The only thing that counts

faithlove1I started a new journal (one of about 10 – don’t judge) this year for recording verses and thoughts that strike me in a new way. I have read through many of the books of the Bible several times, but, as I have said before, I truly believe that the Spirit reveals things to us from the word in a new way as we are needing them or as we grow and become ready to receive them. To that end, I have decided to journal these verses as they present themselves with the significance they have to me at that moment in time. Just the other morning while I studied I wrote down this verse. “…the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6) There is so much meaning layered in these few words. On the morning that I wrote them, I truly was thinking about serving and loving on the people whom God has brought into my life – mostly through Celebrate Recovery and our new church home. And I whole-heartedly believe that truly, as a Christian, our faith is expressed through the way we love those around us. This morning, though, as I re-read that verse, it presents a new, slightly different meaning. I think of this verse today in terms of my covenant with Brian. We just celebrated our first anniversary. I would be lying if I said that everyday of that first year was like a honeymoon, with rose pedals and violins,etc. We had our challenges. Not only the challenges presented by trying to blend our families (I use the word BLEND very loosely), but also just the ups and downs of really learning each other and living together AND growing in our walk with God at the same time. At times, we were overwhelmed and thought that maybe our expectations of this covenant we had made with each other and God were too much. We were very intent on the fact that our marriage was priority and that God was using our love and our union to make us more holy. But in the day to day “muck” of life – that all seems too lofty and leads to disappointment. I am certain that God brought Brian and me together for His purposes. I am certain that Brian is the man God intended for me, and I am so grateful for the love that we share. This verse this morning really spoke to me as far as Brian and my marriage is concerned. We can get bogged down in daily life, raising kids, paying bills, highs, lows, failures and disappointments. But when we take time to be still and to share with each other, “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” I am made more holy through this covenant. I am learning to love like Christ loved through this covenant. I sit here in the middle of a home that has, at times, felt broken and failed…and I am more certain than ever that I am where God called me to be. My faith in God is being expressed through this love.

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Grudge match

Have you ever had a disagreement with someone that you tried to resolve but they just wouldn’t let it go? If you’re breathing and have a heart beat, the answer is probably yes. There is much teaching in the Bible about this type of situation and how it should be handled by each responsible party. So why don’t we follow that guidance like we follow other parts of the Bible. I’m pretty certain we aren’t allowed to just pick and choose which parts we will live by and which parts we just will skim over because they make us uncomfortable. We are told that if we have wronged someone -a brother or sister in Christ-we are to go to them, confess our wrongs, and ask for forgiveness. Okay God…what happens when we do that, in all sincerity, with true remorse, and that person refuses to forgive? Colossians 3:13 tells us to “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” This is not just a recommendation guys. There is a “must” in there. My husband is such a Godly leader of our home, and he is so disciplined at diving into God’s word. And he is a thinker. Lately his saying has been “You either believe, or you don’t believe.” Seems like a simple statement…but it’s really insightful. Do you believe that God created the heavens and earth? Do you believe in a guy named Jonah who lived in the belly of a fish for three days? Do you believe in Lazarus who was raised from the dead? If we believe any of this, we must believe all of it. And if we believe, then we must follow, trust and obey. Now, are we all going to be perfect? No way. But we should be trying every day to walk in the light, as He is in the light. We must listen and be guided by the Holy Spirit.

Asking for forgiveness is a hard thing. Forgiving is hard too. Trying to take the high road and accept that someone whom you have gone to in love and asked for forgiveness may simply NOT forgive is even harder. Who are you refusing to forgive? How tightly are you holding onto that grudge? We cannot let these things become stumbling blocks in our walk of faith. If you are holding that grudge, let it go. Stop carrying that weight around and forgive. “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” Mark 11:25 If you are the one who has been shunned by another…pray for that person. Jesus tells us…”But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.”

God, please forgive us when we let our pride get in the way and refuse to forgive others. Lord help us if we are holding grudges, help us to let go. Lord let us learn to forgive others even when they won’t forgive us. We know your Word is holy and divine God. Help us to remember that it is not up to us to choose which parts of it to follow. Guide us in our walk with you and give us the strength to live the abundant life you have promised us. In the sweet name of Jesus, Amen.

