I started a new devotional this morning. It seems that lately I keep seeking to find inspiration through people who I admire…people who I know are way further along in their walk with Christ and can maybe help light my path. Sometimes I beat myself up for this. This need to be inspired by someone else’s writings and thoughts. Why can’t I seek and find inspiration on my own? I go back and forth on what this says about my walk and my “study life” as far as God goes. I don’t think that being inspired by others is necessarily a negative. There are some amazing people out there who God has given beautiful gifts to and I am thankful they share those gifts. Then I sometimes think that if I can’t just merely sit down and open up the gift that God gave me – my Bible – then something is lacking in me. I am missing something if His inspired word is “not enough.” Yes – this is what I do – argue with myself, beat myself up, etc. After much reflection this morning, I actually think that a balance between studying the word of God and reading other’s words and thoughts is healthy and good for my soul. I don’t have to be a Bible scholar, but I can spend time reading my Bible and it WILL speak to me. God WILL reveal himself to me through those pages. I can also receive blessings, encouragement and inspiration through other people and will hear God through their words. I thank God for his guidance and instruction he inspired through the Bible. Time spent in those pages are time spent with my Creator. I also thank him for gifting people with such creative and insightful spirits whose words touch me and make my spirit soar. Writers like Ann Voskamp are so talented and produce such beautiful thoughts to share that there is no doubt in my mind she is speaking out her gift from God. I spent this morning reading Psalms of praise and thanksgiving. Recorded for me there is a picture of true adoration of God and the words of David inspire me to live a life that praises more, worships more, thanks more, and adores more. And then, in the same time of study this morning, I read from Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts Devotional” about her understanding of thankfulness and what God has revealed to her about being truly thankful, and I know that her words are a gift from God as well. So as I continue to reflect on my walk and my relationship with God, I am realizing that I am doing ok. I know that the desire of my heart is to seek God in all that I do. And it is ok if I seek him in many ways, places, and words. His Holy Word will always be my ultimate authority. But I also realize that he can and will reveal himself to me through others. For all of it, I am truly thankful.
The house is quiet, the coffee is hot and filling the air with a “comfortable” aroma. The date at the top the page reads July 24th. Summer is speeding by…moments like these will be packed away soon for another season. Bible study has become my favorite part of each day – but especially int he summer, when I’m not really on a schedule. On a summer day I can dig into the word and get lost in my study time – not having to worry about getting ready for work, for being on time, the day that lies ahead. I can let the word lead me from one subject to the next, as prompted by the Spirit. To me it has become beautiful time of discovery. About my God, and about myself. I am so grateful for these quiet moments in the morning spent with my creator.
Hi there! Me again. It’s been 3 months since my last blog. I am ashamed of that but I’m back and starting again. I think I have had lots of thoughts and ideas for posts in the last three months, but I haven’t allowed myself to sit long enough and make them happen. But then today, something that I said to Brian after lunch kind of collided with a few things that Pastor David spoke about in his sermon this morning and I knew I needed to explore them here.
Brian’s dad, Dennie Suman, is battling cancer. He has been for a few years, but about a year ago it was “under control” and he was on monthly “maintenance” treatments. Recently it has begun growing again, and now the doctors are finding new tumors. He is rapidly losing weight and honestly, things do not look good. It’s sad to watch. Brian was moved to go spend some time with his daddy and really ask him where he stood with the Lord. He was able to pray with Dennie, and invited him to church today. I’ll admit I was a little surprised when I turned the corner this morning and found he and Pat (his longtime “girlfriend”) in the lobby. I had feared that he would just be too tired to get up and out the door for church – but he made it! I did my best not to let the shock of his sunken face and dramatic weight loss show on my face. I was thrilled they were there to worship with us.
Pastor David continued his series entitled “Who We Are” and spoke of how the world views us as Christians. Are we a people who would walk to the other side of the road and right past someone in need? Or do we stop and help people out of their ditches and love on them and let them see Jesus in us. (Okay…there was much more to his sermon – this is what really resonated with me). Are we, as Christians, telling people what they need or are we showing people Jesus in our actions and in our lives?
So – here is where these two parts of my world came together today. After having lunch and a tearful, tough goodbye to Dennie and Pat, Brian and I quietly came home – both kind of fighting tears (he may not admit that). I told him that I just feel helpless and that we need to do something for his dad and Pat. Maybe I could cook some dinners, maybe we could go do yard work or clean their house. Whatever!?!? I just felt like we needed to DO something. But why? Of course any or all of those things would be nice things to do – and I’m sure they would be appreciated and helpful to them. But those things were really about me. Why did I feel the need to just do and do and do? I guess because I don’t know what else there is…If I could run out and find a cure for this horrible disease, I would certainly do that. But I don’t know what else to do! And then I was reminded of this morning’s sermon…maybe I don’t need to necessarily DO….maybe I need to show. Perhaps what Dennie and Pat need the most right now is to be shown the love of Jesus. Maybe they need to see Him in the midst of our prayers and tears. Should we be showing them our belief that if it’s God’s will that he will heal Dennie. Can we show them God’s love for them through us in a prayer-filled visit?
