Monday, September 30, 2013

The answer is "Yes"

Have you ever heard God whisper to you "am I enough?"
Have you been in His presence, silent and still, and heard Him offer Himself to you, promising to be your portion and your sustenance?
Have you ever heard God ask you to be patient with Him, hanging on to Him and Him alone, while He works out the plan for your life?

Today I heard that. I heard God ask me plainly, "Aren't I enough for you?"
What could I possibly say? Of course He is enough. Of course He can sustain me. Of course He can be my sustenance. Of course He can carry me. Of course He can be my everything.
And He is.
Once again God was asking me to rely solely on Him. I am not to rely on another person, thing or the dream of a person or thing. My days aren't to be spent looking ahead to what will fulfill me next, but they are to be a daily sacrifice to the Lord. Each day is precious and special to Him. He has a purpose for me in this day. Fulfilling that purpose and being in His presence is enough to give my life abundant meaning. I don't need what this world has to offer. I have something greater.
When I heard God's question I was humbled. Clearly I wasn't making Him my everything. If I had been then there would have been no need for Him to ask. But I was looking elsewhere for fulfillment. I was letting my mind and heart search for external things of this world to fill the place in my heart that only God can fill. Primarily, I was dreaming and wishing for a romantic, male companion to fill such a place. But God hasn't sent Mr. Right just yet. For all I know He may never send him. So, the question is, can God be enough in spite of that? This isn't always an easy answer to give, but yes, He is enough. Somedays those words are harder to utter than others. But every day, no matter how difficult it may be, the answer is the same.
I may never have a special someone in my life. I may never have someone to share my home, adventures and difficulties with in the form of a flesh and blood husband. But I have someone in Heaven and He loves me unconditionally. He is jealous for me. He desires me with His whole heart and wants me to yearn for Him with the same intensity. He is lovingly, longingly looking at me and asking, "won't you let me be enough for you?"
And I am saying yes.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

God's sign returns: another deer encounter

I am beginning to learn that what is extraordinary to me is really just God's ordinary. His imagination is so much greater than mine. His ideas leave me in awe. But to Him it is all in a day's work.
Case in point: I had another deer encounter.
Again, my deer appeared in Chagrin Falls - the place I tend to need reminding of God's faithfulness. Don't get me wrong, Chagrin Falls is a little slice of heaven. It is a step back in time to old time America where kids met up outside the local candy store and you walked to get a gallon of milk. Church bells ring on the hour and any time the fire department is called out to an emergency the whole town knows - trust me, you can't miss those sirens. When I am here I feel like I've stepped back into a black and white film minus all the men in sports jackets and ladies wearing heels in the kitchen. Just replace those characters of your old time movie with both guys and girls in jeans  and little dogs on the ends of leashes. And then your picture will be complete: Chagrin Falls in all of its glory.
Despite all of its appeal and charm, Chagrin Falls has still been a hard place for me to adjust to. I love my childhood home. My Mom is my best friend. I like the familiarity of being in Erie where I know everything about the town and feel like I understand my place in it. But here I am thrown into a new environment and I must start over. I have to define my reason for being here and carve out my place in this world. In Erie that work has already been done. But not here. In Chagrin Falls I am a newbie, just trying to figure out where I fit.
More than anything, I find myself lonely. It isn't always fun living by yourself. Sometimes it has its perks. When you are feeling like being silent and quiet it is perfect. But when you have something to share with someone, an exciting tidbit of your day you want to discuss, there is no one right there to hear it. You have to pick up the phone - thank God for technology. Still, it isn't the same. The phone is just a substitute for the actual presence of a person who can respond with facial expressions and physical touch. Through the phone you are on a one dimensional plane. Living alone makes you miss the more intimate aspects of relationship that can be taken for granted when you have never had to go without it.
But enough of all that! Back to the deer encounter.
This afternoon I came back to Chagrin after a quick 24 hour trip to Erie. Although it was brief I still had a difficult time wanting to come back here. It doesn't take me long to feel settled in my Erie home. But I bucked up and drove back to Chagrin Falls. I knew that once I bit the bullet and made the trip back I'd soon get over my initial reluctance to do so. I just had to do it. So I didn't delay.
And thank goodness I didn't. I pulled into the driveway and started to unload my bags. First came the groceries from Trader Joe's. I put them away and then headed back out to get the second load and there she was, a magnificent deer running through my neighbors yard, into the trees. I was stunned, rendered motionless and frozen. My sign from God was right next door, running with a delicate ease at the exact moment I was walking out of my door. Had I been a moment later I might have missed her. Had I decided to stay back in Erie for another hour she might have moved onto another lush garden to snack on. But I was just on time and so was she.
A stately deer has been my God wink since I have moved to Chagrin Falls. Repeatedly He has sent a deer in my path at moments when I have struggled with loneliness. Never before have I seen deer at such close proximity and in such populated areas as I have here, in my personal deer encounters. Each time they show up it is in a neighborhood when no one else is around. Sometimes they stop and look at me. But today she didn't. Every time, without fail, the deer does run. And when she does it is beautiful.

