Thursday, January 28, 2010

My life under the microscope. Part 3 - The parable of the made bed.

I live in a house with two kids who don't make their beds.

It bugs me, it really really bugs me.

You see I know, know so so well, how wonderful that first night of sleep is under clean sheets after laundry day. And I know as well that as long as you keep the bed made, that clean feeling lasts so much longer. When you don't make your bed there is dirt/dust that gets on the sheets.

Sure, you don't lay there going "Oh this is nasty" you just lay there.

But in a clean bed, freshly made every day and regularly laundered... let me tell you, you just sleep better. You feel clean. You feel fresh. Did I mention that you sleep better?

That's why I make my bed.

And somewhere in one of my many retellings of how nice a made bed is to one of the kids who refuses to make theirs, I realized there was a Spiritual connection - truly I can find one anywhere if you just give me time to think about it.

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah.

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

I think too often we spend Monday - Saturday with our sins uncovered. Oh, everything is running smoothly enough, we're not out committing any terrible kind of sins right? The idea of sackcloth and ashes repentance every day just seems a little carried away right?

But do you remember how GOOD Sunday feels? How clean and refreshed you feel worshiping God, realizing there's sin in your heart, repenting, and then worshiping God even more fervently than when the song or the prayer first started? Do you remember how great it felt to finally say those words you've been wanting to talk to God about but hadn't found time for all week? Man how great Sunday feels.

Then Monday through Saturday we forget to make our bed. To take all the little dirtiness that tried to creep in that week, or that day and cover them under Christs blood. We spend the week uncovered, with sin dropping down on us list tiny dust particles - not really noticeable until you realize on Sunday just how different you feel all "cleaned up" again.

The life we're called to live, a life where we have so much bounty in our Spiritual lives that we have enough mercy and truth for someone elses life - that kind of life takes every day of our lives. It doesn't come from being a Sunday Christian, or even a Sunday and Wednesday Christian. It comes from every day covering, walking, working under the redemption of Christs blood.

I know for myself, it's hard to live life not caught up with American Idol, CSI, the Mentalist, and the 18 books I randomly have checked out from the library. I've got a lot of things that I let distract me. All those things seem important, somehow valuable to my being able to relax and enjoy myself, to "unwind" from the end of a 10 hr day.

But what if, what if I actually spent all week returning to Christ and staying covered so that the sin particles couldn't catch me, couldn't sully me without me even realizing it had happened.
I bet I'd sleep better at night.

My life under the microscope. Part 2 - More than enough.

***Read Part 1 first to see where I'm coming from with all this - it will help it all make sense.***

When you go to donate blood, or plasma, one thing I've been told that they're checking with all the tests on your blood is that you have enough 'whatever' for you and someone else.
So when you go donate blood and they say your iron is too low - it's not necessarily too low for you it's just too low for you and someone else. (At least that's what I've been told.) A low iron score at the Red Cross Blood Mobile, doesn't mean an actual Doctor will say it's low for you. You just don't have extra to be giving some away.

And while that makes perfect sense, it goes directly into the Spiritual analogy that I was making before. Am I Spiritually healthy? Am I so Spiritually healthy that I have life, fruit, Spiritual seed for not only myself but others as well? Or do I have j u s t enough to survive life healthy enough to not fall over.

I believe Christians today typically DO have low numbers. Because the minute troubles strike, answers aren't readily available, or we don't get the recognition we're expecting, faith levels begin to plummet. When we encounter other peoples suffering and we give of ourselves to them, so often we give so much of ourselves that we become weak Spiritually, leaning on our own strength rather than Christs.
In other words - we only had enough umph for 1 - not 2.

I don't want a life that supports only me though. Not only do I want my veins coursing with strength, and faith, and the power of God; but I want enough to be able to lift you up as well. To lift up families, to lift up churches, to lift up broken dying people that don't have the strength to stand themselves. I want steel resolve that trusts God for the broken, rather than trying to fix it all in my own strength. I want firm faith, that knows that even without the answer that God is right and good and just - especially when my situation, your situation, and every situation around me seems like it's not right, not good, not just.

So while in my last post I said I worried about an empty life, I'm not content just to have enough fruit in my life to get me through a struggle. I want MORE THAN ENOUGH, so that I can help a brother, a sister, a friend.

And I want fellow Christians that are full of that more than enough as well. So that our churches are no longer hospitals for broken and hurting Christians, but instead we become healthy glowing Christians who are ministering to a broken world. I'm tired of being in churches preaching healing messages to help a broken, disease ridden church. It's time we all stood up and in the power of God claimed the healing and freedom that God has promised us and then begin to serve the sick and truly dying without Christ among us.

Recently in church we were supposedly studying about evangelizing the world through the Gospel. I even believe that was the name of the message. And the pastor read the story of David asking if there was any member of Jonathans family left that he could bless. Next thing you knew, broken and crippled Mephibosheth was living in Davids house, eating with his family and living a kings life surrounded by Davids strapping sons.

Then he said something that took me by surprise (especially in a message titled "Evangelizing the WORLD through the Gospel). He asked if we couldn't see ourselves in that story. That WE are Mephibosheth. We are the broken, crippled son who got dropped and yet generously welcomed into Christs family.

It's all well and good to be humble concerning our welcome into Christs family, I believe it's HIGH TIME that we refuse to believe the Devils lies that we're broken and crippled and the runt that needs someone to look after him. We are so much more than that. But as long as we believe that lie, our lives will be forever spent nursing ourselves trying to stay healthy enough Spiritually that we don't fall.

