Top Posts of 2012

It’s been such a great year and I appreciate you, my reader! Below are my top posts of 2012 which I thought I would share with you once again just in case you missed one. Come back in the morning to see what God is revealing as we begin this new year! What topics or questions would you like me to explore through writing this year?

Top Posts of 2012:

1. I’m Not Legalistic, I Just Like Following The Rules

2. Why Should Any One Man Care? 

3. You Are Alone…Lie

4. Life Based in Neutrality

5. Love Never Failing

Looking forward to a new year with you!

Bah-humbug, When I Need To Sing Hallelujah

Welcome to the holiday season!

And I say bah-humbug, when I need to sing Hallelujah.

Alone. False, but it’s easier to pout when you think you are.

Selfish. Though it’s the season of giving.

Sappy movies, holiday love songs,

Fighting lines, buying with little money, and yet…

I sing Hallelujah, while I think bah-humbug

Lights, trees, family gathered.

All together… a glimmer of the season pricks

But there are fussy kids, messy dishes,

And where is the magic I remember?

But, then a scene catches my eye.

I see, but do I believe?

A mom, dad, a baby.

Love etched on their face,

Something mystical resonates.

I know the secret; will I sweep it under?

Reigniting in my heart is the love shown

one faithful night, one glorious night, one night in Bethlehem.

I sing Hallelujah and I sing Hallelujah.

**I have always encouraged you to choose joy everyday, in every circumstance. Well, this time of year it can be one of the easiest or the hardest times for you. Please know, we all struggle, but the hope of Christmas isn’t in the family gathering, or the gifts you receive or are able to give others. The grace in Thanksgiving and the hope of Christmas is really found in our Savior, Jesus Christ. We may feel bogged down by the sappy movies, the hustle and bustle of shopping, but remember those things aren’t the holidays. Remember why we sing Hallelujah.

Feasting On Thanks

Today, the majority of the nation is carving the turkey, gorging on pie and filling up on laughter. It is because of these simple things, we have reason to give thanks. We say we are thankful, but how are we showing it?

Recognize the power of a thank you and let others feast on your thanks. Has someone taught you something valuable? Thank them. Has someone helped you financially or emotionally in a hard time? Thank them. Has someone been the friend you needed through a difficult situation? Thank them.

Reflect on how God has blessed you in the last year. How has He shown His love? And if you cannot pinpoint one thing, then focus on His ultimate sacrifice through Christ’s death and the power He showed through His resurrection. You are free in Christ if you have accepted Him, and that is the real reason we have to give thanks. For we can only love and show love, because He first taught us what love is. (1 John 4:19)

We have all been served and loved in this past year, now it’s time for us to give a little back this Thanksgiving. Let Christ hear our praise and let those who have shown us love, feast on our thanks.  (Psalm 95:2)

10 Great Thanksgiving Psalms here.

You Are Alone….Lie

I stood. Trying not to look to either side. Trying not to make it obvious I was alone. Acting like I did not care; like I was not phased. On the empty front row pew, I prayed God would not allow the loneliness to swallow me. I prayed I would focus not on myself, but on why I was there, on worshipping my God. A strange thought really, asking God to help me worship Him better, more fully. I closed my eyes and prayed. The inkling to panic continued to rub the back of my mind, but the grating on my heart began to ease.

One of the easiest phrases to tell yourself is “you are alone.”

It is easy because we live in a culture where if your phone isn’t ringing, if you are home on a Friday night, if you are single….you are alone which translates into you being lonely.

And I have believed this lie for far too long. In those few minutes while I sat by myself, I realized once again how much I allow loneliness to control my thoughts, my feelings…how I allow it to control me.

There are so many good intentioned people who say, “Oh, you are too cute to be single, who can we fix you up with?” or “You aren’t dating anyone? Well, if only I was a little younger.” One of my best friends always said I should marry an old man, because they all seem to love me! (and now I am smiling just thinking about all the sweet old men God has placed in my life over the years). Anyway, I allow these moments to again, control my thoughts and feelings for the rest of the day. It is just one more reminder, “you are alone.”

But let me repeat; this is a lie. A lie I have allowed myself to believe. I am not alone. Truth.

Just because our culture would define me this way, is it truth? No. Or at least, it does not have to be. Singleness is not a plight. Being single is what we are. It may be permanent (scary thought, I know), or it may be temporary. Either way we can have joy. Either way we can still live a full life. Either way, we do NOT have to be lonely.

Right now, make a list. List the last encouraging comment someone gave you. That person cares. You are not alone. List the last hug you were given. That person cares. You are not alone. List the last person who told you, “I love you, I am here for you.” Guess what, you are not alone. And if you are having a hard time making this list. Then begin praying diligently for God to bring people into your life who will love and support you and help you in this Christian journey. Last summer I prayed that prayer and he answered in abundance, and I believe He will answer you as well.