As these words flow through me to this screen, I’m thinking – well isn’t helping them with daily chores a way of showing them Jesus? Can’t we be the hands and feet of Jesus through small acts of service? Yes – those are ways of showing love – but what if what they need is more than simple chores done around their house! To me that is showing – and doing out of love. But I think that sometimes there is more. Can we show them our faith through this storm by not wavering and by leaning in to God through these scary times? We can show them our worship and praise to a God whom we KNOW is bigger than any of this on earth. I believe that if we really need to DO something for them at this point, it should be by SHOWing them that we believe in our heavenly father and will follow him and trust in him to make all things good, so that he may be glorified.
This verse has recently become my favorite verse. I know that I have read it many times in the recent past, but in the last week it has become so meaningful to me. And the more I read it, the more I see how packed it is with so such rich meaning and beauty. The first part that I really love talks about experiencing the love of Christ. God doesn’t want us to just know that we are loved. He doesn’t want us to just feel that we are loved. God wants us to experience his love. I love that idea. Its so much more than a feeling…stronger than an emotion…it is an experience. And even as we experience it, it is too much for us to understand fully. It is not like an earthly love. Its a supernatural love from our creator – the one who created us and who created love. THEN – only after we have experienced this love – THEN we our complete. Hmmm…so earthly love does not complete us. Not love from our spouse, or kids, or friends, or even brothers and sisters in Christ. The love of Christ is what completes us. Without experiencing that love – we are not complete. But when we do experience that love, we are complete with ALL the fullness of life. This is the abundant life that Jesus promised. It’s why he came. John 10:10 says “I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” We are just going to “get by” in this life. Jesus’ love completes us and grants us that fullness of life. So, we experience His love (even though it’s too much for our brains to understand), we are made complete not only with a full, abundant life, but also with POWER from God. So a full life, and power from God. Power to live out our lives, power to overcome struggles, power to fight the enemy, power to love others through their sin, power to spread the gospel, power to fulfill the plans God has for our lives. The promise from God to be made complete with His power is overwhelming to me. Being complete with His power means that there is NOTHING out there that is bigger or stronger than my God. With his power in my I can accomplish all that he has in store for my life – no excuses. God would not call me to serve him, and then not equip me with the tools to do that. To think otherwise is to short change God. As we experience the love of Christ, we are made complete. Life becomes a full, rich, meaningful life. We share in the power that God has for us. Rather than feeling God’s love, or knowing that he loves us, choose to experience His love in your life.
“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” ~Hebrews 4:12
I am going to try and not come off too “preachy” in this post, but I can’t make any promises. I feel so strongly about this topic that it will be hard for me not to “should” on you. I apologize, in advance if…wait – no, I don’t apologize. I am not sorry for being passionate about this topic. I was raised in the church. My daddy is a preacher. I have always owned a Bible. (Back in the day – it was straight up KJV…but now I own several different translations.) Since I found my own relationship with Christ I feel like I’m pretty good. (Kind of funny since it doesn’t really matter how good I am in God eyes, I don’t have to earn his love – but that’s another post.) I have listened to countless sermons that have to do with the Word of God and how it is his guidebook for us. It is divinely inspired. It has story after story that help us see how to live our lives. I even recently came to understand that some books of the Bible are prescriptive, while others are descriptive. (Thank you Matt Chandler for that lesson). But the biggest thing that I can say about the Bible, about this living document that speaks to us, is that is really “works” best if we spend time in it…DAILY. Notice, I did not just say it works if we “read” it daily. Or if we memorize verses from it daily. We have to spend time in it. Read, listen, pray, re-read, accept new ways to understand things we thought we already had figured out. Reading our Bibles should NOT feel like a chore that we have to check off our To-Do list every day so that we will make God happy. Spending time in God’s word is something we GET to do – with our heavenly Father. And if we really clear our minds and our hearts and set aside time to dive into it, it is amazing the things that God reveals to us. I can honestly say that since I began devoting time every day to dwell in the scriptures, my life has drastically changed. I’m not talking changed like some of the false-teachers (Uh-hmm – Joel Osteen) claim – like I will get a new house or my dream job because of what I do for God). I’m talking about real, inside, to the depths of my soul changed. Like, I can feel the Spirit moving and guiding me through the passages as I read and ponder them. Each day when I open up the word, it is precious time spent with the Lord, and each day I gain wisdom and understanding of how much He loves me. I am his beloved. So much so that he left me a living word to guide me and reassure me, and inspire me, and correct me, and speak to me, and teach me, and to give me hope! I have read verses over and over – and then one day – one of those same verses will take on new life for me – based on what God wants me to hear. If you are a Christian and you are not spending time in the word (not just checking off your daily reading plan) you are missing out on ALL that God has for you. I passionately urge you to pray about it and try and read the Bible with the idea that you are listening for the Spirit to speak through the pages. There is so much to be learned from this gift from God. I have been thinking about this blog for a few weeks now and have just now gotten around to putting my thoughts out here. In the meantime, I just heard a sermon three days ago about this very subject (that was my “nudge” to go ahead and post this). In the sermon the Pastor used the illustration of when Jesus was in the desert and the devil was tempting him. Now, this is a relatable story – even if you don’t think it is at first glance. We ALL face temptation every day of our lives. Some days it’s every hour of our lives. How did Jesus face his temptation? He drew upon his knowledge of the scripture to combat the evil. Each time he told the devil, “It is written…” One thing I never thought about – Jesus reading scripture. He learned from the teachers in the temple. He read and studied and memorized scripture. So – if Jesus did it – read his scriptures – shouldn’t that be a pretty good example for us?!? The other take away here is that we should respond to temptation like Jesus did…”It is written…” And if we are not spending time in the word – how do we even know WHAT is written. How often do you hear someone throw out a quote of some kind and claim its in the Bible? Do WE know what is written? When we face temptation do we use this powerful tool we have been given to run it off? I speak so passionately about this because I have seen the transformation in my own heart – from spending time with God in his word. I have seen it change my husband as he spends more and more time in the word. We are told in 1 John “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in Him.” We have to be IN the word in order to OBEY the word. This book gives light and life to me in my everyday walk with God. It is God’s wisdom and his love given to us.
