Assembly required

Have you ever been to IKEA? If not, it's a real treat. Unless you ask my husband; then his views of the mega store are quite different than mine. If nothing else, IKEA is an experience to be had by all.

I go for the furniture. My husband goes because....well, "happy wife, happy life." 

If you've never been I'll narrow it down to this: 

This would be your living room. See that box on the bottom? There's probably a couch in there. Seriously. 

We purchased our sofa from IKEA years ago, on one of our first IKEA shopping experiences. After hours of walking through the show-room, down to the sales floor, and finally to the self-serve warehouse, We were given a bin and item number to locate our sofa. And then to our shock and dismay, we found a 6'x 8" box. With a skeptical glance to one another and a second, reassuring double check of the item number -sure enough- there was a couch in that little, 10 pound box. 

After loading our items and making our way out to the truck,  we got home and pulled out the assembly directions. 

Toss those to the side. 

It's a couch. How hard can it be? We know the basics, what it looks like... "We got this."

And then...

 photo source: unknown. 

photo source: unknown. 

You're probably wondering right about now what this has to do with you, me, and everyone else. I'm sure many of us have had similar experiences and haven't stepped foot into an IKEA. That's because this is life. We think we can do it on our own, we think we have it figured out and because we know the basics, we'll get through it. Well, how about when you're sitting right side up on an upside down chair? Get the directions! We need directions in our life, we need to be reminded of what goes where, which tools we need, redirected on where we're going; And most importantly, we need to be reminded that we're not alone. 

The only difference is IKEA can't direct you on how to assemble your life, but the Bible can. IKEA can't help you along your journey,  your friends inside and outside the church can. Don't do it alone.

Pastor Ben has been speaking about warning signs the last few weeks. Is this your warning sign? Are you lost or right side up in an upside down life? Don't toss the directions to the side; open a Bible and assemble your life or ask for help.

 

Swallowing camels.

Hello, My name is Amy and I eat camels. 

When I was very young (and if I'm being honest, even as an adult) I would sing one of the most nonsensical rhymes of all time. 

Sometimes in life you just have to  laugh at the constant irony life throws our way. Each and every week I write for this blog. And each and every week I think, "I don't know what I'm going to write next week." And then, like clock work my week is filled with obstacles that almost always pertain to the following Sunday's message in one way or another. Just like magic (Except, it's not magic. It's God working in my life). I end up with the voice for our blog. 

Lately, I've been emotionally dealing with some people in my life. They don't know they are on my mind. Yet, I've been trying to figure out how to deal with situations all on my own. Just like you, I try to deal with things on my own. I try to figure out problems, how to deal with difficult people, figure out if I'm justified in my feelings. Is this what is intended for us? Are we supposed to figure these things out on our own? 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
— Proverbs 3:5

 

And still yet, like a creature of habit, I push full force ahead in playing my mental game of pop up Perfection. (Any one else remember that game from the '90's? You either lose the game or lose your mind playing it). Always trying to fit the wiggly doo-dads into their proper place before the timer goes off and then have to repeat the same process again. 

Lately, I've swallowed the fly, spider, the cat....All the way to the horse before soaking in the intentional lesson planned for me. Not to outdo the crazy ol' lady, I even swallow the camel. 

“Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.”
— (Matthew 23:24)

Before drinking wine or water the Pharisees and Scribes would use cheese cloth to strain their drinks beforehand to ensure no unclean matter, such as a gnat, would enter into their bodies. Focusing so intensely on something such as this, Jesus reminded them that in their spiritual lives they are going to this length on not swallowing a gnat, yet they are swallowing a camel - they would go to such broad measures to keep impurities from entering their bodies, but offered no resistance to impurities that formed their spiritual being.

It's kind of like the saying, "You can't see the forest for all the trees." There is a bigger picture than what we are focusing on. We are so intent on fixing particular situations when we should be focusing on the BIG PICTURE. I've been allowing my mind to get tangled into how others are treating me and my family, how we've been hurt, how we've been torn apart....notice a pattern? me, me, me, me....

I saw something on social media recently that said something about making a list of people you are able to change on one side of a sheet of paper (me) and on the other side, a list who you are not able to forcibly change (everyone else). 

Yes, I could cause a scene, throw tantrums, write nasty things on the walls of social media. I could also choose to take a higher road. A road that will lead me to where I want to be. I need to not focus on things happening around me. Instead, focus on what I can learn from lessons in my life and ensure I never make people feel the way I've felt lately. I don't want to swallow camels. Instead of "fixing" the problem, I can fix my walk through my Christian life. I know there are so many parts of me that need work - just as others may be working on themselves. Instead of settling my mind on what others are doing or should be doing, I will settle my mind on what I can do for myself, my family, and others. I can't promote loving one another (straining the gnat) and harboring negative feelings towards someone (swallowing the camel) at the same time. 

So, if I incidentally swallow a fly, I am going to learn to close my mouth -lesson learned- before I get anywhere near that camel. 

Unity starts with you

What is unity, really? 

The Bible is filled with unity. Today's world is filled with unity. We unify quite often. We come together as a church every Sunday....that's being unified enough, right? 

 True, biblical unity is characterized by being grounded in the knowledge of God’s Truth.  

In a perfect world each and every single one of us would come together and be truly, wholeheartedly unified. Welcome to the real world -a place where that just simply isn't true. 

So, what now? Just throw up our arms and give up? Throw a temper tantrum when we don't get our way? Punch the next person that gets on our nerves? Leave the place you love over disagreements? While those simply tend to be our emotional  reflexes; that doesn't mean we should resort to those solutions. Even if we want to. 

How to be unified and become one body of Christ during a time of disagreement: 

It all starts and ends with you! We aren't puppets. You can't simply reach your hand up the back of someone's shirt and literally put the words into their mouth. We are individuals, with our own individual thoughts. And we are always chomping at the bit to let everyone know exactly what is on our mind. The destiny of disagreements are in your hands. How will you handle it?

When I look back some of my biggest arguments (and I'm talking about some pretty radical hot-headed-full-blown-temper type of disagreements) have been with people I absolutely love the most. So, when I see churches fall apart due to disagreements among one another. I completely understand how it happens. Church becomes family. We come together every week, we eat together, we cry together, we pray and serve the Lord together. We become the closest thing to blood relatives. When an issue arises it's almost as if we've been stabbed in the heart. If you think about it, disagreements give us a chance to open up and really get to know each other's views and where our hearts really stand. Disagreements within church (or life, for that matter) give us a chance to connect with one another. It's how you go about handling the disagreement that will determine the health of your relationship. 

 

1) Am I being Christ like? 

“Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;”
— Philippians 1:27

2) Always, always, always, give it time. 

Stop. Think. Step away and really assess the situation. Hypothetically, step in the other person's shoes and see both sides of the situation. Allow time to pass while you do this or before making any decisions. 

3) Sometimes it's not about what you say, it's how you say it. 

Think before you speak. If you reply in the heat of passion you're probably going to say things you don't mean. Or use an unintentional tone. Generally, people remember what tone of voice you used as opposed to what you actually said. So, really think before you speak. 

4) Be tactful. Remember, it's okay to disagree with someone. 

We are all different types of people. That's a beautiful thing! Don't focus on the things you don't like about people (because I'm sure there are plenty of things people don't like about you.) Bring light to the positive things that you like about someone. Sometimes you lose a person and they will leave church over something -that you think- is miniscule. This may be something that is really hurtful or strong willed in their heart. Acknowledge that and pray they are able to be healed of their pain. 