It's time we pump up enough Spiritually that we have more than enough for just ourselves. We can now tackle the world.

Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.

Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.

Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.

Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.

For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.

My life under the microscope - Part 1 - Empty Blood

There's something miserable (meaning good, but difficult) happening inside me lately that I wanted to try and express. I believe this will actually turn out to be a three part post just because each aspect of it is so vastly different, yet all interconnected.

I donate plasma.

I've been doing it for months now, it's like a poor person hobby. You go let them suck life out of you, give it back to you a little bit watered down, then they hand you cash. Trust me when I say that if it weren't for poor people, next time you had an accident and needed plasma you'd probably die.

But every time I go to donate they do the same thing. They prick my finger to get some blood to test, and they check my blood pressure and heart rate.
They test 4 things; iron, protein, bp and my heart. Each and every item is low. Low to the point that if I don't consistently work at it I wouldn't be able to donate.

I've got all this blood coursing through my veins, yet for all the life giving things that are supposed to be found in my blood - I'm lacking.

If you look at me you wouldn't notice it. Even when you prick my finger and my blood dots on the tip you wouldn't realize it. Living in my own body full of this blood, even I typically don't notice there's a problem.
But upon testing you find my blood doesn't have enough life giving support to it.

And here is what I fear.

That as God tests my life, He finds me full of life but missing some vital, life giving components. When He pricks my life and tests for mercy, pride, faith, and my motives, will my numbers come out well?

On the surface my life looks good. I write a Christian blog don't I? Friends are always telling me I'm cheerful and positive and encouraging. But even I know that's not always true. Sometimes I act cheerful when I'm not; say positive things when I don't believe them, and sometimes I've encouraged people just because while I know they'll fail, I know they could do better if they were encouraged. In other words, I lie.

And without God pointing out some things that I just plain don't notice about myself, I don't imagine any of me would ever get fixed. Because I just don't see my lack usually. Sure seeing a lack of patience is easy, but how do you judge how merciful you are? How just you are? How gentle you are?

My empty blood bothers me. Not because of my health, but because every time I'm confronted with it I wonder how my lifes numbers add up. Will He find faith? Will He find humility? Will He find mercy? Will He find love?

It's always been my hearts cry to be perfected. To serve God with a whole heart, passionate and bold for Him. So I can't eat my spinach (for iron) and eggs (for protein) and jog (to raise my heart rate), without wondering what my Spiritual numbers are. When God finds this child at the end of her life, and He pricks my life, I want my numbers to be the healthiest they can possible be.

**This is part one, I think you'll find the next few posts in this series to be a bit more encouraging rather than longing. **

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A quick update...

So... a few weeks ago I mentioned that my laptop had issues. Well, after a few consecutive uses it went kaput again so instead of just bringing it straight back from kaput after a few hours work I decided to hit the magical keys that would restore the computer to it's original manufacturer settings. My hope was that maybe this whole problem was connected to a bad virus and this would fix it.

Unfortunately, such a move showed me that clearly, the problem was not a virus. Slowly, but surely, I believe I am reinstalling Windows and other wonderful computer programs that was originally on my computer.

The bad news is that I've been working on it for a few weeks now, and after restarting my computer close to a thousand times by now, I've completed about 90 bars of progress. Each restart (often) buys me maybe a half inch of progress along each bar. Sometimes it buys me nothing and it just doesn't do anything. Apparently, I have the patience of Job when it comes to my laptop. About 40 bars back it wanted the product code for Windows, so I do have hope that things are actually happening inside it's little messed up frame.

It's just...takin' awhile.

Meanwhile, the household that once boasted of 2 desktop computers and 2 laptops is now down to just 1 desk top that wanders around the house being used with tv's and also apparently is prone to severe viruses. Its only just tonight come back from an especially bad one.

All that said, that's why I haven't been able to post. I tried to keep it up for awhile only to finally get tired of trying to write a weeks worth of posts on my day off work. I'm just not that inspired usually. :) Normalcy will return eventually. Meanwhile my evenings are spent hitting the power button over and over and over and over and over.

Persistence WILL win the battle!

And by the way, to Richard - I did take a wander over to your blog, and when I have better access I look forward to reading more of your work. I was very interested by the testimonies and the posts caught my interest as well I just haven't had time to read at length yet. I look forward to it though! Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The God who ruins me.

I received word today that my church that I attended in North Texas flooded this month. In the cold spell the pipes burst and flooded the building; ruining carpet, walls, and anything in it's path from the front of the church to the very rear.

This is a church that I love fondly for all the people in it. The building itself had some issues that you just learned to get used to - or learn not to look directly at them. It had other homey flaws that made the building seem familiar, just like knowing which stair creaks on the staircase or knowing how to hold the door just right so it will shut completely.

But now, thanks to insurance against just such "acts of God", walls will be replaced, platforms will be redone, paint will be applied, and carpet will be laid.

To me, this is the greatest story of hope that I know. Because without that day, with that sad moment when the pipe exploded and water flooded the place, without those discouraging hours ridding the building of water... without all that, restoration would never take place.

We spend our lives guarding against ruin, but when God is ready to restore you - truly restore you instead of just keeping up with the continual breakdowns, He will completely bring you to ruin.