God never ceases to amaze me. I never prayed for some kind of sign to show me that I am not alone. When I drove here today I didn't say any prayer at all. Yet, God knows my heart. He knew that my spirit was weak in the midst of anxieties and loneliness. I didn't have to beg Him to show Himself. He was already there and He already knew the condition of my heart.
This is how our great God works: He shows up in miraculous ways, ways that we don't expect or imagine. We might be stuck in our struggles, doing our best to remain steadfast in our faith, remaining obedient and dedicated to our Savior, and He will come down and bless us in our struggle. When we diligently seek to please Him and live in accordance with His will we are able to see the majestic way in which He works all the time.
Today my cry to God wasn't audible. It wasn't even a silent prayer in my mind. It was knowing that I had to do the right thing and that was come back to Chagrin Falls. I did so in faith, knowing that God has brought me this far and that He will not abandon me. His deer was just more proof of that truth. He is here with me, living in my little dream house. I am not alone. I have the deer. But more importantly, I have the presence, protection and company of a Savior who loves me enough to send me nature's most precious creatures to remind me that I am His beloved and that He is mine.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The God I serve

The God I serve is not distant or far removed. He is not like the "Great and Powerful Oz" stuck behind a curtain, only to be experienced in some vague form from afar. No, that is not the God I serve. That is not the God who created the universe, knit me in my Mother's womb and has numbered each hair on my head. He is intimately, passionately involved in the details and most minuscule nuances of my life.
When I consider the depth of love that God has lavished on me I am awe struck and breathless. I am so unworthy, so undeserving of the magnitude of His grace. I am a repeat offender of the most egregious sins. Yet, somehow, God loves me. In spite of making mistake after mistake He still has shown a mercy that is unfathomable to me. I don't deserve all the goodness that he has poured out on me, yet He hasn't been the least bit stingy. He has showered on me blessings in such great abundance that I couldn't write them all even if I had the whole New York Public Library to store the books the lists would fill. His favor is unmeasurable, incalculable, beyond mere words.
Today as I ran along the path at the Peninsula, I surveyed my beautiful surroundings. A picture perfect day painted the sky a perfect baby blue with not a cloud in sight. The air smelled of fall yet the temperature still felt like the end of summer. The trees overhead enveloped me like a hug, their green leaves cooling me with a gentle breeze and shading me from the warm sun. The bay was still and calm, dotted with the sail boats and peaceful kayakers. The scene around me was of pure bliss. My heart couldn't help but feel light and free.
There, on that path, I experienced the overwhelming joy of being loved and cared for by Christ. Me - with all of my past of sin, my tendency toward loneliness and frustration, my mistakes and regrets - I am a beloved, cherished child of God, the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Redeemer, Messiah. Nothing can diminish His love for me. Nothing can destroy that love. It is forever. It is unconditional. It is magnificent!
That love has brought me from death to life: dead in my transgressions, alive through the salvation of Jesus Christ. He loves me that much. Even before I loved Him in return, He poured out His love to me. I didn't do anything to earn it or deserve it. I could never do anything to merit the love that He has to give. The beauty is that He doesn't expect me to earn it. He knows I can't. But He still loves me anyway.
He is dedicated to restoring my soul and drawing me closer to Him. He desires to be intimately involved in my life. He has come into my soul and given me life. His breath has become my breath. I am not my own, but I am His and He is living through me.
As I ran I felt His presence all around me. Months ago I could have never imagined running with such ease but He has carried me to this place. He has, once again, shown His love to be powerful and overwhelming. He has defied my comprehension in restoring not only my soul, but my body, too. When I look at the road He has taken me on and the brilliance of the plan I am left awe struck. He knew all along the path that would lead me to this place. It was His love that let me suffer in moments of pain and weakness. That suffering drew me closer to Him. Through my pain He was able to reach deeper into my heart and show me how He can heal me. Without the open wounds I might have not been as willing and ready to have Him do His work. But I desperately wanted His touch. I needed, and still need, His healing and gracious hand upon me every hour of every day.
