Thursday, July 30, 2015

Looking Forward


I'm finishing my schoolwork for the summer semester today.  This is my third break in three hours. As always, my mind wanders as I struggle to complete the final work.  I'm amazed that the summer semester is already coming to an end. Summer has been full, busy and overwhelming.  (Isn't summer supposed to be beautiful and freeing?) Beginning next week, summer "vacation" ends for us.  We travel for the last time this weekend then focus on the sports, work and events of the fall. I always long for the beauty and routine of fall, but as I finish up this work I am particularly excited.  I'm taking my first break from school in three years.  I get to focus on being a mom (albeit still a youth pastor and Aflac agent), getting healthy, and renewing my spirit to continue God's work. I am encouraged by being still, seeing the blessings surrounding me and the beauty of the future.  I believe the most joy can be found in seeing God's presence, finding a reason to look forward and something for which to be passionate. I pray that we all consider our blessings and find hope in the future...

I look forward to enjoying God's creation in fall and worshiping the creator, to being engaged in His word by choice, to remembering His word as a love letter versus a textbook and to sharing in a slower closeness with my family.  Praise God for breaks and new beginnings...

I[a] exalt You, my God the King,
and praise Your name forever and ever.
I will praise You every day;
I will honor Your name forever and ever.
Yahweh is great and is highly praised;
His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation will declare Your works to the next
and will proclaim Your mighty acts.
I[b] will speak of Your splendor and glorious majesty
and[c] Your wonderful works.
They will proclaim the power of Your awe-inspiring acts,
and I will declare Your greatness.[d]
They will give a testimony of Your great goodness
and will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and great in faithful love.
The Lord is good to everyone;
His compassion rests on all He has made.
10 All You have made will thank You, Lord;
the[e] godly will praise You.
11 They will speak of the glory of Your kingdom
and will declare Your might,
12 informing all people of Your mighty acts
and of the glorious splendor of Your[f] kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;
Your rule is for all generations.
The Lord is faithful in all His words
and gracious in all His actions.[g]
14 The Lord helps all who fall;
He raises up all who are oppressed.[h]
15 All eyes look to You,
and You give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open Your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in all His ways
and gracious in all His acts.
18 The Lord is near all who call out to Him,
all who call out to Him with integrity.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him;
He hears their cry for help and saves them.
20 The Lord guards all those who love Him,
but He destroys all the wicked.
21 My mouth will declare Yahweh’s praise;
let every living thing
praise His holy name forever and ever. - Psalm 145

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ice Cream and Sin... The Little Things


Yesterday, despite knowing that I wasn't allowed to have it, I had a perfect peach ice cream cone. After all, peach ice cream is only served in the summer months, and it's delicious.  It seemed like a welcome treat... until dinner, when I couldn't stomach much else because I felt so sick.  Last night I started thinking about how much sin is like that.  

We sometimes measure sin by how often we do it. 
"It's just this once." 
"After tomorrow, I'll stop."
"I know people who do this all the time."

Other times we measure sin by it's nature and the perceived gravity of it.
"It's not so bad."
"I'm just looking."
"Hitting snooze and lying about my tardiness is not exactly murder..."

The problem is that these things are ultimately hurting us a little bit at a time.  Like the ice cream made me unable to take in what was good for my body, sin pulls us further from God and receiving all that He has to offer.  It made me realize that it's the little "just this once" things that add up to harm us both physically and spiritually...

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction;whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. - Galatians 6:7