For me, the first time I ever felt utterly ruined I went through emotional ruin. I couldn't find joy, I couldn't find peace, I was as broken as I could possibly be. I drove home from places crying only to park in my driveway and break some more. I'd go inside my house and sit in dark corners and cry and scream. I couldn't stand the religion that seemed to be for everyone else but me. I'd been used and hurt all by people that God loved. And yet God didn't even love me, maybe that's why I was the one chosen - a special misfit in Gods churches. That's when He began restoring the part of me that felt abandoned and irreparably broken. He restored in me the knowledge that I was who HE made me, not what others had made me. He restored in me the faith that this life with Him is REAL. And that I was welcome in it. It's not a religious service 3 times a week, it's a daily walk with an incredible Creator that actually speaks to you. And He would speak to ME. Amazingly enough.

To a degree, life shortly before and after San Antonio felt like ruin. Before the move fostering was breaking my heart, left me feeling inadequate to love and work for these kids every day like I should. I felt like a bad person, a suddenly dysfunctional person. I couldn't foster, but I couldn't not foster either. Then after the move, I abandon my parents with my mom desperately calling for help over and over again. I walked away from a job with the State with wonderful benefits only to spend 4 months searching without luck for work. My money ran out, and problem after problem seemed to come up each and every month. It felt like the biggest mistake of my life. I felt as though I had no one to turn to at all because everyone else in the house was busy mourning their own troubles.

So the only person left was God. And when I turned to Him, He began restoring the parts of me that needed someone elses' support in order to stand. He began restoring the parts of me that, without my realizing I was doing it, said that God was necessary but I was the one responsible for my success or failure. That's part of what made foster parenting so hard was trying to accomplish myself what God wanted accomplished. He began restoring the part of me that was too proud to acknowledge my failures, the flaws, the hard parts. (It was with that restoration that I was able to start acknowledging things like severe money problems on this blog. Just wait till you see what else gets released.)

Those two events are the ones that stand out to me as when I felt like I couldn't go on, couldn't be what I was, couldn't do whatever I should have been doing. But God brought so many things in me to ruin during those times that I would be an entirely different person today if He had not began the restoration once the ruin was complete. I contemplated suicide during that first event more times than I can tell you. Yet God used my failures to keep me from doing even that.

But MY GOD, has ruined me. MY GOD, has broken me. MY GOD, has so dramatically altered the course of my life with different touches of ruin that some days I can't believe I survived - either physically or financially.
And there isn't a single other person in the world that loves me enough to break me like that.

Not one.

MY GOD, supplied my needs when I needed to be ruined. And MY GOD restored my soul when I needed restoration. MY GOD restored my faith. MY GOD, restored my love. MY GOD, restored my joy. MY GOD has restored me to action. He's restored the drive and passion for Him but restored it to such a deeper level that it leaves me speechless sometimes. I can't give enough to Him, but I've got today to give and dear Lord I wish it was so much more.

I wouldn't have willingly gone through some of the ruin He's allowed in my life. There's a "call it quits" moment when I would have screamed for Him to stop if I'd of thought it would work. And actually, I did beg for those hard times to end in twenty different ways. But He did what was necessary to bring me where I am today. He did what was necessary to ruin the supports I had planted in my life instead of Him.

Lord willing, I'll have many more years in this world to serve Him, and I don't for a moment doubt that He can bring me to ruin again in order to purge some more bad ideals, intentions, thoughts, dreams, habits.

But, right now, I trust the future me to Him as well. If He breaks me again it's for a purpose, and the end result - whenever it does come about - will be a beautiful restoration piece.
I trust Him, and I love Him, more than life itself.

Thank You Lord, for being a God who ruins me, restores me, and makes in me something beautiful.

Have you been ruined by God? If so, how wonderful was your restoration? I can only imagine how many stories there are out there.

Stay tuned...

Never done this before, but stay tuned to this blog for a post I'm very excited about. It should be up by this evening.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Christian Life - by Jeanette

I'd like to begin by documenting my age. I'm 28 yrs old. By documenting that, I hope that helps you believe that I, too, understand that in 5 years time I could look back at this post and laugh at myself for my foolishness.

But I believe a lot of things about the Christian life. So here goes:

I believe you shouldn't be riddled with fear, you shouldn't be timid, stammering, weak-spirited, or easily turned aside.
I believe that you should continue believing even when the road is hard and questions aren't answered.
I believe you should continue worshiping and praising, no matter how you feel sometimes - just because you have the basic understand of how worthy of praise He is... even when you're mad at Him.
I believe you should have the courage to speak to others about Him at any random opening that He provides for you - even if it means you lose your job, your friends, anything important to you.
I believe you should work out your salvation every day before the Lord, with fear and trembling. Knowing that He is your only way to eternal life.
I believe you should leave your past exactly there. The past. The devil brings it up to hinder you, you must put it behind you; taking away only the lessons learned and the changes it's worked in you for the better.
I believe everything has a purpose. And that God will work all things out for good.
I believe that it is of vital importance that our daily conversation include the things of God. It is too easy to pass up opportunities to speak gospel truth to my niece and nephew, and keep my mind on worldly things. But talks of dating, standards, boyfriends and girlfriends, decisions, and how you live life and treat others should begin with Gods standards and His hope for us - rather than just right and wrong.
I believe you should be a full time, every moment of every day Christian. In whatever situation you find yourself, others should always be able to see the Life of Christ within you. Not the basic cranky-pants that they'd find in any one they meet even unsaved.
I believe you should be watchful of every word you speak. The Bible says we'll give an account for every idle word spoken, which is a promise that we take all too lightly. Two nights ago I said a bad word. I didn't mean to, it flew right out in the middle of a happy sentence before I knew what was happening. I regret it so much even two days later that I can't even tell you. My words are too important for me to allow the less than diligent ones out of my mouth.