By grace He has forgiven me for my stumbling and lack of faith. He has never given up on this wayward child. He has done just the opposite. He has come alongside me and carried me when I was too weak, scared or timid to continue on. He has stooped down, cradled me in His arms and shown me the power of His love. There is nothing more in this world I could ever hope to experience, achieve or attain.
God has poured out everything for me and I, in return, want to give Him my whole life. May it be used for His kingdom and His glory. For He is more precious than silver or gold, more powerful than the fiercest of storms. He is the maker of Heaven and earth and the sustainer of this little child's soul. The depth of His love and care for me takes my breath away. I am forever speechless in the presence of my King.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Turn it on replay

Find what makes your heart sing - then replay that tune.

For me it is a run with songs of praise as my playlist...
It is sitting in a coffee shop with a hot cup of (black) light roast and my computer opened to a clean, blank page...
It is an evening game of scrabble with no pressure of keeping score...
It is a worship song that praises God...
It is a morning walk with Pippy while the world is still quiet and still...
It is a good book curled up in bed in the dark with just my little reading light...
It is scooping out food in the line at the City Mission...
It is talking about my beautiful Savior with a sister in Christ...
It is feeling the strength of God while lifting heavy weights and challenging my body...
It is a walk on the beach at the edge of the shore with the soft sand beneath my feet and cool water rushing around my ankles...
It is listening to a simple acoustic guitar and united voices that are crying out to God in an act of praise and surrender...
It is reading scriptures filled with God's omnipotence and plan for His beloved...
It is walking in the midst of a flourishing garden...
It is preparing fresh, beautiful greens and vegetables to enjoy for a meal...
It is helping my nieces with math homework...
It is finding the perfect gift for someone's birthday...
It is holding the music book for an elderly woman in a nursing home...
It is writing this blog...

Where does your heart sing? What lights a fire within your soul? What brings a smile to your face?
Find those places. Find the places where your heart feels at home. Then keep coming back. Return to that place of ease and peace. You might be facing a world of upheaval and difficulty. Still, there is something or someplace in your life where peace can be found - a place where you feel God's goodness and pleasure. There is still a song that you can't help but sing along with. Even in the midst of your storm you can play that song. You can choose to turn your dial to that station. It is there, God is there, just waiting for you to tune in.
Write down where those places are for you. Is it in a certain workout? It is a genre of music or a particular song? It is a certain scripture? Is it a call to a special person? A ministry to a person in need? Is it a walk in nature or a run on a treadmill?
Write down your place. When you feel that your joy is slipping or that the world is working on your mind, telling it lies and dragging down your spirit, return to that list. Turn back your dial to your favorite life songs. God hasn't stopped playing them. You've just changed the station. Turn back. It is as simple as pressing a different button. Go to your song. Take your walk. Read your passage in the Bible. Pick flowers from your garden.
For me, I'll be going for my the Starbucks...with my get a grande blonde roast...while I talk on the phone to my niece who needs algebra help. I'm not just playing a verse or two of a radio hit, I'm tuning into my own personal symphony! The question is are you tuning into yours?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Follow the leader

Fans follow their sports team.
The talmead follow their Rabi.
Groupies go after their band.
Fitness clients seek the direction of their personal trainer.
The church congregation looks to their pastor.
Yoga students look to their Guru.
Married couples seek out advice from their counselor.
And people everywhere seek the advice of Dr. Oz.