5) Talk, talk, talk, communicate.

I see so many disagreements, fallen friendships, and estranged families over miscommunication and hearsay. Lay everything out on the table -what you heard, what you think, how you feel. Be honest and speak to one another in a caring manner. As much as you should be talking, be sure to also listen. 

6) Above all else, love all! 

Love the person that doesn't like you, disagrees with you, follows in sinful footsteps. Sometimes it isn't about fixing things  -it's about accepting. Follow along God's path and love each and every person  and everything else will follow. 

Turn negative into a positive -by being the positive. 

Show love -even when you don't want to. 



I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
— 1 Corinthians 1:10

You have the power to unify in the world and in the church by setting an example of what it means to be unified. Stand up, be strong, and be the example of Christ. And remember that sometimes you can agree by agreeing to disagree. 

Being confident, faithful, and loving

I'll be honest, from time-to-time, it's hard to find real-life applications to some of the biblical stories. In a round about way, I understand where the Corinthians were coming from in asking questions that made Paul say, "Really?" with a raised eye brow (totally visualizing here.) When you start a new lifestyle midway through your life, beliefs tend to overlap and make you question things that you know shouldn't be an issue. A "Duh" moment, if you will. 

When we don't receive a straight forward answer to our question, we need to ask ourselves if we already obtained the answer somewhere within. Sometimes life isn't about not getting your questions answered. It's about finding the depths of your belief. Don't go digging through things you aren't able to change. It's not about searching for the unknown.  Expand on the changeable and the obtainable. 

 In 1 Corinthians, chapter 8 (in a very small nutshell) brings up the fear of the Corinthians and questioning whether to eat the meats that had been offered to idols. And Paul, instead of giving a straight forward answer, he sort of questions their faith and responded,

“an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.”(1 Corinthians 8: 4)

Essentially, saying as long as you believe this is true, you shouldn't be questioning whether or not to eat it. Almost as if Paul was pointing out their own self-doubt. 

However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.(1 Corinthians 8: 7)

Paul is basically telling the Corinthians if you believe in God, trust in God, 100%. Put all doubt aside. Also, figure out where you stand within yourself. So often our brains are wishy washy and question things outwardly, when really we are just trying to figure out where we stand in our hearts.

In today's world we are more outspoken than ever. Our fingers ache at the temptation to quickly fill the blank space of "What's on your mind." Somewhere, along the road from our hearts, to our brain, and finally out our mouths, wires get criss-crossed and unintentional things come spewing out. 

We are rude, unloving, cynical, demanding, and self reliant on protecting our character. Even myself, I'd like to think I am a nice person with everyone's interests in mind. However, I know I've shoved a few one too many feet down my throat in my many years.

It's bound to happen. It happens to the best of us. 

Too often our insecurities snake out and show the worst side of ourselves. Once we become confident and goal driven toward our beliefs, we can stomp out the unnecessary doubt that lives inside of us.  

I keep seeing this viral image going around saying, "Surround yourself with positive people." As if we are the positive person that needs like-minded people. Maybe we need to stop looking at people as negative. You only find the negative you are searching for. Stop looking at the bad and dig deeper to find the good. It's out there and everyone obtains at least a piece of it somewhere. 

This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. (1 Corinthians 8:1)

I believe this applies to us, today as well. Don't let what you think you know about people determine how you treat someone. Don't allow it make you feel as if you are better than your peers, your neighbors, your family, or friends. Love. Show love. Extrude -from within- love and unite. 

Be the Light in Someone Else's Eyes - Unity

Won't you be my neighbor?

Have you ever seen or met someone and think, "something just isn't quite right with that person"?

The type of person that "always" seems to have a smile on their face. No matter how cruel the world around them may be, they continue on in a rainbowed-unicorn-type-of-day fashion.

We all have that friend that seems to be a little borderline crazy house...

I have that type of friend. She's the absolute best!

I take on each and every day, headstrong, and with my best foot forward. Seems I stumble more often than go anywhere near the trophy worthy finish line. However, it seems this particular friend always keeps a good attitude with a giant-A+-award-winning smile on her face.

If you are a child of the 80's -including 10 or 20 years before and after- then you have also seen this type of person: Mr Rogers!

Growing up, I would prop myself up in front of the ole' floor model and just glow from within, watching the feel-good inspirational show Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Honestly, I never really knew what the point of the show was. I did however, know without a doubt, that the iconic television show would Instill that warm ooey -gooey-love-thy-neighbor feeling deep down in the gut of your soul. Growing up, I always assumed everyone felt that way. Apparently, his soft, kindred approach was slightly off putting to others.

The thing is, these odd ball, peace sharing, love-one-another, smile-with-legs type of people, aren't living for the physical world. These people are putting aside their own selves and putting others before them. More importantly, they are putting Christ before all.

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Did you know Fred Rogers was a minister? Me neither! It all makes sense now. He was called into children's ministry early on and found his way into television-combining his love for puppetry, love for ministry, and teaching children across the world.

So many of us are living and acting in a manner focused on the physical world around us -who has the best car, biggest house, fanciest clothes. We get caught up in things that shouldn't matter. We are all climbing that ladder -stepping upward and onward past our peers. Our minds get cluttered with worldly aspirations.

How has it become that we tilt our heads at beaming, happy or genuinely nice people?  We assume they are the weird ones.

When we join together to become one, consider ourselves equal or as one, treat each other as we wish to be treated, and put everyone before ourselves, our troubles seems to fade away.

Hey, then we can all be weird together! Wouldn't that be fabulous?  

(Cue the sweater switcheroo scene)

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Won't you set a goal with me today? Do something for someone else. Feel uncomfortable being on the same level as someone less successful than you? Good! there should be no levels of success. We should all be on the same level. Make a step with me to stop looking at the world around us as competition. Instead, Let's look around at everyone around us and ask ourselves, "what can I do to make someone smile today?"

Let's unite with one another, put a smile on our faces and make someone else wonder why in the world are we so happy. 

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Stick together

Flipping through the channels, I stopped on a familiar movie I had seen a handful -or more-of times before: The War (1994). A film depicting a family in the '70's; a family just like many others. A husband battling within himself, while continuing failed attempts at financially supporting his wife and children. This caused unmentioned turmoil throughout the household. 

After last weeks Corinthians sermon I watched this movie through new eyes.

Before today, I laughed along as childhood friends dreamed, danced, and sang together. Then related with the characters as they manipulated their way to get what they want, the ups and downs of victory vs. being overthrown, children and adults. The entire plot depicts battles in reality and battles of the mind, completely relatable. Today, I realized the message hidden inside this film was so much deeper. 

In 1 Corinthians 1:1-3, I adore how Paul expressed the power in unity; together we are able to conquer more than when we are divided. 

This film, The War, was packed full of life lessons of loving one another; two of the main characters, twins Lida and Stu, escape the reality of their difficult lives by coming together with friends to build an impossible tree house. After bribing a young neighbor boy with enough candy to place anyone in a sugar coma, the kids managed to compile all the materials needed to erect a tree house that would surpass any ones dreams.

 

As soon as the brothers of the sugar-happy kid found out what everyone was up to they declared war on the twins makeshift homestead. Of course, the original ametrure contractors didn't take it lightly. After many disagreements between the quarrelsome neighbors, the tree house was completely destroyed and burned to the ground. The entire plot was filled with ups and downs between mom and dad; And between the neighborhood children. In the end, after so much turmoil everyone finally realized how important it is to stick together and created a strong bond with one another. If they had created a bond with one another and shared in their pain, successes, and victories in the beginning, they would have all been happier- together. 