I've been told repeatedly that I want rules, I want a list of do's and don'ts so I can just follow the list. And I admit I do live a rather strange life that is somehow extremely strict and yet overly happy and playful at the same time. But for me, it's not about a list of rules I've created for myself - it's a way of life. A way of living. It's a way of living that invites freedom, trust, good relationships. It invites hardships as well if it were lived out as fully as it is supposed to be.

If it were a list of rules, I never would have made it. It's like dieting, it just doesn't work.
But when you change your entire lifestyle, allowing only pure things, good things, noble things... it changes you completely.

God loves us.
If you have any thing you'd like to add to the list of beliefs, please feel free.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Turn off the lights.

It doesn't happen all that often, but every once in awhile, about 15 minutes after the kids bedtime I'll get a quiet knock on my door.

My niece enters, with teary eyes, and says "I think you need to tell me that verse again."

It's the verse I've told her for nearly 12 years now... "God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and of sound mind." Practically every time it comes up it's bedtime. The night has crept in and she realizes how dark her room is - despite the fact that a huge strand of Christmas lights serve as her nightlight.

In the last years, the lecture has almost become script. I repeat the verse, and then tell her that trusting in God is proved most truly in the dark. You say you trust Him, but when the lights are out and you're afraid of the dark, that's when you have to tell your spirit that you do indeed trust in God and you will not be paralyzed by fear. You will not lose sleep with fear. You will not lie wide awake in fear. You will close your eyes and simply TRUST the way you say you do when it's light outside.

And after quoting that mantra so often to her I've wondered how many adults do the same. We allow fears in our lives, even simple ones like fear of the dark, fear of heights, fear of crowds, fear of failure. And when I say we "allow" them, I go so far as to say we build those fears a little home in our lives so they can be comfortable and take up permanent residence. We accept that as humans, we have fears... it's normal, healthy, and while unpleasant and a hindrance to our daily lives - we have every right to be afraid.

"You don't know what I've been through..."
"If you'd lived through what I'd lived through you'd understand..."
"You just don't understand..."
"It's just something that makes me feel better..."
"I NEED to..."
"I just can't do it any other way..."

But that's a lie. It's a comfortable lie because it's hard to turn the lights out and say you aren't afraid, that you really do trust God whether the lights are on or off. That your security, your sense of safety doesn't come from filaments in a glass casing, but from God Himself.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - faith is proactive. It's a inner quality but without the action it's dead according to the Bible. You say you have faith, SHOW me your faith. I don't want the typical religion that reminds you to trust in God but never requires you to give up your security blankets, your night lights, your fears. SHOW me your faith.

I hope you don't think - even for a moment - that I believe turning out the lights and trusting God in the dark is easy right off the bat. I think the very act of turning off the lights is the most difficult thing you can do. It means you've stopped trusting in your ability to take care of yourself, and here - here in the dark - everything is just going to be in Gods hands.

And amazingly enough, when the one who actually HAS given you the spirit of fear realizes that he can't defeat you with your fear you'll probably find that fear dissolves as he moves on to find other ways to hurt you, scar you, prevent you from trusting God.

I give this lecture to my niece on those nights because I don't want her to be chained to fears of any shape. I want her to know that when you're scared to pieces you are not alone and that there is a great big God who loves you more than you can imagine. I want her to live her life unencumbered from those chains that leave her tending to her fears rather than living life exactly as God would have her - filled with power, love, and a perfectly sound mind. A sound mind doesn't picture monsters in the dark. A fearful one does.

I don't know what monsters you imagine in the darkness, but I beg of you, whoever you are, to turn off the lights and beg God to handle it.

I don't make solid statements like this too often but I believe, firmly, that you will never be all that God would have you to be when you allow yourself to cater to your fears. No matter how many victories you enjoy, no matter how wise and spiritual you become, you will never know true liberty until you're willing to sit in the dark and trust God.

You know where your light switch is. When you lie in the dark afraid, tears rolling down your cheeks as imaginary monsters come to attack you - remember what Aunt Net said: "God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love and sound mind."

Turn off the light.
I beg you. Turn off the light.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Holding the stair rail.

If you ever get word of me being severely injured, or perhaps this blog goes strangely silent for a long unexplained period of time; let me tell you what's happened:

I've fallen down the stairs and broke my head.

Now, before you wonder about me, I haven't done it yet, somehow I've always managed to not become incapacitated and always manged to protect my head... but I'm thinking it's only a matter of time.

You see, despite the fact that we do have a light for the stairs, I typically traverse them in the dark. Without fail, I always seem to think I've reached the end of the steps before I've actually reached the end of the stairs. You wouldn't think that you take that last step differently from ever other step, but apparently I do. Because what typically happens is that I immediately plunge face first towards the floor.

My knees are going to eventually give out on me from the number of times I've crash landed on them on the tile floor by the door. It's funny now, but it's never funny in that confused moment when you realize you've crashed down the stairs... again.

But, keeping with the tradition that I learn a lesson from everything, I realized how important it is to not make some decisions in the dark. To make sure of your footing, to hold onto the rail. Because the simple truth of the matter is that when it's dark, you can't see as well. And when you're in a situation like that, letting go of the support, and making new decisions rather than trusting the ones you've made when you could see, is just plain foolish.

But it seems that's when we always make our decisions.

We decide God's not trust worthy when we're sad. We decide our job is not worth it when we have a problem with a co-worker. We decide our friendships aren't worth it when we don't feel appreciated. We decide our marriage isn't worth it when we doubt our spouses commitment.