It seems that everywhere you look everyone is following something or someone.
Time for some self-reflection.
Who or what are you following?

You don't have to speak it out loud. If it is Oprah I'm guessing you'd rather keep that to yourself.
Upon honest reflection I think it is safe to say that we all could come up with at least one person we are following. The question is: do we want that to be who we follow? Do we want our footsteps to be in lock step with that person? Is that really who we should be imitating?

Over the course of my young life I know that I have followed in the footsteps of many faulty leaders. Some have been actual people and other times it has been a "way" that isn't THE WAY. I've ordered my life and steps in accordance with some earthly concept or some human in the flesh.
What a grave mistake that has been.
Following in the path of anyone but Jesus is a path doomed for destruction. Even the best intentioned of leaders is flawed, they are human. Any way created by those sinful humans is just as flawed and just as doomed. The ideas of these people or the road they are taking may look appealing. Their life might seem to be doing just fine; better than yours in fact. It is tempting to want to emulate what they are doing. The personal trainer at your gym is in great shape so you are inclined to want to do just what she is doing - even if that means hitting the gym on Sunday and counting every last calorie you consume. The other employee at your work seems to be doing better at sales so you start using some of his tactics even though they include smudging the truth (aka lying). Your pastor has a thriving congregation and what seems to be the "perfect" family. You begin to idolize his teaching, putting your trust in hope in his sermons and not in the living, breathing word of God.
On the surface your leader looks like they have the answers. By earthly standards this may seem like a good person to follow. But if they are who you are looking to for your direction, purpose and guidance then you're leader might as well be walking you right off the side of a cliff.
There is only one leader who we are to put our trust and faith in. No one on this earth holds the key to our destiny or sits on the throne of heaven. It is God who knows the future. He sent Jesus Christ in the flesh, giving us footsteps to follow in. He has given us the Holy Spirit as a guide to dwell inside of us.
God can provide us counsel through other people along our path but He will never provide us a leader apart from Himself. He is our leader, His footsteps are to be our footsteps. There is no other way apart from His that we are to follow. No other man made religion or concept. Not a single self-help book or revolutionary step-by-step plan. God is our plan. He is our guide. He is the book. He is our leader.
Search your heart and find your leader. Is it God? If He isn't, He can be. He wants nothing more than to be your leader. If you have claimed Him as your own but have let someone else slip into His leadership position you can make that right. You can stop following your leader. You can turn back to God and begin to follow Him. He is still in the business of leading even though you might have strayed from following.
God will always wait for you. His offer to be your leader doesn't come with an expiration date. This isn't a guided tour that has left the premises. He is ready and willing to be your leader. All He asks is that you follow Him.

A lid on the trash

Today I came across a little image with a trash can and the words next to it read, "Do not use your stomach as a trash can." Good advice. In fact, advice I take to heart and practice. I believe eating clean is fundamental for good health and taking care of the body. God gave us wonderful food found in nature with a multitude of flavors and textures. These foods have unique healing properties. They were made for our benefit and enjoyment. We don't need to rely on the chemical substances produced in some lab by some scientist who is looking for the next great breakthrough. That stuff is simply trash. We have been given beautiful and clean food to sustain us. Isn't God marvelous?