I'm not sure why, but we all have to learn the hard way, war makes people do crazy things that they may regret their entire lives but simple acts of kindness may be able to solve conflicts. 

It's part of our human nature to only take wisdom from some of our biggest hardships and mistakes. Take it from Paul in 1 Corinthians and don't ignore or walk away, stick together, deal with issues with each other right away. Love one another, not only at their best, but at their worst. 

Commitment and Dedication, Out of Love

I'm the type of person that needs my sleep. Let me reiterate: NEED! There are people that sleep 6-8 hours, wake up, and go on about there day. And then there's me. It's not a result of lack of exercise or poor diet; it's biology - I've always been this way. 

So, rewind a bit, and imagine when I decided I wanted children. My first thought was not dreaming of the bouncy blonde curls that would adorn the sweet head of my first child; it was dreading the lack of sleep. 

Fast forward: My first child was born.

I was a young mother, lacking patience. Rarely did I have the knowledge to tend to my own home, let alone raise a child. Still yet, Nine months before, I started cramming in unmerited advice, read all the mommy-to-be-books, scanned the information pamphlets, and scrolled endlessly through the parent centered websites. When the day came and my giant 9 pound 2 ounce baby came, I lay there in the hospital, only hours in, realizing all the information was wrong. Who writes these things anyway? No one can prepare you for a baby. You hear of all the fabulous, glorious, wondrous and amazing things about having a baby -leaving out all the I'm-not-even-sure-what-is-smeared-all-over-my-shirt- type of moments. 

Just as you have settled into the schedule of regular, nightly every-hour-on-the-hour diaper changes, feedings, and "I'm awake just because I thought it would be fun to look at the ceiling" stage; and long after the memory of a full night, uninterrupted night's sleep has faded, you come to the realization that you have just merely ended on phase one: They finally sleep (if you're lucky.) And then you can't sleep because the thoughts of fear come, "Why are they sleeping so soundly?", "Are they still breathing?", "What if I fall asleep and don't hear him crying?" 

(I mean, come on, I know I'm not the only one. Why do we worry so much as parents?!)

Then, phase three: toddlers.

"bounce-bounce-bounce-bounce-bounce-bounce.... " is basically the only way I can describe having a toddler. They don't stop. So, it's hard to get them to fall asleep and just as you do they are bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed and ready to wake before the rooster crows! 

(For those of you that aren't parents yet, Don't worry, I'm getting to the good part. Don't get discouraged yet. )

I think you get the point now. Sleep is no longer a word I'm able to use to describe my life. The funny thing is, after being so very much deprived of something I love and need so very much after my first child: I had two more over the years. With all the crazy, up-side-down-insane moments, the demanding and overbearing attention these little bundles of energy require; the insane amount of unknowing and worrying over whether we are even doing this whole parenting thing correct -it's all worth it. 

It's called dedication. 

In the absolute instance I knew there was a real life growing inside of me, my heart felt more full than I could ever even imagine. I saw the world differently. My motives in life changed. My purpose in life was no longer centered around me, it was around my children. The love that I feel for my children completely dampers out any sort of discomfort or tribulations that ever occur in my life -including sleep deprivation. Dedication and commitment was defined the moment my children were placed into my life. 

There are a lot of things I don't understand about the bible, but there's one thing I do know: the undying, ever growing love I have for my children. Therefore, I know the love God has for us.

I want the absolute best for my children. They rarely take the path that I want for them, but they are finding their own way. They are learning lessons by real-life experience rather than listening to my wisdom (Sound familiar?). I want my children to learn their own way - to an extent. I need them to listen to my wisdom and wisdom from those before them. I don't want them to make the same mistakes that have already been written in history. 

I feel like just as I want that for my children, God wants that for his children: us. I feel like it's important that we have dedication toward God. We need stop trying to figure out everything for ourselves and take advice from someone know already knows. Make a commitment and allow for God's help in your life. 

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
— Psalm 37:5

As I stand offering help, my toddler continues to smear a thin layer of milk across my kitchen floor. She looks at me with wet, milk covered clothes, and the realization that she probably should have allowed me to help clean up the tiny puddle of milk, just as she bent over and continued to pour the remains of her little cup across the floor. If we just ask for help, our mess would be so much smaller and more manageable. And eventually you learn to stop spilling the milk altogether. 

Will you make the commitment today to ask for help? Stop putting off or taking tiny little steps toward God. Make a full commitment and go all out! 

 

Endure until the end...

Paper cut: imagine it. 

I don't even have to physically see you to know that you absolutely winced in pain at the word. When I even consider a paper cut, I squint my eyes, put pressure on my finger, and curl my toes at the phantom sensation of what I know to be a paper cut. They are just awful! A 10 - for sure. 

We all know the horrifying pain we've experienced from slicing our fingertip open on the edge of a paper. Knowing that, does it still hurt today? Of course not! 

Obviously, a paper cut is in no comparison to losing a loved one, anxiety, depression, or whatever is dampening your soul today -none the less- it's temporary. 

In the moment of pain, we are unable to comprehend healing. The pain absolutely immerses every other sensation of our entire body and mind. And our thoughts are unable to step any further than that moment. Even the worst pain heals. It may leave a scar, but it heals. 

My point isn't to make you reminisce on our previous minor lacerations, it's to remind you that "this too shall pass".


For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
— Romans 8:18

I know that the pain will recede because we're promised to be comforted. And as much as the pain we feel today, it will fade and be replaced, merely a scar of memories. 

So, when you're walking along, minding your own business, and the tidal wave of horrific heartache washes over you, and threatens to take your breath away. Remember, the water will recede and you will be able to breath again. Just as Pastor Ben reminds us, in last week's Amen series, endure until the end and you shall be saved.



But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
— Matthew 24:13

Click play below to listen: 

 

 

Lack of time vs. Lack of priorities

I am too busy to write this blog post. 

As the season started to change over, Spring cleaning kicked into full swing. Between that, kids, work, being a wife, and every day whirlwind of things going on, I became so busy that I missed my timely obligation to write this blog post. And then, if that wasn't bad enough, my brain froze. I couldn't think of one thing to write. How am I supposed to be an inspiration to others, when I have nothing to say?

I'd like to say it's irony, but I know it's God working through me. 

As the deadline passed, my frustrations grew. This nasty sentiment within me started to grow as I hustled through my daily routine. The blog post itching in the back of my mind. It wasn't until the last possible moment I could wait, I sat down, stared at my screen and put my fingers on the keys and just started typing. The first line, "I am too busy to write this blog post." I had zero intentions on allowing you to read that. It was the filthy attitude leaking through my fingertips and onto the keys like a disease. 

And then it hit me. How dare I? I'm too busy? I have no time to devote to God's word, to devote to spread His word? I just wrote last week about how we need to make the time to serve and now I can't take an hour to sit and serve you? It was then I realized, It's not the lack of time, it's the lack of priorities. 

Too busy for God? It’s not a lack of time, It’s a lack of priority.
— Bethesda people

I'm thankful for being too busy in this season of misdirection, because it put focus on a need that I was unaware of - my priorities. 

Obviously, I had things I needed to accomplish (feed my children and husband, clean, work, etc.) over the days, but there were lots of things that were probably not 100% necessary.