Rarely do you see someone happy and blessed announce that after some thought they happily decided that God just wasn't the right route for them.
No, it's when they're not getting what they want, or things aren't going as planned. That's when you decide God isn't enough.

But, speaking as a person that's fallen down the stairs enough times to realize how important this is, making decisions in the dark hurts.

No matter what my mind tells me about where that last step is, I need to simply trust the rail and wait until I've truly reached the floor. No matter what my mind tells me.
Because minds tell us funny things sometimes. And we're 100% convinced our minds are right. I say that as someone who's sat with others speaking the truth to me while I informed them that my mind proved God to be cruel.

I think God gave us wonderful minds, minds that creatively can challenge Him, convict Him, and question Him. But I believe at some point in our Christian walk that we have to begin to trust His heart for us more than we trust our minds idea of Him. Trusting His heart isn't always easy in the dark, because your mind sees things that are not quite seen for all that they really are. And when you realize how truly little you can trust your own mind in the darkness, let me tell you, you begin to grip the stair rail pretty tight.

Or you could be far more like me than you'd druther.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to try and make it upstairs. *crosses her fingers*

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What more has the Lord required?

A couple of nights back, I picked up a book intending to read for a bit. A few paragraphs into the page though I realized I wasn't able to concentrate on my book too well. Odd though it may seem, my heart and mind were anxiously wishing there were something that I could do for God now. NOW. Not later. June and it's move and a return to foster parenting seem so far away right now.

I put the book away and began telling the Father that I wished I could something now, do more, just return to Him some small token of my love and appreciation for all He's done for me. Interestingly enough He gave me a verse. Instead of the scripture reference as He usually gives me, I was reminded of the actual words to the verse - then I had to go look it up remembering only that it's found in Micah somewhere.

It turns out to be Micah 6:8

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

And I realized I have opportunities every single day. I take a little over a hundred calls every single day, so I have at least a hundred people with whom I can deal justly, with a love for mercy, and with humility in my dealings with them before God.

It's hard to remember the Spiritual things in the every day things. It's hard to be on a phone call and while I ponder stats, product codes, and specific verbiage that I need to use and in all of that remember that I can show Gods justice, mercy, and His example of humility.

But for as hard as it is, I think this is where the rubber really meets the road. When you are no longer the Sunday Christian, or the at-home Christian, or the with-your-friends Christian.. but instead you are the Christian for every single moment of the day, in all of your dealings.

I'm not there yet, but I'm working on it. And the joy just keeps growing as I remember Him and think of Him throughout the day.
I'd like to just echo the sentiment of one of my customers today: "I AM BLESSED"

And if you'd like to add that sentiment to your checks, just give us a call. :)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Getting what you ask for.

I've always been more than a little curious about the wrestling match described in the Bible where Jacob wrestles with a "man". It's found in Genesis 32 if you're interested in reading it for yourself - towards the end of the chapter.

But here Jacob is, wrestling, and he announces something to the effect of "I'm going to keep fighting you, until you bless me."
Thus, the man he's struggling with announces "Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed."


There's a tiny bit more conversation then it says "He blessed him there" and that's pretty much the end of it except for Jacobs grateful announcement that he's seen the face of God and lived.

That's the end.

But if I were Jacob, I'd be asking some questions.

The first one being "What on earth does that mean?"

As a prince I have power with God and with men? What's that mean? Does that mean God hears his prayers better? He's more likely to get a 'Yes" answer than the rest of us non-princely folks? What does that mean?

And how is it that after his saying that, Jacob automatically accepted that he had received a blessing even though it obviously wasn't something visible?

Did he feel different? Did he have some new inner knowledge that something had changed for him? And also, if the information that now as a prince he had power with God and man was the blessing... why does it later say that "he blessed him there".

Some of the retold histories in the Bible leave me scratching my head in wonder.

But here's the one thing that I do get from out of my confusion from the story.

When God says He's going to bless you, it doesn't always look like something tangible. It doesn't look like how I want it, or expect it, to look. The world might not be able to see it, and I may not feel different. But when Jehovah God announces that I am something, then I'm that something. If He announces I'm a princess among God and men, then I don't care that I'm still sleeping in the dirt the next night with a rock for a pillow - by goodness I'm a princess.

This lesson is important to me because I tend to expect certain things to look certain ways and I'll keep fighting or struggling or pushing until they look how I expect. But when God blesses me, or speaks something over me, then it is. It simply IS. Whether I can see it, feel it, taste it, experience it, understand it, acknowledge it, or believe it. I am exactly what God says I am.

I wish I understood the story better. But the lesson I've learned from it is just as valuable even though I still have questions.

You see I don't know how I've been blessed. Maybe the unique blessing I have in life is just the abundant joy that is overflowing to a degree that just doesn't make sense. Or maybe the blessing He's placed on my life is simply that of being a foster parent. But, though I don't understand it, I don't feel the urge to wrestle Him for it anymore. It is mine.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I will serve the Lord.

We're studying Ecclesiastes in Sunday school - and yes, it did take 3 attempts before spell checker quit red-lining my attempt to spell Ecclesiastes - and at the bottom of the handout for todays lesson was a question: "What are you pursuing?"

We'd read chapter two. The wise man had stated that he'd decided to test himself with pleasure. He then tried so many different things, land, possessions, "stuff" that made him both wealthy and known in the land. Wives, concubines, slaves. He stated that he denied himself nothing that he wanted that would please him.

And he found it was all futile. Vain. Worthless. He even found himself frustrated because all these things he'd gained would eventually be left to someone when he died and who was to say that that person would be wise or a fool?