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Providence


In early June I was sitting in an insurance enrollment talking to a client about her preexisting conditions.  She shared with me some information about a hospital visit she'd had in January. Since her symptoms were similar to ones I had been experiencing for over a year, I inquired further.  She conveyed that the issue in January was just a scare. She had been diagnosed with colon cancer in 2010 and was afraid the cancer had returned. When I shared that my symptoms were identical to the ones she had experienced, she encouraged me to go straight to my doctor. I had already been to my general practitioner (GP) last June. He had sent me for abdominal scans for possible gallbladder concerns. When those were inconclusive he attributed my issues to hemorrhoids or a lower GI ulcer and sent me on my way.  I tried to follow a diet for an ulcer, but had been feeling progressively worse through the year. I was lethargic, tired and the nausea and abdominal pain were becoming more unbearable as time passed. I felt an urgency to follow my client's advice. Having been unimpressed with my GP, I set up an appointment with my gynecologist who covered all her bases with lab work and an ultrasound before deciding to send me for a colonoscopy. At this point, I was anemic and was living with unnecessary pain. I was grateful for any test that would provide an answer. This is where God's providence comes in to play. A polyp in my sigmoid colon had grown so large that it was blocking my colon cavity. This was causing the bleeding and pain. The polyp was severely dysplastic (precancerous). Within a few years, the growth would have become cancerous. The doctor shared that if I had waited until I was 50 to have a routine colonoscopy, I would likely have had advanced stage cancer. The polyp was easily removed, and I feel better already. With iron and diet changes, I'm feeling like a new person. I'll be returning for a colonoscopy every 3 years to keep future growths from becoming cancer. I believe God had this client sit with me in our enrollment to encourage me to continue searching for an answer to my ailment.  Her prompting moved me to take action that I, otherwise, would not have taken.  I feel fortunate to have crossed paths with her and feel that God intervened on my behalf.  I also feel like I've been given a new opportunity to live a healthier, stronger life. Thanks to God for that gift.  When we keep our eyes open, we see the ways He intercedes through His word, other people, and incidents that may change our path. I will keep my eyes fixed on Him.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:26-28

Monday, July 20, 2015

Hmm...

The last few weeks have been a struggle, but I'm starting to realize this is His plan and I will get through with His strength

This keeps showing up on PInterest, and in Daily Quote... a message to remember. He's here.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Set Free


It's only when I'm alone with God, in a serenity that the world can't provide, that I can see with clarity.  When the body succumbs to illness and fatigue, when life is thankless, when the murmurs of people and petty troubles engage, when it doesn't make sense why attacks are made over senseless issues that in no way further the kingdom of God, there is one place of peace...  That is in God himself.  At times, I long to stay in that place where peace abounds, in the calm waters or mountaintop experiences, instead of returning to the valleys of life and people, but that isn't where the work of the kingdom lies. 

My truth today came from John 8.  As Jesus spoke to the Jews, convincing them that the truth in Him would set them free, I read: "...He (Satan) was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” ...and a pain shot through my heart.  The murmurs of people will always be there.  There will always be a fight to be fought, but my truth lies in Christ.  If I choose to believe anything that is not of Him, if I choose to believe the hurtful murmurs of the people, that I am less than worthy in the role He has placed me, then I am choosing to listen to the father of lies.  When I close my eyes and see Christ, when I read the scriptures of what and Whose I am, when I walk worthy... I am choosing to believe the truth that only He has for me and the truth will set me free (John 8:32).

Friday, July 17, 2015

Together


I miss my church family.  I have worshiped in other places for five weeks.  In this time I have discovered two things.

1.  I can worship sincerely anywhere.  No building, Sacrament, style or attitude holds God.

2.  I miss the support system, fellowship, and promise of those who are praying and walking the journey with me,

God is omnipresent, He can be praised in the darkest of places, the glory of creation, the most meager setting... Anywhere... But there's something to be said for worshiping in the same place and with the same people.  The peace and passion that we share together is a gift.

24 Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. - Hebrews 10:24-25

Monday, June 29, 2015

If...


When dying becomes a truly real thought, one ponders life.  How much of what I want to "be" for others, has become "I do for others"? How much of the abundant life God has for me have I lived? How often do I transmit my pain onto others, blaming their actions for my response? Have I made a measurable difference? How will I be remembered?  

And with this thought, living life becomes different, new... But it shouldn't be the thought of dying that changes a person into a life of living. We all only have this moment...


I wonder what the world would be like if we all lived like every day was our last.  

Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. - James 4:14

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Small Difference

homeless
Picture from John Pavlovitz post - "The Lost Christian Art of Giving a Damn"
I happened to read John Pavlovitz's article (link below picture) following an incident in my family last night.  My oldest daughter asked for some change and laughingly gave it to a handsome young juggler with two buckets marked "Beer Money" and "College Fund". Later we passed by a homeless man on the street who appeared blind. She sidestepped him to the curb and continued on hurriedly.  I also stand convicted, as I did not stop because the family had left me in their hurry to the car. I asked my daughter why she chose not to address him or ask for change for him.  Her response was "Did you give him money?" I explained to her that I rarely give people money.  I shared that I usually provide food, prayer and conversation then attempt to guide them to the closest place for help. I explained that my concern was that she chose amusement over compassion.  We talked a little about it and later she spent time praying for the homeless people of Columbus.  I was enlightened to the fact that we often sidestep people for our own agendas. That breaks my heart. No matter the reason a person has ended up on the street, that person is worthy of our love and the love of Christ shown through kindness.

My kids recently asked me what I want for my upcoming birthday.  I have decided that I want them to spend the day making bags for the homeless with me, then to join me in taking the bags downtown and handing them out as needed to the people on the streets. As a one income household, I don't have the ability to take someone into my home or to offer the kind of money for lasting change, but I do have the opportunity to make a lovingly small difference... We all do.

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[f] you did it to me.’

Monday, May 4, 2015

Prosper the Work...


I'm officially done with the semester.  Have mercy... it was a rough time.  Last semester my 3.9 grade average dropped to a 3.7.  This semester I think I can expect another drop.  The balancing act is painful and sometimes my work suffers.  The weight that was just lifted from me is inexplicable, despite the threat of a lower grade.

It's crazy though... despite the human stress I feel to overcompensate, perfect and stretch myself, it feels as though God is here every moment, patiently waiting for me to see what He has for me to learn from all this, and I did learn.  In the midst of the stress of the sixty total pages of papers due from this semester I learned more about me, and about Him.  It's all coming together.

And I think maybe it's like childbirth, you forget the pain of it for the beauty of it, until the next time...

May the favor of the Lord our God be ours. Prosper the work of our hands! Yes, Prosper the work of our hands! - Psalm 90:17

Thursday, April 9, 2015

JOY


So many things to be joyful about; the reaffirmation of my Baptism and the renewal of creation in Spring... 

Look around.  There is so much beauty to be missed when we go about our day without finding the miracles of creation.  Renewal does the heart so much good...

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. - 2 Corinthians: 5:17

Friday, April 3, 2015

In Love... No Matter What


For the past two years God has been calling me out of my brokenness and into the brokenness of others.  I usually see my calling to that in extreme situations.  I am able to show compassion and reach out to those who seem to need it most. Tonight I see that I am called to others' brokenness period.  There needs to be nothing extreme about it.  I am called to be kind to all people; to acknowledge their hurt, their joy, their suffering and their longing... No matter who they are and no matter how they treat me.  God doesn't give us the option to choose, I don't know why I ever thought we had that choice.  With a greatly convicted heart I rescind that understanding. We don't get to choose who receives our grace, kindness, love, attention... We can choose how we respond, but it must be in love. We are all called in this way to love others no matter how they treat us, yes, no matter how they treat us. In truth, no matter who we are, what we believe, or what has happened to us, this will be the enlightenment that makes a difference in this world.

Every action we take, every word we say to, or about, others should be greatly affected with this thought.  Only in love will we find healing for ourselves.  Only in love will we be filled and create the opportunity for others to be filled with an abundant love.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. - 1 Peter 4:8-11

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Eventually...


Some things will only pass away in time and when He makes them okay in the end.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. - Revelation 21:4

Monday, March 23, 2015

In the Name of Jesus...


While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when[a] you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”  So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied.  Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. - Acts 19:1-5

New


It's beautiful this morning despite the cold weather and threat of snow.  The morning doves have returned to my porch for spring and the sun is shining.  The weight of winter feels like it's lifting from my body.  I always look forward to new life; the resurrection in full bloom. I am reminded of a piece of Isaiah 43 and know that this newness is more than just a change in weather.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? - Isaiah 43:18-19a

    

Sunday, March 15, 2015

What's Next?