“The Word gave life to everything that was created , and his life brought light to everyone.” ~John 1:4
I 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.
This is not going to be a newsflash to anyone who knows me or who has read my blog on any type of consistent basis. I am a control freak. I have a very hard time sitting back and letting go. Instead I try to micro-manage, script, control, and dictate the way I think things should go. And may I just say that its not working out so great for me. I get so frustrated and discouraged with the fact that when I do try and control the outcome of things it doesn’t work. Things are going to happen the way they are supposed to happen according to God’s plan – he doesn’t need me to “help.” Secondly, my need to control things, situations, people, etc. hints to me (or screams at me) that my faith really isn’t where it should be or where I claim it to be…or want it to be. It’s so easy for me to tell a friend who is struggling that “everything will be ok…God is in control.” Shame on me for speaking it into someone else’s life when I barely allow it in my own. Truthfully, the last month or so has been extremely trying and difficult in my life. (Everything is relative – and even as I type “extremely” I know that there are others suffering much greater hardships than I). Brian and I have been married 6 months this week, and while we truly have an amazing, relationship built on God first, there have been challenges along the way. But it is only when I take things into my own hands – when I lean on MY own understanding – that I think things seem tough. One of our biggest challenges has been the blending of two families. Raising children is hard. Raising 5 children…hard. Raising 5 children – 4 of whom are teenagers…yep….hard. And throw in the fact that some are his and some are mine and the bar is raised even higher for difficulty level. And the thing about it is – we are blessed. We have really good kids who make good decisions and stay out of trouble,etc. Reflecting on the last month, I realize that things are toughest when I try and make things be the way I think they should be. In the last few days, I wasn’t sure how things would work out, where it would all end up, and how all of us would fare through it – but I WAS certain that all of it be ok – because we love God and he promises us that all things work together for good for those who love Him. I kept telling myself that over and over. Its in His hands. It will all be ok. Over and over – almost as if I was still trying to control the outcome. But I do believe in God and I know that He loves me. I do trust in His word. This morning, I went to church broken. I was at the point where I just had lost the energy to fight anymore. I was finally ready to turn it all over to God and truly ask Him to take it. (And all along God is waiting for me to get to this point. You would think after a while I would learn to make it easier on all of us and just give it all to him all the time.) At the end of the sermon, we stood and began to sing the following words…
“I lean not on my own understanding.
My life is in the hands of the maker of heaven.
I give my heart to you God
Trusting you will make
Something beautiful out of me”
At first, I couldn’t even bring myself to sing the words. They were a lie. I have been trying to do things my way – all on my own. Lately, my life has been in my own hands – not in the hands of the one who created it all. I have given God my heart, but my late actions have not shown a trust in God to make me into who he has planned. As the song went on and the words were repeated over and over I could feel the weight I’d been carrying around being gently lifted from me. As I began to sing the words, I truly was making a vow to lean NOT on my own understanding. If I earnestly believe that my life is in HIS hands, what am I so fearful of? Why am I worried? I’m always amazed at the way God works. He knows me so well. I am so moved my music and by lyrics. Today he chose that avenue to really speak to my heart. He knew I needed not only to hear the words of that song, but He knew I needed to let it all go and to sing the words from my heart to Him. Will this be my last blog about my inability to “let go and let God’? Probably not…I’m not perfect and never will be. And I’m sure my need to control will be something that I continually will have to ask God for help with. God knows my heart and he knows exactly how to speak to me. And right here and right now I am letting him carry the burden. I’m confident my life is in His hands and I do trust that He is making beauty out of my messes.