Remember and believe, the ultimate truth. You are not alone, because God will never leave you. He goes before you in all that you do. He did not leave Moses as he led the Israelites out of Egypt. He did not leave David, even after he sinned against God. He did not leave Mary as she faced the possibility of being stoned from being pregnant out of wedlock. He did not leave the disciples, even as some faced unbearable torture and painful death. He did not leave. He was there holding them in the Word. They realized His mercy, love, and power was greater than any earthly feeling or circumstance we understand or experience here. They embraced Truth and lived.

 

***Listen to Downhere’s You’re Not Alone.

When do you find yourself most vulnerable to loneliness? How do you overcome it?

Under Construction

I came home from church and paced around my kitchen, spewing words of frustration, fear, and many questions. Today, the things I face may not be new to the sun; but it is new to me. How do I react to non-christian’s sin? How do I show a world who does not hold the Bible as truth, that there is right and wrong? And how do I do this out of love?

Though I want to be able to answer these questions for myself and you today, what I’m realizing is that I’m still under construction. Truth, but a hard one to swallow. I want to be built, be complete. I want to be ready to withstand any hurricane, tornado or earthquake that is sent my way. But instead, I am still under construction and to be complete, I must go through the process. I cannot jump from being a foundation to a skyscraper in a day.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

This verse clearly means you do not need to read this blog. Everything you need to be equipped, to do good in God’s eyes is written in His book, His letter to you. But, because I am still learning and I assume you are as well, I will continue writing, in the hope that my words will not add to His book, but will merely put us on a path of mind to read, question and seek Him.

And that is what I am doing. Lord Jesus, you know I struggle with understanding. You know I struggle with being vocal in conflicting situations because I am afraid I will make Your name a mockery. You know I struggle. And yet, you still love me. And yet, you still push me forward toward the woman you long for me to be, using your Scripture to teach, rebuke, correct, and train me up in righteousness. Lord, train me in your Word so that I may be equipped; for I feel so inadequate to do any good work for you. Lord, let me continue to struggle, in Your name, for only in the struggle will you continue to build me up until I am standing tall, ready for anything.

What questions/situations are you struggling with or have struggled with before? Comment here.

Denying Yourself Love and Growth

The other morning I was inconvenienced. I worked out for a few minutes and then watered the flowers. Upon walking back in the house to wash my hands I found that our water no longer worked.

I couldn’t wash my hands, run the dishwasher, replenish my thirst or… take a shower! Oh no! I had to get to work soon and NEEDED a shower. Thankfully I only had to go a few miles in my comfy car to a friends to get clean. And within the next hour the water was turned back on.

But in that hour I realized how inconvenient, yet necessary water is to our life. I started thinking about the struggle many face everyday just to receive water. How many, even today, have to walk for miles just to fill up two buckets or pitchers that will hopefully be enough for them and their family for the rest of the day.

Water is necessary, but if you don’t have a well or a Walmart nearby with gallons upon gallons of bottled water at your disposal, it can be an all day job just to get.

And that thought led me to this: How many things in life are inconvenient but when we look back we realize how necessary it was? God allows things to happen in our lives, people come and go but even in the darkest of times God has the victory.

John 16:33 “I have told you these things so that in me (Jesus) you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

In stormy times things do not feel peaceful and sometimes we would rather hold on to the disruption and the hurt because that is easier than grabbing hold of the peace and love Jesus gives. It’s easier than forgiving and accepting the circumstances we are in.

But let us realize that these circumstances are necessary to who God is trying to mold us into. Think of the people in the Bible and the trials they went through. Read the story of Esther and how she became the wife of a King and then saved her people. But there is a pivotal point in the story. When you read the story, be sure to read Esther 4:9-17 twice, because it is at this moment Esther looks at her circumstances and decides even though it is inconvenient (no it’s more than that, it could be fatal for her to go to her husband the King) she still goes in faith.

Read the story of David, he went through many times of joy, temptation, failure and yet he was still called a man after God’s own heart. Look at Paul, who was flogged and jailed in the name of Jesus and yet he still wrote to the Philippians:

“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” (Phil. 1:12-14)

Heartache and failure, as much as we try to avoid it, will happen. It is in these instances that we have a choice. Just like Esther, David, Paul and many others. We can trust and choose joy in our circumstances, working to advance the Gospel, even in our heartache. Or we can choose to wallow in self pity and deny ourselves the growth God is longing for us.

Do not misunderstand me in this post today. I will never understand YOUR heartache. I will never understand YOUR circumstances. But God does. I believe in a God who can take any situation and bring you peace and joy. It is not easy to choose God’s way. In some of my most difficult times it was a daily struggle to wake up in the morning and say, “ok God. I choose joy today.” And even harder to live it out the entire day. Something I have noticed though, is after a while, whether it takes months or years, if you say that enough and truly believe it, God will not only get you through, but in the process will draw you closer to Him.