Remember, I'm a visual person. I need to see something smack dab, right in my face before it will redirect my focus. I hate to say, but it's easy to forget to make time to devote to serving, reading my bible, studying, devotionals, and -sometimes- praying! And I feel safe in saying that, because I know I'm not alone. 

I sat down and created a list of my priorities now and then a list of priorities that I want to have. Something I like to do often is jot down my daily, weekly, monthly or yearly goals. With some of this chicken scratch I decided to make a printable sheet for myself. A sheet that will keep me on task weekly. A reminder for now, so that I will make time to devote to God. And also, a journal that I am able to look back on. 

  Click HERE  for a free printable worksheet of your own

Click HERE for a free printable worksheet of your own

Along with my weekly Bible study, I'm going to fill these sheets out at the end of the week to keep me on track. If there are empty spaces, I know that I haven't been devoting my time like I would like to! 

Be sure to CLICK HERE and check out the new FREE printable coversheet I've included in the original Bible Study post. 

Isn't it funny how something so frustrating ends up being a blessing? I, personally, didn't realize my priorities were wrong. I'm thankful someone is always there reminding me. Aren't you?

Make a wish come true

A girl, young in spirit. Her mind so gullible and naive. She dreams of a world full of peace, surrender, smiles, unselfishness; people loving and  helping one another. 

She sits circled by friends and family. Her hands by her side, knuckles white, eagerly gripping the sides of her chair in anticipation for the once-a-year wish she will soon be granted. Joy fills the room as the off key tune of Happy Birthday is being sung. We all know that moment: As the song winds down, our heart fills with joy as oxygen fills our lungs -puffing our chest out proudly- then release the wish along with largest amount of air and force possible for such a small child. We watch the smoke recede as everyone claps. "What was your wish?" Everyone asks. She knows she's not allowed to tell, for it won't come true. 

That little girl is me. 

As an adult, I know those birthday wishes turned into prayers and I know that God isn't a genie. He doesn't grant wishes and prayers can't be answered by blowing out a candle. However, I can't help but make that wish each and every year. I know God is listening. I know he knows my heart. He hears my cries, my longing, my desires. 

For as long as I can remember. Every. Single. Year. I wished for the same thing. As other kids were wishing for (back in my day) a new bicycle, Dream Date, moonshoes, tamagotchi (totally showing my age here), I was asking for one "simple" thing: happiness. Not for me, but for humanity. I have always dreamed of a world where people were just happy. A world full of peace. I still do this, ever year. My birthday rolls around and you can guarantee as I'm blowing out those candles, I'm wishing for happiness of others. The world is sad. And it absolutely breaks my heart. 

You know what else I can guarantee? That people mock and laugh at me for this. How can the world possibly be "fixed?" I cannot tell you the amount of people that laugh at me for thinking it's possible. Still yet, I believe. I believe we can live in a world where people are truly happy, healthy, and loving. Do I think it will happen over night, in my life time, or even in a million years? Who knows. I do know that my God is capable of anything -miracles! 

I'm reminded of this because my birthday just so happens to be this weekend. And because I'm here, on this blog, I have the opportunity to not only wish for your happiness, I can help steer you toward your happiness! 

Happiness is simple: Love God, Love People.

(Mark 12: 30-31) (John 15: 12-13) 

At the same time, it's the most difficult. 

By nature, we are selfish human beings. I think maybe that's because without selfishness we wouldn't take care of ourselves- selfishness is needed...to an extent.

"For the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45)." 

We are called to serve one another. (Mark 9:35) When we set our own selfish needs and desires aside and start fulfilling our neighbors needs and wants, then we will find happiness. Then, we will see Gods grace. 

Ways to serve: 

     1: GIVE YOUR TIME  "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in it's various form." ~1 Peter 4: 10

Serving doesn't have to involve blood, sweat, and tears. Start small, start doing what you love. You have a gift, use it! Sing, teach, listen, play.

     2: DONATE  "Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourself that not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys." ~ Luke 12: 33 "Give, and it will be give to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ~Luke 6:38

Not only donate the things you no longer want, donate the things you no longer need. To see storage buildings full of things we aren't using, going to waste, unused, while there are so many people in need infuriates me! Let go of the things that collect dust. Someone out there will be so grateful for those things!! 

     3:GIVE YOUR TIME "For in the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as ransom for many." ~Mark 10:45

Yes, I know I wrote this one twice. It's an important one. I know you are tired, I know you are overworked. I know you are busy. Our duty is to serve one another: make time. I like to think about the amount of time I waste scrolling through social media, it's then I know I am able to make time to help out someone else. Some things I want to make more time for to help serve: Take a friend to lunch, watch someone's child while they run errands or rest, house sit for a friend while they are on vacation, clean/mow a neighbors yard, community service, send random thank you cards... these are all things I put off or convince myself I'm too busy to do. But, if we all work together and start helping one another, we are that much closer to happiness. It's not world domination of peace and happiness, but it's close. 

::Click here to listen to Pastor Dusty express his love for serving::

Serving shouldn't be a painful or inconvenient experience. It may take stepping out of your comfort zone to get on that path, but I can guarantee you will find joy and happiness in it. When you see the love you give to other and the love you will receive.... a girl's birthday wish will begin to come true: world-wide happiness. 

 

Be still. Listen.

This evening, as the dinner dishes dry, the hectic scrambling of the day starts to dial down to a low rumble, and the sun begins to recede past the hills - the air starts to chill - I seek an old friend.  

I reach my arm back deep into my closet to receive a pullover sweater, slip on some forgiving leggings, and lace up my tattered old running shoes.  

I forget to make time. Life is so busy. Our days run out before our to-do lists. Our hours are short and our patience is shorter. Life is too busy.  

Today, I make time. Today, I set out for somber mediation, freedom. I set out for solitude. The soles of my dear friends, my running shoes, nervously hesitate to meet the pavement as if it were a preset blind date - it's been a long time since I've made time to run. But, today I hit pause - even if just for a moment.   

Leaving my usual music and pedometer behind, I lunge toward my first step - taking only my thoughts. I allow the dull, low hum of silence to flow through my mind, as quickly as the fresh cool, winter air fills and releases through my lungs. The bitter cold burns in my lungs, as does my desire. With each step I leave behind the ticking demand of each day. I only step forward. As the glint of the evening sun fills my eyes, I smile. I smile knowing God is very much alive. He has given me this moment and I took it - I took full advantage. A moment I would have otherwise missed. The muscular memory may be the only thing pushing me through this first run, but I continue to smile knowing I'm alive, well, and able.

We are given so much, yet we rarely take the time to see it. 

I tell you about this mundane, regular, every day activity because it's a moment I lived in - truly lived. We need to be still. Be still and listen. If we aren't taking time to listen then how will we know when God is talking? We tend to miss what is right in front of us because it is blocking our way of what we are trying to see. 

Make sure you take a moment for yourself, without electronics, with out distractions. Sit in silence, relax, be with your thoughts. Be still. Take time to not only seek the Lord in time of need, but each and every day. 

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Beginners Guide: Bible Study

I'm one of those artsy types of people. Wondering, unrelivant thoughts run their way through my mind at the most innapropriate times. It's very hard for me to actually focus on much of anything. I'd like to think I was a deep thinker, exotic ponder-er, dreamer.... most would just say I'm flighty. Hey, don't judge me. I'm sure there are many more of you out there. 