Doors All Around by Pareeerica
As I crossed the halfway point in this seminary journey I have been putting constant focus on "what's next"... The next classes, what jobs I should take, how the timeline falls... It's exhausting, feeling like I always have to have a plan, particularly when I'm not sure I like the end result I see.  Lately, after deliberation over new options, I have come to the conclusion that the reason I don't like the results I see is that they are "my results" or ideas others have placed there. I cannot see God's full plan, but need to be taking each step on the path in His guidance.  There are things I know with certainty God has spoken to me on this journey. What I don't know is that He intends to use them how I thought.  I think I like the doors I see... I pray that means He'll open them, but whatever is next in the journey, whichever way it goes, I will trust in Him.

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. - James 4:13-17

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Going...


I've felt a call to Africa since I was a teenager. I knew I wanted to go; maybe to aid in the restoration of the rainforests of the Congo, to know the people or to help save the wildlife... I had a mild obsession with the works of Jane Goodall and the preservation of the chimpanzee population.  I fell in love with African culture through Goodall's works. I watched every African movie I could find. I was drawn to Africa in an inexplicable way.  I majored in Biology and Biological Anthropology; studying the species and cultures of Africa. I held the hope that I would study there, despite the financial obstacles. I remember sitting on my bed before I was married crying to my frustrated would-be husband that I wanted to go and not understanding why I felt so strongly.  

 

Africa made less sense as I started my family and work, though I thought of it from time to time. I still felt compelled to watch movies and documentaries when they were presented and had a spot in my heart that was touched with its mention. When I attended Savannah Christian church in Georgia in 2007, I listened to missionaries share stories of their time in a Rwandan prison and knew again that I had to go...  I put myself on a waitlist for the next mission. The opportunity didn't come to fruition as I moved back to Ohio and my life took different turns than I expected.  


In 2010 my mom began talking about the ZOE project, a group that was developed in Africa that empowers orphans and vulnerable children around the world to overcome extreme poverty, become fully self-reliant, and learn of God’s love for them.  Our Vacation Bible School helped to purchase animals for the groups and gave to support their small businesses. Soon after, our church began funding a three-year group of children that would be part of this endeavor to become self-sufficient and care for their orphan group.  Despite having little money myself at the time, I saved $100 to give to the mission.  It was important to my mom and was the first International mission that was close to the cry of my heart.  Though I heard more about ZOE and gave through another organization to purchase animals for them, there wasn't an opportunity to go into the mission field.

 

In 2012 I attended a seminar from Africa University in Zimbabwe, a United Methodist Institution.  I discovered through seminary that there were opportunities to receive funding to teach at Africa University.  During the seminar, a woman (I had never met) came up to me and said that for some reason she felt like God was telling her that I was being called to do work in Africa.  I cried. She conveyed that even if it wasn't for the university, that she was certain I would go... A friend through the seminary offered that I could stay with his family if I were to go, but the opportunity to go teach was a six week venture.  My time with my children is too important for me to have taken that endeavor. Again, the opportunity was fleeting... 


In 2014 I found out that two women from our church were going to go to the ZOE mission in February of 2015.  They had asked my mom to attend and she couldn't go. A few people made mention of it to me, but finances and timing prevented it.  For some reason I didn't even push it.  It felt wrong.  I knew the timing wasn't right. I didn't even mourn the trip. I became a prayer warrior for the ladies that went.


This year I began looking into African mission opportunities for my cross-cultural project (CCP) for seminary, but the cost and dangers of going alone outweighed the benefits. I began to wonder if my desire for Africa was more of my own contriving than it was a calling.  I gave the possibility back to God.  I knew I wouldn't go unless He was the one orchestrating the plan. I gave up the hope of using an African Mission trip as my CCP.  I contacted Montana de Luz (MDL) in Honduras, another mission that is wonderfully close to my heart, and began inquiring about conducting my cross-cultural project through them. I love MDL and the Honduran children, just as I loved CSI (now SIF) and the Haitian people; Strong Missions and the Costa Rican people. I have always had a call to love and care for those in distant lands. I started my first mission fund in a tin can with my cousin, Mandy, when I was sixteen. We had high hopes of going to Brazil to cure disease.  I always knew missions would be part of my life. There are calls to help those in the greatest need in our hometowns and across the world. Despite knowing this, the call to Africa has been the strongest call on my heart.

