team. I stubbornly turned down that idea; called it ridiculous even and walked away. I’m not proud to say that I spit in God’s face at that request and have been left wondering what would have happened had I jumped at the opportunity. Where would I be today if I had followed Him then?

Whether you’re aware of it or not, we all play an important role in the Divine Plan He’s been weaving together since Creation. I’m not perfect nor would I ever claim to be. I’m just like you in that I have a set of temptations that I constantly battle against. I have my own set of insecurities, hang-ups and scars.

And yet…

Still…

God has chosen to use me in miraculous, extraordinary ways.

Why? Because He can. He’s God. Plus, He wants to. He loves me that much…something I’ll never fully comprehend.

There are still so many times when I feel unworthy of the calling He’s given me…in music; in hospitality; in something I haven’t quite figured out yet (whether that be through writing, women’s ministry, counseling, owning my own design consulting business…I don’t know).

Most of us may be “Average Joes,” but our Heavenly Father can use each one of us in marvelous and extraordinary ways.

a pep-talk from a kid – pure awesomeness

My pastor shared this video during our sermon series on the heroes of faith in the Bible…this week’s topic: Moses.

Enjoy!

soulpancake

my father’s daughter

Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you. Exodus 20.12

First, let me state that I am not a parent (yet) nor am I an expert on this matter. I’m simply a young adult who has formulated her opinions, insight and what-nots based on God’s Word and the world I see around me. That being said…

I am my father’s daughter.

No lie.

I inherited his mighty temper (granted, the red hair may have more to do with that than anything). His ability to be stubborn has most definitely been passed on. And I definitely find similar situations and things to be just as humorous as he does.

Indeed.

I am my father’s daughter.

Father’s Day was always a time when I would stop and reflect on the relationship I have with my earthly father as well as the one I have with God, my heavenly Father. It aslo was and is a time when I would take a moment to thank him and remind him that I loved him. I still do, but the manner in which I do has changed drastically from that when I was a child.

Growing up in and attending the local Christian school, I heard the whole “Honor your father and mother…” tidbit every day. It is an important theme throughout the Bible and the entire Old Testament is based on a patriarchal system.

Some fathers are easy to love; those that seem to be the terrific ideal every child wanted. Others are harder to love. They may not have been dependable. They may have left when you were young. Perhaps they were in the home, but not there at the same time.

Mine fell into both categories. After all, he is only human. Regardless of his faults, God calls me to honor him by loving him and respecting him. It’s not only the right thing to do; this commandment also holds with it the promise of having a long life. That is one promise I’ve discovered that I want to stand on and it (along with God’s guidance) has helped me overcome the days when honoring my dad wasn’t so easy.

My teenage years were filled with yelling matches, massive amounts of miscommunication and a lack of attendance at school/sports events. Honestly, there were moments when I didn’t feel I mattered. Now – most of you know that I’m a huge advocate for Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages – since I’ve read that book, my relationsihp with my dad has changed. Then again, I’ve become the type to focus more on love and grace than their opposites.

Chapman writes about the different love languages and the way each one affects the person who speaks them. I was blessed with a living example on how to speak all five (words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, gifts, and acts of service), but three of them truly speak to me and any one of those three could mean more at any given moment.

I’ve discovered my dad’s and I’ve been learning to speak his as well as mine, hoping God will speak it into his heart. I’ve definitely been tested in this process and I’ve learned that patience is a virtue worth striving for.

It’s now 2013. More than a decade has passed since the last of my teenage years spent at home. My rebellious streak is over…well, one could only hope [*wink] and with the fact that I’ve matured some since, it’s safe to say that our relationship isn’t what it used to be and for that, I am thankful.  

God, my heavenly Father – the only One who will never let me down – reached into my life at the tender age of 18 (again) and grabbed hold of my heart, showing me that He had never to let go, and taught me what it means to love the way He does (see yesterday’s post [here] for more on that).  I will forever be grateful for what He’s taught me and continues to teach me on a daily basis.

The world we live in has a twisted view of love. Hollywood spins their friends-with-benefits and drop-it-like-it’s-hot tales. Disney portrays the “happily ever after” stuff little girls dream about (by the way – “Happily Ever After” is possible…just not in the way the world thinks).  No one talks about what happens after the wedding or after the guy gets the girl. Even the love portrayed between friends is twisted and cruel in this “what’s-in-it-for-me” and “give-it-to-me-quick” society.

God’s love is unconditional. God’s love is deep, wide, long and strong…more than we can even begin to comprehend. Growing up, I’m sorry to say that the love I had for my parents was conditional. I believed that my life was all about me. Me this. Me that. Me. Me. Me. I. I. I.

Enough said.

Having had my heart torn apart, battered, cracked – you name it – God, in His amazingly unconditional love, reached in and helped me put the pieces back together again. Granted, there were a few times when He had to re-break a few things so it would heal the right way, but that pain…worth it.

In the last five years of my life, God has taught me what it means to love and to extend grace to those around me. I tell my dad I love him every chance I get and to hear those words said back to me: huge benefit! I don’t credit him with that. I can’t. All the credit goes to God…a heavenly Father I have chosen to honor…day in and day out…in spite of my humanity.  