As I've said before, I'm newly saved, new in my faith. Although, those phrases are a little salty coming off my tongue. I've always known God. I've always felt the pressense of the Lord with me, holding me, pushing me or persuading me to go down my intentional path. I have always prayed often, whole heartedly. I just never found my forever "church home." Until recently. Even through my personal relationship, I feel like there is more to Christianity than just that. I feel an obligation to know the word of God, Jesus, the history, the meaning of life and of everything. I want to know the bible. It's just so intimidating. Many of you have had the blessing of getting at least some sort of background throughout your lives. For those of us that havn't had the pleasure, I would love to share my little method. It's not failproof, it's not the the ultimate bible study guide, but I feel it's a good segue. 

BEGINNERS GUIDE: BIBLE STUDY

WHAT YOU NEED:

  1. Bible
  2. composition notebook
  3. pen/marker/highlighter
  4. sticky tabs

1) Find a bible. For me, I never knew how many different types of Bibles there were! My favorite: The Everyday Life Bible AMPLIFIED VERSION featuing notes and commentary by Joyce Meyer. I love to read her insites and notes. It's easy to read and relivant to today's life. We also have NLT red letter, Extreme teen study, and because there is controversy over the different translations, we have a King James Version. I really enjoy switching back and forth between all of them (even the teen study Bible!) They all really have something to offer and keep my mind intrigued. 

Getting started: GET ORGANIZED

The first step may see a little silly or unneccessary. However, for me, it was neccessary for a successful start. My favorite Bibles weren't equipped with easy tabs to find books of the Bible. With every verse I went to search for, flipping to the index, finding the page, all seemed too daunting and I would give up just as soon as I got started. 

Grab your sticky tabs and label each book of the Bible and label for easy access. This is a good way to get to know each of them and their location. Eventually, you can take them away. For now, just try it! It's a super easy and effective way to find your way around and learn.

Study: FIND THE DRAMA

We all have dramatic lives. It won't be hard to find it. I'm sure you can agree. Whether, it's a bad day at work, trying to keep peace in your life, something serious, or something simple. We all need help to solve our problems. I think more often than not we believe we can do it all in our own. That's where we get into trouble and make bad decisions. We need God and we need his answers. Whatever you are dealing with each day - use your Bible! 

Today, we will deal with laziness. Hello procrastination! I'm terrible, I deal with it often, so let's start with that. Label a sticky and place it at the top of your page.  

 

 

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WRITE AND REFLECT:

Write down every related verse. This will be your bible study index. On the next page write out the verses that apply to you. Read each of them. Only write down the ones that speak to you. Even if you don't fully understand them. In the beginning you may simply write them down and move on. Later you will notice digging deeper into the verse, highlighting your favorite parts, making notes of how it applies to you or how it can make a difference in your life. Really start making it a point to make this your journal- make notes, ask questions, write down your prayers.  

Tomorrow (or next week,) start a new tab to help solve a new problem. Next thing you know, you are studying! And solving your life's questions all at the same time.  

Click here for an online guide to Bible  verses by topic.  A lot of the Bibles today have these guides in the back. If yours doesn't have this option, check online for more guides or apps. 

Keep this journal near by, make it your go to solution for anything you are dealing with on a daily basis. From time-to-time go back through your bible study journal and answered prayers, solved solutions, or maybe inspire you along your life's journey. Make it your own - decorate, doodle, and discover yourself and the Lord. Have fun! 

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Click HERE to print a fill-in-the-blank cover sheet (as pictured below)

How to tell your friend they are a jerk.

How to tell a friend they are a jerk.

I'm about to push the limits of what is acceptable to talk about on a church blog.

Let's be real for a minute, we live in a "Mean Girls" society. With social media we are more opinionated, justified, and more righteous than our previous generations. We speak our minds without considering the repercussions of our words.

Love God: easy.

Love people: .... Let's just say the second part is a job. We all have to work on it.

 Source: unknown  

Source: unknown  

ave you ever been in a situation where you hear a friend, husband/wife, coworker or maybe someone you aren't particular fond of says something hurtful? Whether it's from someone you love or someone you are trying really hard to love doesn't make it any easier to hear something hurtful.

During a recent interaction of feeling betrayed, my first thought made me forget my religion. I wanted to scream, "you are such a jerk!!" And if I'm being honest, I could have unraveled much more from my feelings! However, my growing faith made me pause. I walked away feeling hurt and ashamed. And I was upset that I didn't take up for myself. So, what would you do in this situation?

I, for one, do not have the answers. You're probably asking yourself why I'm writing a blog without answers. Well, when I don't have the answers and I don't know where to turn, I open my bible. Man doesn't always have the answers, but the Bible does. I hope to give you a little tid bit of hope through my trials and tribulations.

Do you ever say something and instantly your foot precisely lodges itself down between your teeth and down your throat. It happens often. I have foot-in-mouth disease and it occurs pretty often. So, when someone says something mean to me I instantly relate and try to have sympathy. Although, people in society try to convince me otherwise. "Don't let them walk all over you." "Don't be their friend - they aren't really your friend. They are using you."

So, what am I to do?

id you know in the back of most bibles there is a handy-dandy little guide to life's troubles?

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When I'm dealing with something and I don't know where to turn, I find a related topic and start flipping the pages. I always find verses or chapters related to the problem I'm facing.

"A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is his glory to overlook an offense." - proverbs 19:11

Call me sensitive or call me selfish, I don't know. Growing up I've been hardened by people's words. Do you ever swallow so much hatred you end up spitting nails at the next person you come in contact with - usually someone undeserving? In typical fashion, I would cowardly repress my resentment towards someone and unexpectedly burst into a fit of rage when I reached maximum capacity.

I thank God for always giving me a second chance (okay, fine, a third or fourth chance, maybe 102,384,789 chance... but, who's counting). God has placed opportunities in my life to allow me to grow a relationship with Christ and to appreciate the sacrifice made by Jesus for me and you. With this new found love and appreciation, I have learned to slow with my anger. This gives me a chance to ask myself very important questions:

Am I hurt because I'm sore from previous situations?

Did this person mean to hurt me or where they directed towards me?

Is this worth losing a friendship over?

Will it still be hurtful tomorrow or next week?

Is this something I am able to resolve on my own or through prayer?

Depending on the situation, give yourself a chance to cool down and really evaluate the situation. Pray for answers. Read your bible for answers.

"Cease from anger and forsake wrath; fret not yourself - it tends only to evil doing. For evil doers shall be cut off, but those who wait and hope and look for Lord shall inherit the Earth." -psalm 37:8,9

"He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is hasty of spirit exposes and exhausts his folly." -proverbs 14:29

So, when do you tell your friend they are a jerk? As my first instinct has failed to solve problems, I decided to take a more reliable path. I decided that my insecurities were barking in my ear, making me rise to irrational feelings that had the potential to hurt a friendship. The devil will feed on these feelings and ruin your life. I have decided to take a positive action to correct my own life - the only life I can control. When anger rises, I will work towards pushing it away and hopefully someone won't be writing this about me one day.

Are you a jerk? Am I a jerk? When we read and live God's word, we are one step closer to at least being 1/4 of a jerk. Baby steps, right?

6 steps to success

1: Clear your mind of negativity.

Negativity will be a plague on your mind, body, and over all well being. Make a decision to be positive for today. With hope for a positive mind and prayer you will be able to rid your self of a negative mind and start moving forward towards a positive, healthy mind.