One week after my contact with MDL, the ladies from our church returned from ZOE in Kenya filled with the emotion of all they had seen and the work being done in the orphan communities.  I had the privilege of meeting for over two and a half hours with one of the women, Jacqui, and her husband, Hank, listening to the journey, the stories, the devastation and the beauty of the people in the ZOE project and in Kenya.  My heart swelled as I listened to the passion coming from them as they shared. I longed to help the ZOE community again, more so, I longed to go.  I share all of this with you, my twenty year story, because I found that I will... I will finally go!  I will go with the ZOE organization as a Hope Companion. Only three people can go from the sponsoring organizations and it has become a possibility for me to be one of them. I don't know the dates to divulge, but I know that I'm planning, preparing, saving and going... And this time it seems in God's will and time.  I look forward to discovering why Africa has been on my heart for twenty years and to seeing the restoration of those we serve there.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country - Hebrews 11:8-9a

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Love Made Complete



My only goal is to make a difference - in the lives of my children, in the lives of the youth, in the life of a person on the street, in the hearts of those long worn by abuse, the lives of those closest to me and the lives of people in lands where they have been forgotten.  I never have more joy than when I see another person feels loved on the other side of my actions. Sometimes it seems the hardest to make a difference on a daily basis in the lives of bitter souls broken down by the world or in the hearts that seem to need love the most, but think they need it the least. And sometimes it's hard to feel like I'm making a difference when I feel broken myself. I pray for less reaction and more kindness in action...  

When I think of all the time in my life I spent "lost", I think that, even during those times, I always wanted to make a difference.  I still wanted others to feel loved, but didn't always have the tools in my heart to make it happen. Maybe that's where you are as you read this; wanting to make a difference, but feeling a lack of direction. Maybe you just want to feel more loved yourself...  maybe you feel lost altogether. It seems to me that I've made the most impact by starting with myself.  Only by making sure I'm whole am I able to share myself with others.  In knowing myself, and who I am in Christ, I'm more equipped to love others.  In loving others I feel tremendously more loved myself.

I wish that I could reach out to a person harboring pain, wanting change in their lives and wave a wand saying "Now you know who you are in Christ, you ARE LOVED, go, and share that love with others...".  It just isn't that simple.  It isn't me that can change a hurting heart.  I can't change the actions of another.  I can't keep people from holding onto a past or repeating mistakes. I know Who can, and I can say this: we are God's masterpieces created in Jesus (Ephesians 2:10), ALL of us, and we are meant to know that and share that word (Mark 16:15).  We all deserve to know we are loved and it's our calling to find that within us and share it.

I know it's not always easy to open the Bible and fully understand what God wants to say to us in His words.  Sometimes it's hard to know where to begin and what it is God wants us to hear.  If you're looking to know more of your identity, to be healed, to feel empowered to make a difference... I guess I'm hopeful that you have a spiritual community, that you have someone you could connect with, to talk with and pray with... That's an amazing gift, to have others with whom to commune. If you don't, I know it can be hard to find a strong connection just by walking in the door somewhere, especially if you're feeling lost.  If you are trying to figure things out on your own, I do encourage you to find a church, to fellowship with others... But in the meantime, I encourage you to start by reading a Bible study.  Find one that seems to fit what you're going through, one that matches your reading style.  I urge you to pray as you do this study, even if praying feels foreign to you. Simply asking for God's presence helps.  If you're reading this and feel that the pain within you is far behind the realms of a simple Bible study, I'm prayerful you'll find someone to counsel you.  Maybe I can recommend sources to get at the heart of that pain first.  A few of my absolute favorites are (I have many other suggestions and various authors, but think these are good starting points):

Draw Closer to the Fire - Terry Wardle
Wounded - Terry Wardle

As I move forward in my journey, in the hopes of making a difference... as I continually uncover more of who I am in Christ and find healing in my own wounds, I feel led to share the power of learning Christ's love and the healing power of knowing ourselves in Him with you.  I am in prayer for all of you as you read this and hope you will take your journey a step further in figuring out who you are and realize how loved you are...

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.