I believe I have a pretty good perspective on "stuff". I don't typically acquire much, the latest and greatest thing out there doesn't usually draw me with a burning desire to possess. I like minimalism to a point that usually has people raising their eyebrows at me, wondering if I'm truly sane. And I still feel cluttered. I'm actually looking forward to June when we move because I'm planning on most of my furniture and "stuff" staying with my brothers family leaving me a little bit more bare.

So when I read that question this morning I felt bad that I didn't have an answer. Because when someone asks you a question about what you need to change and you don't have answer that seems almost foolish because obviously you're not perfect. But the idea of "pursuing" things held me up and I couldn't figure out an answer.

Until church began. My mind was constantly distracted with something that I might could possibly have or try to get and while it wasn't a physical possession it was still something that kept me looking for it when I should have been seeking and worshiping God.

I don't want to pursue anything except God. I want my life to read like a road trip home. Sure I might stop at a convenience store along the way, grab a bite to eat, or pull over and stretch my legs. But the goal, the focus of the whole trip is still the same. I don't want other things to blur my focus of the real place I'm headed to. Of the true goal I'm trying to reach. Everything else is just stuff along the way. I want that to be my mindset, and I don't want to allow my mind to be distracted from that to desiring other things.

But like everything else in the world, no matter how many times I tried to reign my mind in, it was like a wayward cat - if you've ever owned a cat you know herding a cat in the direction you want it to go is practically impossible. So I prayed that God would help me not to want anything else more than Him. And I hoped between the two of us we'd defeat this distraction.

Tonight though, as we sang yet another song service my mind was happily filled with only thoughts of worship. And when we came to the song "Rescue" I was driven once again to swallow worry of embarrassment and walk to the front to worship as they sang:

You are the Source of light
I can't be left behind
No one else will do
I will take hold of You
I need You, Jesus
Come to my rescue
Where else could I go?
There's no other name by which I am saved
Capture me with grace
I will follow You
My heart is Yours for life
I need Your hand in mine
No one else will do
Lord, I put my trust in You

Tears didn't fill my eyes this time though, instead JOY filled my heart as I sang with an undivided heart that "No one else will do" and that "I will follow You" and said with solidarity that "Lord, I put my trust in You". And I realized I literally had to put my trust in Him just to defeat my flesh enough to carry out my pledge of fidelity and loyalty.

At the end of the song tears of joy and laughter escaped as I sang over and over again "I will follow You" And I realized that by His grace I meant every word.

What kind of God loves me so much He helps me love Him better?
What kind of God loves me so much He doesn't just wait for me to serve Him better, but when He finds me desiring other things instead of Him, hears me ask Him to help me not think about those other things - and does it.

I've said it before, and I guess I'll just keep saying it. It's a love that I just can hardly grasp. Who of you, if you were married and found yourself lusting after someone else would ask your spouse to help you not think about ________ ? How well do you think that conversation would go?
Even if it's the right conversation to have... I can guarantee it's probably going to be a long one with tears from a very hurt spouse.

But my Father God instead, simply rained down His love again and reigned me in. He captured my hearts desires and led them to the source of ultimate hope and peace. And because of that, just as the song said "He's captured me with grace". I'm awed by His grace, His mercy, His constant presence and how present He is to see me do well, do better.

Our church is starting a 3 day fast next week (beginning the 18th) and I'm looking forward to it so much more now than I was before. I'm only tasting, eating, and enjoying the pleasure God has for me in Him and I'm absolutely ready to simply embrace it. If it means going deeper now, fine, if He slows down my growth, fine. But I'm just ready to embrace this life and love Him as deeply as I possibly can.

I've needed Him to come to my rescue, even when I obstinately declared that I didn't. And He came. That means the world to me. And I cannot love Him enough.
I will serve the Lord.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Always expect it.

Something interesting happened this week that really made an impression on me.

Every night I come home from work late, so everyone is usually in the kitchen eating supper when I get in. Almost immediately I hear the kids yell "HEY NET" as a welcome right after I open the door. They can't see me, but they're expecting that door to open so the minute it does, they give me a HEY. It's special. :)

But Friday, no one expected me to be coming home that evening. I was supposed to be heading straight to a friends house to babysit for them. But I needed to make a quick stop at the house to drop something off. Here's what's so special though...

I walked in the door, expecting to have to rush an explanation as to why I had to hurry out, and why I was there. I wasn't especially quiet, or sneaky. I just came in, went upstairs, came back downstairs, and out the door. Not a single person called out to me. The kids with their super-spy ability to catch whenever an adult is about to sneak something past them were completely clueless. Only one person later said they thought they heard someone come in, but they weren't sure.

And here's what I realized.

Sometimes you don't hear or see something, because you're not expecting it.

Sometimes God may be talking, but if I'm not expecting Him to speak out in a situation, I might not hear Him. Or when I do hear Him I might not realize it's really Him.

When you're riding the rides at a theme park, or buying the popcorn for your movie, when you're doing the dishes or going to your lunch break. So many typical, random, virtually nothing moments in our lives when we don't expect the Savior of the world to speak, or act. He might be. He might have done something incredible. And we just missed it.

So I want to live my life with baited breath, with anxious anticipation, with watchful eyes and a hopeful heart; listening, waiting, watching, expecting something amazing from God. Because if I'm watching for it, I might actually get an idea of just how often Gods' doing incredible things.
I don't want to miss it.
Expect God to do something. Expect God to lead you. Expect God to speak to you.
You'll find more than you imagine.
I'm certain of it.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

By the grace of God ONLY.