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in being blessed with an earthly father, it’s that I have an endless, desperate need for Jesus. See musical inspiration from two of my favorite artists (Shane and Shane) here.

I may be my earthly father’s daughter.

But

By the grace of God Almighty

I’m also His.

I can proudly state that I am my Father’s daughter.

That being said, Dad (and all other dads out there) – these are for you:

Dear Dad,

My how the years have passed since you first took hold of me in your arms for the first time. A lot has changed since then, and not just my size.

Since Father’s Day is all about showing appreciation to our fathers, I wanted to reminisce a little on some old memories and appreciate you for all that you’ve done in my life.

I’m simply doing what I used to do when I still lived at home. I used to write you letters during special days and days in which things weren’t going so well. But today…

Today, I wanted to let you know that I love you and that I’m grateful God chose to bless me with you as my Dad.

When I was a child, I admired everything you did and attempted to mirror your actions. I remember piggy back rides through the fairgrounds and our evening rides on your Harley when I was four. There are times when I miss those days. Everything was simpler and time stood still.

You also set your goals high and did everything in your power to accomplish them. I look up to you for that. You’ve also always marched to the beat of your own drum, not bending to the ways of the world around us. God has moved you in ways you probably haven’t noticed or understand just yet, but I wanted you to know that I see His movement in your life and that’s exciting.

I also admire you for having the strength to stick with it when it seemed the world was against us. I know I probably didn’t honor you the way I should have when I was a teenager and for that I’m sorry. Forgive me? However, I will forever be grateful for the turn our relationship has taken.

I’ve been blessed to have you and Mom and the relationship we share. You play an important role in keeping our family together. It takes teamwork and hard work. You taught me that. We never went hungry and always had a roof over our heads. When we had little, the choice to give instead during the holidays will always resonate in my heart. Those years were the best.

You motivate me to do my best, to work hard and to have a little fun while doing so. Life isn’t always sunshine and moonbeams and during the time when it’s raining, all one has to do is shine a little light to find a few rainbows.

Thank you for setting that example.

Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.

I love you.

Your first-born daughter,

A.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To my Abba,

What a day! A day to remember Who has taught me, guided me and instilled wisdom in me my entire life. You have promised countless times that you love me. You have promised countless times that You will never leave me. You even went so far as to show me how much You love me by sending Your only Son, Jesus. Can I ask for anything else? Of course I can, I always do. James reads: “ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking” (James 1.5b). Your Son, Jesus, even stated, “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father” (John 14.13). As any good father would do, You do what You feel is right in whether or not I should get what I ask for. It all comes down to the matter of my heart, which only You can see. What a terrifyingly beautiful thought!

I hope to one day be half the type of parent You’ve been to me. I hope that when my kids (if that be in Your plan for my life) need something, I’ll be there for them as You have been for me. I hope that when they have questions, that I’ll have the answers You’ve so freely given and that if I don’t, I’ll seek those answers in You. I hope that when they are going through good times or bad times that I’ll be there for them, just as You have always been there for me.

So I end this letter by saying thank you with a joyful heart for being my Father, in all ways, and by writing that I’ve been very blessed by being one of Your adopted children. Thank you for extending Your grace to ALL of the human race. Furthermore, I want to thank you for Your undivided attention even though You have countless children.

Happy Father’s Day (today, tomorrow and all the days to come)!

Love – Your Daughter

a letter from your heavenly Father

My child,

You may not know me, but I know everything about you. I know when you sit down and when you rise up, for I am familiar with all your ways. Even the hairs on your head are numbered for you were made in my image. In me, you live and move and have your being, for you are my offspring. I knew you even before you were conceived. I chose you when I planned creation. You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book. I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. I knit you together in your mother’s womb and brought you forth on the day you were born.

I have been misrepresented by those who don’t know me. I am not distant and angry, but am the complete expression of love and it is My desire to lavish my love on you. I offer you more than your earthly ever could for I am the perfect Father. Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand for I am your Provider and I meet all your needs. My plan for your future has always been filled with hope because I love you with an everlasting love. My thoughts toward you are as countless as the sand on the seashore and I rejoice over you with singing. I will never stop doing good to you for you are my treasured possession. I desire to establish you with all my heart and all my soul and I want to show you great and marvelous things.

If you seek Me with all your heart, you will find Me. Delight in Me and I will give you the desires of your heart for it is I who gave you those desires. I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine for I am your greatest Encourager. I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles. When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you. As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to My heart. One day, I will wipe away every tear from your eyes. I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my Son, Jesus. For in Jesus, My love for you is revealed. He is the exact representation of My Being. He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you and to tell you that I am not counting your sins.

Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled. His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you. I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love. If you receive the gift my son Jesus, you receive me and nothing will ever separate you from My love again.

Come home and I’ll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen. I have always been Father, and will always be Father. My question is…Will you be My child?

I am waiting for you.

Love,

Your Dad…God Almighty

For scriptural references and more information, click here.