Matthew 21:22 - And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive

2: Clear your body of negativity.

This step isn't about how much you weigh or how out of shape we are - or aren't. This is about taking care of our selves. We need to respect the bodies that the Lord gave us by making sure we are eating well, exercising regularly, and ridding ourselves of toxins. This may be more of my personal opinion, but I believe when we eat healthy - giving us proper nutrients and vitamins - it effects us in a positive way - inside and out. We begin to move more, smile more, and have a better outlook on ourselves and life.

3: Set goals.


And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.
— Habakkuk 2:2-3 ESV

The best thing about making a goal is there is no limit to how big or small. Make a list of simple goals - easy to extravagant. When you see a physical reaction of marking goals off one-by-one, you will obtain a sense of accomplishment. You will recognize your successes and begin to set your goals higher.

 

4: Have purpose.

"For as long as I can -honestly- remember, I have asked the simple question, "what is my purpose?". So much of my life I have felt un-useful and  inadequate. Not to say that I always feel this way, but the feeling always has a way of creeping it's ugly self back into my thoughts.  I am the most stubborn, hard-headed, and confident person you will meet. I am determined and driven to success in many aspects.  Yet, I am vulnerable and broken. I have more failures than each of our hands can count. The unimaginable amount of failures come from trying, doing, striving; always looking for my purpose in life."... continue reading

 

5: Accept failure: 

We are human. If there's one thing we all have in common: We fail, a lot. Does that mean that we are inept, expendable, or worthless? I know -all too well- it seems as if the faucet of failures flow endlessly.
There was an image going viral on social media lately that I just adore.

 Source: unknown  

Source: unknown  


Imagine for a moment if she had given up and gave in due to failure.  Let's make a point to file our failures away in the stories-to-tell file, stand up, and never give up!


For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again. -proverbs24:16

Your goal may not be to accept an academy award; maybe success to you is being able to wear a genuine smile for a day. I don't know what success you're trying to reach, but remember that failures bring wisdom. God wants us to be wise. I truly believe that true lessons and wisdom come from some of our biggest failures or hardships. Learn to accept failure.


#6 Love God. Love People.

Matthew 22:36-40 NIV

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a]38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

I truly believe when you follow these two commandments everything else will fall into place naturally. If you ignore every other step, not only follow, but live these commandments you will become successful in life. You may even find that your definition of success will change. Your priorities will change. When you live a life God wants us to live success and happiness will follow - according to God's plan.

 

So, are you ready for success? What are you waiting for? Go get it!! 

Seeking Wisdom

Happy New Year! As cliché as it is; 2016 is a blank page of a brand new story, waiting to be written. I know, it's cheesy, but it's true. A new year is a fresh new start.

You know when your parents give you "the look?"

You know "the look." The look you get and the feeling you know you better drop whatever it is you're doing wrong or there will be trouble! We know our parents love us, but we also have that fear that they will whoop our ....well, you know where this is going... if we don't do as we are supposed to! When we are children, it's that look that keeps us in line or the thought or fear of what might happen if we don't do as we're told.

Even after we grow up we need to have that fear. To me, I feel like it's a different kind of fear. It's not the fear of impending hurt or pain. It's just that spot in the back of your mind that you know if you do wrong, there are consequences. It's a knowing.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Proverbs 1:7

This year I want a fresh new start - throw away all of the bad from 2015. However, I'm holding on to the wisdom I have gained from previous years. I'm holding on to the lessons I've learned. This year I am also going to focus on listening. I want to gain wisdom from others so that I can prevent from learning the hard way. Because we all know that's no fun.

I think back to the days of innocence. Many summers were spent at my grandparents house, down an old crooked road. Their home was strategically placed in a narrow valley between two hills. Chickens ran free, cows grazed lazily, fields were diligently plowed and reaped. My grandparents were the true, all American farmers. Their face aged with knowledge. Every line and crease told a story of hardships. They were strong and hardened from a demanding life, but weak by appearance. They had true stories to tell. They had wisdom. As a kid I remember them speaking and trying to instill their wisdom and pass on their knowledge. Let's just say I was a very spirited child, so rarely did I sit long enough for any of this to absorb.

Today, this year, I will listen, learn, and absorb. With technology today I feel we are all living in the now, and forget to listen to the days of the old. I want to listen and absorb the wisdom from the past.

This year I want to grow in my faith. I believe the first step, for me, is to allow wisdom, acknowledge wisdom, and allow wisdom to guide me.

The Bible says in Psalm 1 that a person that meditates on God's word will be blessed. Wisdom will help guide us and keep us from doing wrong. Praying, memorizing, studying and thinking about—brings the promise of being like a tree planted by a river. We will live a true life-giving nourishment that God provides through His Word. A further promise to that person is that God will guide their way in life. I want that life. What about you?


 

 

 

 

 

Passion and purpose

Do you ever have a Rocky Balboa moment? You know, when you reach the top of the 72 hypothetical stone steps, pump your fists, and feel like screaming with joy? Yeah, that moment. A little before my time, but we can all recollect the iconic cinematic vibration that sped through Stalone's veins that day. It's the same type of feeling I had while listening to this past Sunday's sermon.

If forced to compress it down, basically, Pastor Ben challenged our mind to answer the question, "Why am I here?". He dared us to have passion. He explained that "Passion will propel you to your purpose."

Usually, I leave a link and move along with my point. This time, I beg you to stop and listen to Pastor Ben's powerful PASSION message (above).

I'm going to have a little "me-me-me" moment. So, just bare with me. But, this last sermon was for me. (Okay, fine. It was for all of us.)

For as long as I can -honestly- remember, I have asked the simple question, "what is my purpose?". So much of my life I have felt un-useful and  inadequate. Not to say that I always feel this way, but the feeling always has a way of creeping it's ugly self back into my thoughts.  I am the most stubborn, hard-headed, and confident person you will meet. I am determined and driven to success in many aspects.  Yet, I am vulnerable and broken. I have more failures than each of our hands can count. The unimaginable amount of failures come from trying, doing, striving; always looking for my purpose in life.

Literally, only 6 months ago I was sharing these thoughts with someone I barely knew. For this reason, I don't know why I took trust in her words.  I knew in my heart I had purpose. I knew God had plans for me. I just knew. Vulnerability took over and decided to give up when she spoke, "Maybe you don't have a purpose. Maybe we are all here for no reason. Just to be." "Fine. So, be it," I submissively thought, absorbed the thought, and continued on with life.

Like a chill on the back of my neck I was reminded that I do have purpose. We all have purpose. Because I am strong enough to endure my failures, mistakes, uncontrollable situations. I can't be broken. I may get distracted from time-to-time, but I know I can find my way back through the power of the Lord. He spoke to me this past Sunday. I found my passion and it was with me all along.

Psalm 138:8 ESV

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

You have passion. Use it.

Romans 12:2 ESV
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This year, I dare you to make goals. Fail? Live, learn, and move on!

I dare you to sparkle this year. Take advantage of those passions hidden deep down inside of you.


Restore Point

I used to watch the show Full House all the time, from the original broadcasts to the reruns we've seen for almost the last 20 years....most of my entire life.   That is until something drastically changed in my family a couple of years ago. The life lessons (you know when the dorky music started playing and a "true" teaching moment was coming up) from Danny, Uncle Jesse and even Aunt Becky made me wanna puke.  Some episodes had several. I've inserted a video below, in case you've forgotten what I'm talking about. Life's obviously NOT like that for 99.9% of human civilization. 