Beyond what the eyes can see

IMG_0196“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 Of all the verses and sermons I grew up hearing my daddy speak, this one is the one that I remember the most. When I read it, I can almost actually hear my daddy’s voice speaking the words to me. It’s one of those warm, fuzzy feelings…and it takes me back to my childhood in an instant. As a child I knew it was an important verse in his life, and he certainly has lived reflecting it…but only recently has the significance of this verse really shown up in my life. Faith is such an important part of the woman that God wants me to be. I often hear people use the word in ways that have kind of watered its true meaning down. Referring to someone as “a person of faith” meaning that they are religious in some way misses the mark of this important word. Some people use faith as if it is some completely blind belief in something – almost like a wish come true. I don’t claim to have all of the answers to any of it, but I think that faith is more. To me faith is a bold, confident action or behavior in response to God’s never-ending love. Faith is what makes us want to live a life pleasing to God. Faith carries us through valleys when we feel like we can’t walk on our own. Faith assures us of the things that we believe but can’t see.

I would like to claim that my faith is rock solid and that it never waivers…but I can’t say that is the case. There are times when my faith is not strong enough. That’s not because God isn’t with me all of the time. It’s all on me when my faith won’t calm my fears and quiet the worries. And at times I get discouraged and frustrated with myself that I don’t stand stronger in my faith. Sometimes I think I should be able to withstand any troubles without bending. Occasionally I fear that my moments of weakness may “let God down” and I am ashamed. What more do I need to stand completely strong in my faith than what God has already shown me and done for me? He has moved in so many areas and ways in my life. But fear creeps in…and I take my eyes of him. But fear paralyzed….ask Peter.

Peter was with the other disciples on a boat surrounded by wind and waves in the middle of the night. (I’ve been on a boat in the dark with zero wind or waves and was terrified) Jesus came walking across the water and told them not to be afraid. Ok…Jesus….walking on water….speaking calming words. I’m thinking for me that might be enough to convince me. And Peter wanted to believe. He called to him and said “if its really you, tell me to walk to you on the water.” One word…. “Come.” And Peter listened.

I wonder how many times God has shown up to try and calm my fears, and I didn’t recognize he was there? How many times has he spoken to me – even just given me one word – and I didn’t hear him? How often do I hear him, but don’t act upon his words because of fear?

So Jesus said “Come,” and Peter listened and acted. Peter climbed over the side of the boat and walked on water toward Jesus. In my eyes…that’s some serious faith and I wonder if I would have done the same thing? Peter asked, Peter listened, and Peter acted. Now I would think that climbing over the side of the boat, and taking the first step would be the hardest part. Once you see that you are actually doing it, you would think it would be a piece of cake after that. But not in Peter’s story. After asking, hearing, and acting, Peter left fear paralyze him. He took his eyes off of the source of his strength and he began to sink.

I’m no different than Peter. I have seen God at work in my life. I have listened to his will and acted upon it…and yet I still will take my eyes off of him and go into a tailspin. I will become paralyzed by things that I should know that God has under his control. And then I become ashamed and worry that I have disappointed God. But He’s still there.

When Peter began to sink and cried out to Jesus, the Bible says that “Jesus immediately” reached out and grabbed him. He didn’t lecture him or let him fend for himself in the waves-to teach him a lesson about faith. He immediately saved him.

So when I am paralyzed by my fears and worries, He will most assuredly reach out and grab me. But I have to call upon his name. If I take my eyes off of him, and lose sight of my faith, he will be there to save me when I cry out to him. And how am I so sure of this? Why would he continue to reach out and grab me, when I am the one who has failed him by taking my eyes off of him? Because I belong to him! I belong to Jesus, and the word tells me that “There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) He loves me…even when I am weak. He loves me in spite of my doubts.

I will never be “good enough” but in God’s eyes I am righteous and loved.