I have a correction to make.

I said it earlier, I'm a cotton-headed-ninny-muggins. At times severely misguided and deluded, able to pursue foolishness like nobodies business. So I hope everyone keeps that very important information on file in their brains as they read this blog.

I say that because looking back at the last two posts I want to make one thing very clear.


Can I make it any clearer?

It's not by might, or power, it's not by self-discipline and determination.
It's not by deciding in my head that I'm going to let things go and trust.
It's by the grace of God.

All those things are simply by-products of what God is doing in my life. Your life. Our lives. Those great tools we're able to use; faith, trust, hope, love, joy, peace - those are used by the grace of God. They are not used to create Gods work in our lives, but by Gods work they're created for us to achieve greater works. For us to accomplish what it is God has set apart for us to do.

I don't know how to fix myself. I've spent several years trying to fix myself. But the fact of the matter is, God has fixed me. I'm running, operating smoothly with only the few operational glitches once in awhile, because God has done a work. Not because I willed myself into a better person.

So no matter what I say on here, always know that whatever has been accomplished on this earth, it has come about because God determined it would be. So maybe the key to being "fixed" is to just stop trying to fix ourselves and be the best Christians we can be, and reminding God regularly that we're broke and need fixing.

He's the best mechanic on the planet.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Because He loves me.

Tell me God isn't working on my behalf.
I can always use a good laugh.

So today I chance upon a woman and just being sociable I struck up a general conversation about the heat. (I was trying to sweat out a cold that I somehow caught when my brother developed "Allergies".) As the conversation usually goes I mention being from North Texas and the recent move up here to SA.

That's the point in every conversation where I have to take a deep breath and remember that God is more important than peoples opinions. Because everyone inevitably asks "What brought you to San Antonio?" To which, after that quick swallow for courage I explain how God led me to leave my home and move here.

Once that door was opened I enthusiastically began telling her how glad I was about the decision and how He's blessed me so much in so many ways since coming here.
She responded with understanding that God does unexplainable things like that. And we began talking about spiritual things for a bit and she asked if I had found a church in the area.

When I told her how much I was enjoying the worship at the church I'd been attending called "Victory", she turned with surprise.
Turns out I happened to be talking to Linda Myers, the church secretary.
By the end of the conversation I'd given her a job lead since she was looking for work, and she'd promised to get back to me with information on joining the church.

She was in a gym, 20 miles from her home but right next door to me. God must enjoy moving puzzle pieces around to see our reactions.

I'm no different from anyone else. I'm stupid and foolish, crazy and misguided far too often. But I have learned to believe in Him. Even when things don't look right. I'm sure it will be challenged many more times in my lifetime, and I'm sure I will struggle, and I don't doubt that at times the hurt might overwhelm me - especially when I begin fostering again.

But just because you forget something, doesn't make it any less true, or real.
God is a God to be trusted, to be believed in. He is who He is whether I accept it, believe it, trust it, lean on it, or not. The only person I hurt by doubting is myself.

I told someone recently how my joy in Christ made me somewhat nervous, because I wondered how I would do when the joy ended because life became hard. But then I remembered my circumstances, the constant struggle the never-ending wonder about tomorrow and it's problems and I realized that this isn't a shallow joy that I'm dancing in. But a deep, rich, sorrow-filled/trust laden joy that is overcoming whatever I face.

He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.
How he loves David Crowder Band

Enjoy His love.
Quit fighting Him.
Trust and obey. His plans are not our own.
But His plans bring me to an expected end.
And I can trust that whatever sorrow and trials I find along the way are for a purpose.
I can trust Him.
Even when it doesn't make sense.

Because He loves me.

And when I really began to believe that.

I didn't have to demand answers anymore.

I just had to trust that good or bad, happy or sad, He's in charge, and I can trust Him.

Because He loves me.

And that's why I love Him more than ever before.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Don't be like me.

I'll be the first to tell you what a cotton-headed-ninny-muggins I am. If you're not familiar with the movie lingo, then let me just describe a cotton-headed-ninny-muggins as a very challenged individual.


That's me.

And while I can't say much as to why I'm such a dimwit sometimes, here's one of the many steps that brought me out of it.

I quite simply quit fighting God.

That's not to say that I quit hurting, quit being disappointed, quit wishing that things had not turned out as they had, but I quit telling God what His job was to have been in the situation and handing Him His almighty performance evaluation stating that He needed to improve on certain company fundamentals.

You see CPS walked in my door, they handed me a child that absolutely rocked my world and that I fell in love with, loved her more than life itself. And a month later, with no explanation they put the child right back with the relatives they'd originally placed her with. I had no clue as to her safety, no idea who might be hurting this precious thing, and with all the other things that I'd been trying to get through....this was the hardest. It was the one that broke the proverbial camels back.

Because, you see, He'd taken it too far. It hurt too much. I was sick to my stomach with grief and fear and it was quite clearly all His fault.
But it hurt so much that the hurt overwhelmed the anger and it was hard to be angry when it just hurt so badly. So I came to San Antonio hurting and doubtful that anyone that doubted God as much as I did could possibly be hearing right about moving 300 miles from home.

Coming here, life was even more difficult, more confusing, and left me feeling foolish that I'd make such a crazy mistake as to come here, leaving my mortgaged house in the hands of a crazy renter and my job with State benefits in the dust behind me.

I could be angry, but that took more energy than I had.
So I did the only thing left to do - beyond trying to walk away again and accuse God of being a fraud - I gave up.
I told Him I couldn't do this on my own, and I needed His help to make it. I told Him life hurt too too badly, that I worried for my Belle more than words could speak.