Psalms 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength….”

 

PS. There are many ways for you to help people get the water they struggle to find everyday.  One organization World Vision, helps provide clean drinking water for children around the world so they can have a longer, healthier life.  Find out more here.

I’m Not Legalistic, I Just Like Following The Rules

I messed up. A simple mistake and yet, people were upset. I am usually so good about following the rules, all of them. I hate disappointing anyone, I’m a horrible liar, and generally, I try not to lash out in anger (at least not out loud, in my mind I am chewing you out). Guilt is my shadow, even when I know I have done nothing wrong, not really. But, I upset someone. I fell off the pedestal I think everyone has me on and now I feel failure’s chokehold.

But why? I am free in Christ right? I am free, but I do not embrace it. It’s like I immigrated from a communist country to the United States and I still live by all the rules I grew up with. It’s like I am a Jew following the rules of the Old Testament and have completely missed the Messiah’s coming. It’s like I am a Christian who has forgotten the Cross, but more importantly has forgotten the empty grave.

I’m not legalistic, I just like following the rules. I grew up in a church where I learned what I was NOT allowed to do. I have spent more time worrying over not doing certain things, than being mindful of how much glory and praise I am bringing to my Savior.

Today, as I sat in church, worshiping and learning, God began to speak to me about my self-righteous legalism. I am known by many for the mistakes that I didn’t make. I am known by others for my perfectionist attitude. And still by others I am known for being my own worst critic. But as Christ’s daughter, I should not be known as any of these things.

These truths have been presented to me before, but I never really knew how to apply them, until today. I am finally beginning to see how my focus needs to shift from what not to do, towards a greater purpose. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul talks about the foundation of Jesus Christ; but we all build on top of Christ, on top of Truth. It is our choice though what we build on this foundation. We can build something that will last or we can build something that will burn away at the strike of the first match.

So, what can I possibly be building by living a life consumed with rules?

A structure that is useless.

Christ already paid for my failures, my mistakes, my sins. He stood in place of me, bearing all of God’s wrath. And now, I stand before a just and holy God pure and sinless. And what am I doing with this gift? I am living as if I am still being seen as the impure one, the sinful one.

I want to be clear, I do not believe God wants us to build a life of works either, for we can never earn our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). But instead, we need to build a life of love, of forgiveness, a life after God’s own heart. For, as Paul explains, we are co-workers in God’s service (1 Corinthians 3:9). We build this life not out of guilt, or out of feeling some human need to be even with God, instead we do this simply out of love for the one who first loved us.

Out of my love and my human understanding of Christ’s sacrifice, power, and love, I am learning to fail. I am learning to let go of my rules and live as Christ’s daughter, healed and whole, living well and living blessed (Mark 5:34).

Life Based In Neutrality

It has been such a long time since I’ve sat down to chat with you and for that I apologize. I would like to say a lot has happened in the last month and a half but to be honest it hasn’t. But I have done a lot of thinking, reflecting on my life… but I still don’t have all the answers, surprise surprise. Reading back through my journal over the last month and a half, I realized there was a theme I suppose God is trying to teach me.

At the beginning of the month I heard Ken Ham, (co-founder of Answers In Genesis), speak and let me say he is an excellent speaker and writer, I encourage you to get his books or go hear him speak at your earliest convenience. Anyway, he spoke about how Christians try too many times to argue on the basis of neutrality. He was talking more in the context of creationism versus evolutionism, but it struck me how much it applied to every area of Christianity and the Bible… and I am guilty.

Towards the end of the month, I wrote in my journal, “I am supposed to be free in Christ and instead I am living in a state neutrality worried more about everyone loving me than showing love to everyone else.” And it’s so true, I am the “nice” girl, the one who stays out of conflict, does the responsible thing, or at least what is expected of her, not only by her boss but her parents and friends as well. That has always been me. Sadly, I’m just now realizing this is not the life of love God has instructed me to live. Instead he instructed me to live life courageously. Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” But I have not been bold in my faith, I have given root to a life of neutrality.

I believe the Bible is the true Word of God. I believe that a perfect man died so I might be reunited with my Creator. And because Jesus had never sinned, he was able to conquer death and now lives. And because He lives, I am able to live in love, in freedom and will one day be with Him for eternity.