“We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.” Romans 3:22

People Person

I have never been one to have a big circle of “friends.” Never had real close longtime friends. Sometimes that would bother me – make me wonder what was wrong with me? Or what was wrong the other people that they didn’t want to be my friend. But for the most part, I have been good with not being especially social and kind of being alone. Over the last few years I have done a lot of looking inward and thinking about who I truly am and why I am that way (sometimes being self-aware is no fun). What I have really learned about me is that I have been the one who has chosen to not have friends. I seemingly got along with a lot of people, but rarely let anyone “in” or close. It has been my choice to keep people at a distance. Until now. The relationship that I have with God is all about love. His love for me…and in turn me showing that love to others. You’ve kind of got to be a “people person” to show and share that love. It’s not that I don’t like people, or that now I am faking it. Now that I have truly felt the love of God and  have seen it working and alive in my daily walk, I want to share it with others. What has been really great about this growth process is that I have been blessed with some absolutely amazing people to get to know. God brought me my best friend, my ministry/accountability/study partner, and the love of my life – Brian! (I could gush and get all sappy here – but I will spare you…just know I love him to pieces). God has also challenged me to leave my comfort zone and to open up to other new people. I have met some increible women of faith who are genuine and authentic. They love God and during our times together are so real…they share the good, the bad, and the ugly. I am awed that God loves me so much that he has sent me such Godly sisters from whom I can learn so much. I have also been given the blessing of serving many beautiful people who are broken and lost and in true need of Jesus. People who just want to be heard and loved. I love listening to their stories, and sharing mine. God has pushed me out of my “shell” and has given me so much strength. While I don’t feel worthy all all of His blessings and mercy, I am so grateful that He loves me extravagantly enough to not leave me the way I was – but rather to lead me to becoming the person I am becoming…a people person.

If you died today…

Recently I made a day trip to Columbus to attend a workshop for school (people who think that teachers don’t work in the summer are wrong). As I was driving home enjoying the quiet of the car I noticed a GIANT billboard that read, “If you died today, do you know where you would end up?” Less than a mile later was another GIANT billboard that read, “Hell is for real.” I thought about these obnoxious signs  most of the way home and for several days since. Now, before I go any further, let me say that yes, I do believe that hell is real and that it is serious, etc. That debate is not my purpose here. Continue reading

Choices

I can’t believe it’s been nearly two months since my last post. One of my New Years resolutions was to try and post at least twice a week…and I was on a roll there for a while. I’m not even really sure what happened – except life. I have learned a lot about myself and what it really means to be authentic over the course of the first two months of 2012. I truly wish I would have taken the time and energy to document  some of those lessons learned on here. But the beauty of living this crazy life is that it is second chances. I’m so grateful for second chances, and third chances, and fourth chances… My start of 2012 has taught me so far that life is really about choices. Every day we are faced with countless choices to be made…some very trivial, but some are huge. And some that may seem trivial at the time turn out to be huge in the impact they have on our lives or someone else’s. I have chosen this year to be the most authentic me that God made me to be…some days I’m on it…some days I wonder why he made me the way he did. I am very mindful of the choices I am making each day…and the presence of God in every moment of my life helps me as  I choose  – whether its dealing with a student at school, working out a problem with a co-worker, making that difficult phone call to someone who has been distant. God guides my choices and I am so dependent on him for that guidance and wisdom. My life is not perfect…and I’m blessed to say that, because through each struggle and set of difficult circumstances, God is helping me choose to be the woman he created me to be. With God’s love and mercy, I will continue to grow and learn and make the most out of every choice today.

He’s not finished

I heard a saying once – or maybe I read it on a magnet at Cracker Barrel – and I didn’t really commit it to memory intentionally, but I have never forgotten its words and the power of it message in my life. The saying was “Jesus accepts me for who I am, but loves me too much to leave me that way.” Lately this phrase has become really important to me as I seek to continue to grow in my love for the Lord and in my desire to bring people to Him. Through my lowest lows in recent weeks, I keep asking myself why in the world Jesus would want to use me for his work. I’m not the smartest, the most well-spoken, the strongest…I’m broken and often afraid of losing my way. I feel like sometimes I’m not worthy enough to call myself a child of God. And in spite of my broken state, God loves and accepts me for who I am! I don’t have to be anybody else but me. But it gets even better (do I sound like an infomercial…?) Jesus does accept me for who I am – but through his mercy and grace he loves me way too much to leave me like I am. Since I surrendered myself to his will, He has begun to change me. In small ways and in BIG ways. I am His work in progress. He is transforming me, renewing my mind, using me to further his Kingdom, placing amazing people in my path, and allowing me to grow in my faith and in Him. He showers me with mercy and grace in my daily walk. He listens and he speaks. He teaches me to believe when I doubt, to ask for his help when I’m hurt, and to rejoice in him when he has made me glad. He does not turn his back on me when I slip and fall, but rather opens up more to me to help me learn each day. I know that Jesus loves me, and I know that He is working in me to make me a better person every day. He accepts me and keeps changing me with his love. And He’s not finished with me yet.