And do you know what happened eventually?
I still can't make it on my own.
I still worry for Belle more than I can ever convey.

But I trust Him with it. I trust Him to hear my cry to protect Bell, to help her grow old and happy, and healthy, to know love and safety.
I trust Him to see me through each months set of bills.
I trust Him to show me how I can work harder to earn more money, or to show me opportunities to help me earn more money to get by each month.
I trust Him to see me through whatever next big emergency hits this household.

There are too many examples in scripture of lives that don't seem to work out. Sure, we see the end result so we know how beneficial the events were, but Stephen was still stoned, Paul and Silas were still beaten, shipwrecked, poor people still begged and were healed. In anger, I could demand so many things of God - but I don't have that right.

The end result is of the greatest value. We cling to so many promises of prosperity, of joy, of peace. But there are a great many that also promise an enduring of tribulation, of suffering, of chastening. I've seen it and tasted just a small taste of the hurt and suffering.
But my most difficult year was the one in which I attempted to dictate to God what He needed to be to me.
And the beginning of the greatest year that I'm experiencing right now began with realizing that He's what I need, and so much more.

Quit fighting.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Lord I'm amazed by You

I can't praise Him enough.
You think I'm kidding, or trying to sound righteous. I don't worry too much about sounding righteous anymore, I realized how foolish that was since anyone that knows me... well, let's just say they know the truth. :)
But I'm not kidding either.
I just can't praise Him enough.

I've never been so poor, so backed up, so uncertain about tomorrows...
I've never been so grateful, so hopeful, so excited, so overwhelmed with gratitude.

My commute to work is filled with worship that just isn't enough. I'm probably going to die on the 410 loop one day just because the curve is a little sharp to take it with one hand raised and tears blurring your vision. I cannot thank Him enough.

There was a debate at lunch today, as someone made the assertion that God doesn't love poor people. Otherwise they wouldn't be poor. And, as a poor person I was frustrated at what a ridiculous assertion that is. And then my heart was broken as I realized, the person making that assertion was poor. And with every struggle to pay bills, with every thought of how something was out of his ability to afford it, I wondered if he wasn't clouded with doubt concerning Gods amazing love.

It's no wonder my experience as a poor person is vastly different from his. I can hardly breathe sometimes as I write out my bills as I realize that yet again, yet again, yet again, yet again, God has provided. He has provided me an abundance, exceedingly and abundantly beyond. I'm sitting here aching to do something for Him because He's done so much. The greatest of which is simply the greater closeness with Him. I find myself in His presence, shaken and stirred, moved and broken, but more often than not I'm just utterly joyful.

I've found healing in Him that is unimaginable to me. My prayers, sincere and earnest used to come from a broken section of my life that caused more hurt and worry and fear; and now all of that is replaced with adoration and joy and trust and hope. I never used to smile in prayer, if I did it was rare. Now it's rare find me in worship without that stupid smile stretching my cheeks.

I just can't thank Him enough. I can't praise Him enough.

I'd give anything to change the hearts around me. To somehow clear their minds of the lack so that they could finally see the overwhelming abundance. At the same time I wonder if God didn't make them with such a perspective just so they would push to something God has for them. But I also worry they'll receive what it is God had in store for them and with blinded eyes they'll keep looking for something more.

Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have - I wish with all my heart that I could simply give it away to those without, to those suffering from guilt and shame, to those struggling with anger, to those struggling with a feeling of inadequacy to those who simply can't see how great is His love for us. But I can only type it, I can only say it, I can only offer humbly that Jesus Christ LOVES you. He loves you so much, YOU, that He died, He offered His life as sacrifice for YOU, because He was not willing that ANY should perish. Not ONE. And if you ever stop and simply walk into the embrace of that love I can promise you that the things of this earth do grow strangely dim, less important, and the constant ever growing current of His amazing LOVE and MERCY in your life will leave you speechless. He loves you. He loves you. He loves you.

He's offering you something that moth and rust can't corrupt. But don't look to see His love in monetary ways first. Dig into the Spiritual gifts, rather than the physical ones. You'll be amazed at what happens.

I gave Him me (not without a few difficulties and the occasional cries of "take back") but the rewards of what I received in return have been more than wonderful.
Lord I'm amazed by You and how You love me.

To sign off this post, I thought I'd include a snippet of our song service today. It's very fitting for this post. Enjoy!

In need of a Godly advisor.

The subject has come up recently of joining the church that I've been attending.

I'm betwixt and between decisions for several reasons. The first is that I dread officially taking my membership away from the church I attended in North Texas. The second being that in 6 months I'll be moving again (in the SA area) but I don't know where yet, so it's entirely possible that I might not be attending this church in 6 months. And I have too much respect for commitment to just float my membership around to different churches.

At the same time, I hate the idea of just sitting around and enjoying the services I'm attending and not giving back and supporting the church physically for the next 6 months until I see what happens next.

I don't know what to do.

I'm in need of Godly wisdom, Godly advice, and I miss taking a trip to McDonalds with Godly advisers that will listen and offer counsel and pray. I miss it more than I can tell you. San Antonio has been wonderful and my changes here have been beyond my wildest dreams, but #1 on my list of things that I wish would change would be finding that Godly person to talk to, to tell me when I'm being wrong and stupid, and when I need to step up on something, and to help me see situations from Gods perspective.

So, if you have any advice please feel free to give it. But most of all, pray I find that Spiritual counsel here, and that until that counsel comes along that I would be especially attuned to God as He leads me along.