 

I didn't then, and still don't understand why things happen the way they do. Ecclesiastes chapter 3 starts out "For everything there is a season...".  Not everything happens for a reason, that's a scripture that gets twisted around a lot. "Things" are going to happen. When man sinned, sin entered the world (Romans 5:12).  It's not God's desire that bad things happen, he gave man a free choice...a free will. I DO KNOW that Romans 8:28 says "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."  That tells me that God can take the worst and turn it into good when we serve him. Whether it's a teaching tool, a "life lesson" (without the cheesy music, but I guess there could be cheesy music because well, he's God), or an encouragement to ourselves or others that it's possible to survive and overcome a situation/obstacle.  

Moving right along, I'm not very open about personal stuff because it's personal.  I don't blast my business or thoughts on Facebook, though please don't think of me as so super spiritual that I haven't thought of it numerous times.  But the feelings of hurt and numbness lingered for some time after the drastic change I experienced. Uncertainty, emptiness, loneliness, anger and the "whatever" attitude filled my insides.

Fast forward to the present...things are being restored to a previous time. Kind of like the restore point on a computer that takes you back to before things got really messed up.  I can't explain why, only God knows. Just an FYI, computers can make restore points silently, that you don't even know they're there until you really need them. Let that sink in a while, because God can do the same thing. So that's where I am right now, it's crazy weird, things have picked right back up where they left off.  But this time I have a totally different perspective than the one I had before and even when the madness began...a broken one...one that didn't click until the restore point kicked in.  Human nature is to argue those "restore points" because they're not in our timing, on our terms or our idea; more commonly referred to as being a __________. You can fill in the blank for your entertainment, just don't put someone's name there, unless it's your own. Because the truth is we're all selfish, conceited, inconsiderate and the list goes on, on some level and at some time. 

Which brings me to this scripture, Colossians 3:12-14  "Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony."  This sums it  up. I don't think any of us can say we don't have any faults or offenses, which I'm laughing to myself right now from the hilarity of that statement. Even so, if we're God's people we should do these things, myself included. We all need grace and love in our lives, but to get it we have to give it, no strings attached. Love as God has loved us and forgive as God has forgiven us. If everyone really knew the "things" we'd done....wow!!!  Something to keep in mind when we get hurt or see others get hurt, and turn into the Hulk. 

Maybe you've been hurt over and over in your life, maybe not so much.  We just need to have the faith to believe and know that God is still God through everything.  God doesn't promise fairy tale endings, even to His followers, but He's never left my side through anything. He's put people in my life that I needed at the time and continue to need.  I don't understand why things happen the way they do. But I do know it can help to understand a person's decisions/actions by looking at the situation from their perspective; by hearing what they hear and seeing what they see. It gives more insight to why someone did or didn't do something. They say perspective changes everything and that rings true to me. I just have to be willing to put myself in their shoes. 

I have experienced the Thrill of Hope and seen first hand that God is a God of miracles and restoration. I'm sure that each of us can look at something in our lives or the lives of others and see that God is in it during this holiday season, we just have to have the right perspective. 

The battle of the heart and mind.

Good evening ladies and gents. Boy do we have quite the spectacle for you this evening.
In the red corner, weighing in at 10.5 oz, the true epicenter of your well-being, beating 100,000 beats each day, tiny in size, but can send blood running through 60,000 miles of vessels like a champ; the heart!


And in the blue corner we have the astounding wonder of the world, with the ability to feel no physical pain, but can take down a heart and send it into a whirlwind of excruciating pain with very little effort- the brain!

Get rooted in those seats and don’t move a muscle. ding, ding, ding! It’s on!

Satan gapes with a seductive eye as he watches from the crowd, his pallet wet with anticipation. A battle boiling his every desire - the battle between the mind and heart. Who will win?

My body isn't participating in the battle, but I become weak, and I feel the repercussions of the event.

Do you ever want something to come true so badly that you can close your eyes and feel its presence? Our wants are so real that we can once again feel the texture of a loved ones hair run through our fingers, slip our thumb underneath the flap of an envelope separating the stale glue that separates you and an awaited check that will save you from all your debts, you can feel the vibration upon your temples of an awaited phone call.

 I don't know your wants, but I know the desire in your heart even when your mind sends cautions, limitations, or barriers. Your heart feels the pain and the agony of the prospects of our future; we become anxious, stressed, and even sick waiting and hoping.

"Look with our spiritual eyes and not our natural eyes,"  is the needle on the vinyl record on of my mind. It's on its last track and continues to play over and over.  When Pastor Ben spoke these words last Sunday (listen to entire sermon), my shoulders dropped, my chest opened, and I breathed relief into my lungs. In an instance, my mind sent reassurance to my heart - It's not our battle to fight. If we are relying on man to make our wants come true, it won't happen. Man will let us down, God will not. When we look through God - our spiritual eyes - we see it's going to be okay. Or that our wants aren't part of the plan. We're on his path, not our own.

Drop your gloves.

Step out of the ring.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Hope for humility this Christmas

The lights are hung, stockings are eagerly waiting to be stuffed, shopping malls are buzzing with hurried feet; as last minute gifts are being purchased. Each slot of the TV guide is lined up with holiday shows, retailers are flashing get-it-before-its-gone sales, and kids are pouncing on Santa's lap to claim the newest gadget or gizmo.

We're ready.

All the money saved, the stress, and the anticipation... we're almost there. Christmas is just around the corner.

But...wait..where's Jesus?

"But we have 6' inflatable Santa's, cookies, trees, a nativity set up on the front lawn." you're thinking.

"good grief, Charlie Brown," I think to myself.

Trust me, I'm well past the age of watching children's cartoons, but I cant help make the the reference. The world is so caught up in "today's commercialized Christmas" and we tend to forget what Christmas is all about.

Let's rewind a bit. I didn't grow up in church. In fact, I have very little religious background. So, what do I know about the history of Christmas? Humility- my heart is full of humility. My first Christmas' were filled with love and very little of the material things we expect today. My family started their first Christmas' together thousands of miles away from "home," with no decorations or the fancy new-fangled things that make up today's Christmas. Thankfully, I had a creative, loving, innovative mother that wouldn't let anything get in the way of providing the spirit of Christmas in our hearts. We created lasting memories through time together, baking, and creating- together.  We would string popcorn one-by-one until our tree was adorned with a one-of-a-kind garland. We would hand make each and every ornament for our tree- many of which still hang on my mother's tree today. Christmas carols blaring mixed with laughter, scents of cinnamon and mulled spices filled the air.  To me, these are Christmas.   Jesus wasn't always the center of our Christmas. However, I was blessed with a true golden foundation of humility and love.

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Imagine, if you will, living among sheep. The smell, the lackluster company. You are a Shepherd. In the time of the upcoming birth of Jesus, shepherds weren't people that had money, jewels, fancy things, they weren't poplar among others. I even imagine them as people that others would completely avoid at all costs. These were the people God chose to spread the word of Jesus Christ's birth- Our Savior. (Luke 2: 8)

Today, we go all out for the arrival of a new baby. We buy 1,000 of the most obnoxious things for our newest little bundle of joy. Why? Because every 7 lb, 7oz baby needs 37 saddlers, 50 wash cloths, 15 pacifiers, bouncy things, squishy things...no. However, we all do it; we're all guilty. So, naturally, Jesus Christ, our Savior, must have these same luxuries. Right? No. God sent Jesus to be laid in a feeding trough/previously used manger (Luke 2: 12) I truly believe God wants us to believe and live in humility through these versus.