I realize many may scoff at such beliefs, and to be honest, even writing that was difficult in a way. But that is exactly what I am talking about. I need to courageously, humbly declare God’s truth in love. And I cannot do this if I continue to live a neutral life. As Penn Jillette, a famous atheist illusionist, once said, if we really believe in a heaven and a hell, how much do we have to hate the people in this world to not tell them about the love of Christ? Even though this man is still a proclaimed atheist, the point is that someone spoke truth into his life and it impacted him enough to say something about it (you can watch what he says here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhG-tkQ_Q2w&feature=player_embedded)

I want to be clear, I am not going to begin condemning people and pleading with them to accept Christ as their Savior. But what I am praying for the strength to do, is to love, without compromising or being silent about what I believe. Let us be brave and confident together in the God who is love, just and true.

Romans 13:8

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

Have you ever been silent about what you believe and regretted it later? Tell me about your experience.

A Beginning, But Will There Be An Ending?

        (I do not have any rights to this song. It is A River Flows In You by Yurima)

There have been so many times that I have begun something but not seen it to completion. I have a tendency to love the idea of something but not always the rewards and consequences of following through. Growing up I took piano until I graduated high school. I really loved playing… that is once I knew the song by heart. Learning the song on the other hand was the part I disliked. I would listen to great pianists and long to be able to produce the melodies that prick your heart, release your mind while taking control of your soul. I wanted to wrap up all my frustrations, hopes and fears into the songs I played and give them as gifts to my audience. But to get to the place where you can truly touch someone with your art…takes talent…but more importantly work, passion and determination.

The song I’ve posted here I began learning on Saturday. I didn’t get very far. It’s been almost five years since I’ve learned a brand new song or really practiced piano at all. It seems strange to me that I was able to push something aside for so long, when it was such a big part of my life at one time. The question now is, will I finish learning the song?

So what is the question for you? How will you finish your song? Perhaps you will be inspired today and rekindle your passion and take action. Or you might be more like me. You’ll finish reading this and go about your day like any other, pondering it for just a second before pushing it out of your mind, because thinking on it too hard might bring you to want change, long for it even, and that would disrupt your world.

Friend, what I have to tell you today is that all of us struggle at finishing what we started. We love the idea of a great career but at the first sign of trouble many of us are ready to bail. Marriage is the goal for many, but once the “I Do’s” are over, not everyone keeps their vows or puts any effort into the marriage itself. It would seem our lives are made up of ideals to be achieved but then that is all.  We do not work to live those ideals.

But, God has promised us that he does bring things to completion. The Old Testament is full of prophecies fulfilled in the New Testament. Jesus’ last words on the cross even confirms that there was something in the works. (John 19:30) And then in Philippians 1:6 Paul writes, “…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.

God promised to complete things. He has plans for our lives. He has plans for this world. He has plans that he promises to bring to completion. And when it is completed we will be with Him, our Savior our God, forever.

We may not be very good at completing things, but we can continue to have confidence that God will complete the good He began– in us and in the world. And maybe, if we keep on learning about our God, and learning to be more like Christ, we too will begin a life of ideals lived, not just achievements attained.

Love Never Failing

Right now I am listening to a song that talks about how she has died everyday waiting for her love. When I first heard the song I knew I loved it (and still do!). But as I begin truly listening to more than just the melodies blending around me, and pay attention to the lyrics… I have to disagree.

We are not becoming the full potential of who we could be if we are allowing each day to be taken from us because we are waiting on “the one.” I relate with the woman when she says she has loved him for a thousand years. I already love the man God made with me in mind, but that does not mean I will waste the time He has given me while I am single.

In case you missed it, this past Tuesday was Valentine’s Day and, to be honest I was afraid it would be a real drag. And maybe your’s was. But, the importance of this day is to not only be with your significant other, it’s much more than that. It is a day to celebrate love. And friends, we, as Christians, have the greatest reason to celebrate because we know Love personally.

Read 1 John 4:16 ” And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

I have been very blessed to have people exemplify this love in my life.  For years my Papaw brought me roses on Valentine’s Day (and fudge too, he knew how much I loved Chocolate).  Even if I didn’t have a man in my life at the moment, I knew my Papaw would not forget me. I knew he would be there loving me, his princess, always. Even though he is now with God, I will never forget how much his simple acts made me feel special. Isn’t that all any of us want? To feel special, to be thought of?

Take heart, God paints the sky each day just for you. He remembers you, not only on Valentine’s Day but everyday. Every moment He is watching over you. I don’t want this to sound like a cliche, I want these truths to penetrate your heart; so my brother, sister, know just how much God loves you and how much he longs for your love in return.

Even though Valentine’s Day is over, know that everyday is a new day that God renews. A new day to experience his love, even in the difficult, crazy circumstances we run into, His love is never failing. If you are single, love the one you believe is out there, but don’t waste the time you are given. And if you are with your love already, don’t forget how fleeting life can be; love with all that is in you. If you have lost your love, hold steadfast to God’s love which can never be lost.

This morning, in honor of His love for all people read Psalm 136, and allow the truth to sink into your heart.