Joy and power through humility is the very dynamic of Christian life (Luke 14:11, 18: 14; Peter 5: 5)

 

I have grown up with out a lot of extra frivolous things (Dare I say, Poor.)  And I am thankful for the empathy through experience that I have had instilled into my mindset.

So, how do we have a humble Christmas today?

Charles M. Schulz illustrated it so well:

Here is where I am supposed to have a grand solution to change your heart. I don't have that, but the answer is simple: Experience the thrill of hope. " being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."- Philippians 1:6. I love that God was working through me even before I knew him. I was instilled with humility even before I knew I was living like his word. "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." - 1 Corinthians 2:2.  Let hope rise within you. Step away from today's world and look towards God and Jesus Christ. Pray today and let Jesus into your life. Step away from the commercialism this year and know the reason for this season.. 

A wise woman, my mom, once said, "The real treasures of Christmas are the memories we make and the traditions we keep." And when we understand and live through God's word, we will be able to be humble Christians. As, I believe, God wants us to be. (reference: Matt 11:29)

We can only receive Christ through meekness and humility (Matt 5: 3, 5; 18: 3, 4)

Some ways to  have some last minute humbling experiences this Christmas:

Don't JUST give to the poor and homeless. Shake their hand, ask how their day is, have a casual conversation with them. Volunteer at your local homeless shelter, coat drive, and food pantry. You will be surprised that these people sometimes need something as little as a hug.

Get your family members one less gift and ask your local school about an angel tree, gift drive, etc. Sometimes it's easy to overlook the need right in your own community.

Attend local holiday events. Get to know your community members. This will give you the chance to spread God's love and you may just learn a thing-or-to yourself.

Remember to set aside to time to just be with your family this Christmas; Talk to each other, tell stories, laugh, and make memories.

Attend church! Learn about true meaning of Christmas.

 

 

  

God's Promise of Hope

Parenting; a reference I make often on my journey to faith. We are God's children after all.

This week Pastor Ben shared a sermon “The Thrill of Hope” (click to listen) through the fulfilled promise of hope, by Jesus' birth. It's easy to see the thrill of hope in this miraculous blessing. We are all very thankful during the holiday season; on the outside. However, how many of you are sitting here reading this with hurt in your heart? No matter the amount of carols running through your ears, images of laughter and smiles, red and green, glitter and gold, your heart still aches and longs for hope that you haven't received. You are not alone. This isn't an article about the thrill of getting what you want or hope for. It's about dealing with what you don't get and realizing that sometimes our hopes are not what God has planned for us, and that's okay.

Two boys and a girl; I have been blessed with three amazing children. Aren't children the absolute best? Except, when they aren't. I feel, parenting is truly the most difficult job. The main reason: They don't always understand the decisions we make as parents.

Sound familiar? How many times have you screamed, "Why, God?!"

I'm preparing dinner this evening, as I do every single night. My son screams, "I want ice cream!" out of impatience, as he does almost every single night. I reply with a “No”. "Here it comes" I think to myself. You see, in his heart he really does hope that he will get ice cream before dinner. His belly is grumbling. He is impatient and wants what he wants, and wants it right now! Can you blame him? Ice cream is a true culinary, perfected delicacy. We don't want to wait for all the "stuff" that happens before we get to the “good stuff” we are hoping for. You, reading this, know just as well as I do, that the "stuff" in between now and dessert is what helps nourish us; it's what helps us grow. The tantrum has now started. He's young, just as some of us young in our faith (i.e. - me.), he doesn't understand that the "nasty" veggies soon to be on his plate give us what we need to be strong; give us patience to make us resilient and confident. And then he will get dessert. His tantrum goes on so long, that he no longer desires his dessert. He quickly rushed through dinner, got very little of his nutrition, due to the lack of eating, didn't enjoy the time with his family, and eventually forgot what his initial hope was for: dessert. He ultimately walked away from the table unsatisfied and didn't even understand why. I, as a mother understood. One day he will have children of his own and he will understand the discipline of waiting. Until then, I wrap my arms around him and comfort him until the day comes.

The “I-want-what-I-want-and-I-want-it-right-now” feeling is very real, even as adults. Money, love, respect, happiness - we truly hope for these things in our life - the sweet desires we have each day - just as my young son has. When we feel as if we don't receive these things on a regular basis, our soul becomes deflated, our hearts become sick. This past Sunday, Pastor Ben referenced a scripture, Proverbs 13:12, "Hope deferred makes a heart sick..." This could not be more true. Am I right? On a daily, maybe weekly or monthly, basis we feel like God is not listening. "Why am I not getting what I am praying for?", "I feel so alone; no one is listening." Have you ever had thoughts similar to these? He hears you. He is listening. His arms are wrapped around you, comforting you until the time comes for you to understand. He knows why and we have to have trust in him. The second part of this scripture is the most important, "…but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." We obtain the tree of life when we get what we want. Except we aren't getting what we want. Right? How are we supposed to get over these empty feelings and ultimately obtain this coveted, tree of life?

 
 
 
 

Step One: Know the BIBLICAL definition of "HOPE."

Romains 8:24-25 lets us know that hope comes from a confident expectation, the sure certainty that what God has promised in the word is true, has occurred, and or will in accordance with God's sure word.

Step Two: Ask yourself this one question, "Am I being selfish within this hope of mine?" It's okay if you are. We are naturally selfish. We all want that ice cream before dinner. However, we need to realize that these selfish wants are not our true hopes.

Step Three: Is this want something I am able to obtain on my own or with the help of friends and neighbors? God is miraculous and so are we; as we are in the image of him (Genesis 1:27). We are capable of more than we even know. If this isn't the time for your hope to come to be, let’s work on trying to obtain it on our own. Don't sit by and wait for it!

Step four: This is the absolute, most important. Pray! Pray! Pray! Pray for answer, pray for wisdom (James 1:5). Remember, you are never alone.

I have a diagnoses for all of us: negative-nancy-ism. “Stay with me here.” This disease consumes our brain and eventually creeps its way into our heart. Your heart will ache until you lose all hope. All of your blessings will begin to disintegrate, one-by-one. But, wait! There is a cure. Learn the difference between our definitive hope in the Lord and a temporary, selfish desire. We need to re-train our thoughts into quickly deciphering between the two. Also, retrain our brains to focus on blessings. Only then can you rid yourself of this critical disease; negative-nancy-ism.

 I ask you to do some homework: Before you go to sleep tonight, place a pad of paper and pen beside your bed.  Each and every day, when your eyes open, grab a pen and paper and write down three - five things you are thankful for, or reasons you feel blessed - big or small; Continue on with your day. Commit to doing this for one week. Then try for another week. Then if you can continue for one more week, I feel like you are on the path to redirecting your thoughts. And with this I truly hope you will find happiness within each day.

My prayer today:  "Dear heavenly father, please help the lonely today. Please wrap your arms around those that do not understand, those that want and need something today. Maybe they aren't going to get what they need today. Please Lord, help them understand why. Please Lord, give people wisdom today. For the people that feel like you aren't listening, please let them know you are listening. Let them know you are there. Let them find what they need to find from me and my article today. Let each person find their happiness - if even one small thing - in each and every day. Thank you Lord for giving me the strength, words, and message to write this article today. Amen."