When I read this little phrase and looked at the little picture my mind immediately started writing a new phrase next to the same picture: "Do not use your mind as a trash can."
Plenty of people "eat clean." It is a popular movement in our culture. Community gardens are in vogue. It is "in" to eat obscure greens like kale and chard. That has become the way of sophisticated palates. Who would have thought it'd be cool to eat like a rabbit? Well, the day has come my friends.
But what about how we treat our minds? Do we take the same care in weeding out what passes through our mind's eye as we do in choosing what passes through our lips and into our stomachs? Is it "in" and "cool" to abstain from the perverse and dirty aspects of cultural and media influences? Are we feeding our minds with whatever we come across, whether or not it is actually good for us?
Unfortunately, I don't think our society gives much value to the mind's cleanliness. It doesn't take a genius or psychoanalyst to come to that conclusion. Just turn on the TV. The latest shows to win Emmys just the other night were Breaking Bad and Modern Family. Breaking Bad is apparently a hit crime drama. I've never seen it but usually crime involves blood, swearing, drugs and alcohol. I would feel safe in guessing this show includes all of the above.
I have seen Modern Family. They are modern alright. A homosexual couple with a young daughter was too modern for me. If that is modern than I'll take the stone age.
Sin, in all forms, is rationalized and celebrated in our culture. We feed that to our minds and the minds of children through the television, movies, music and books. Our radio waves are filled with rap that spews inappropriate language about women. The books that have become best sellers glamorize sex. Then they get turned into movies.
And this is what we put in our minds. We take the trash, filth and sin and actively tune in: Christians and non-Christians alike.
Dear reader, I challenge you to take a step of faith with me. Decide to stop treating your mind like a trash can. Tune out of the pop culture influences that glamorize what God has deemed destructive. If the Bible calls it an abomination or sin then don't buy into the lie that it can be entertainment. There is nothing entertaining about moral debasement.
God has given us an abundance of good and beneficial mind "food." The Bible is the best read possible. Church is a wonderful place to fellowship. Worship is an uplifting and glorifying sound. There is no shortage of sustenance for the mind. You don't need to resort to filling up on trash.
Today I am choosing to put the lid on the trash can. I am going to go to the garden of God's plentiful goodness. I am going to feast on His beneficial, healing and nutritious nourishment. I don't need the grub of this world. I have the daily bread of God. My mind will be forever full and satisfied. Will you join me?

The Truth

In John 14:6 Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life."
I love how boldly Jesus declares who He is. Few understood it, but they couldn't deny that they were informed. He said it right to them. I am your way to heaven. I am the right way to live. Follow me.
He didn't try to make it complicated. He was there in the flesh, all they had to do was follow him. He was and is the Way.
He is the Truth. I think it is easy for people to claim that Jesus is the Way. Sure, I'll say I believe in that guy so I can go to heaven. But are we prepared to claim Him as Truth and live in light of that Truth? That becomes harder. Truth can be uncomfortable. When we are honest and truthful we often have to face realities we would rather hide away in a dark closet. The trouble is that dark closet won't clean itself. The more we pack it full of unrecognized truth the dirtier and messier it becomes. All the while it isn't really hidden. God sees it all along. He knows every scrap that has accumulated over the years. He could measure the dust particles that have created a thick layer over the surface of our "hidden" realities.
Our denied truth comes in all forms: bad habits, frustrations, lies, anger, unresolved problems, denial, resentment, unrepentant sin.... We take all of this truth and either face it head on and bring it to light or we store it away somewhere out of clear sight.
Although it may be out of our sight it is certainly not out of mind. The closet that is bursting at the seams with unrecognized truth is a burden on our backs. When we move we have to take the contents of the closet with us. We can't escape them. We can do a pretty good job of hiding it from the people around us but we can't hide it forever and we can't hide it from God.
In Hebrews 4:13 tells us plainly, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."
Isn't that frightening and freeing all at the same time? God see's all. On the surface, that is a little shocking. Suddenly your secret closet isn't so secret after all. But it isn't it also freeing? You can release the burden. It is almost laughable. Here you were, protecting and guarding the door to that closet making sure no one caught of glimpse of what was inside and all along God was standing on the other side! You couldn't keep it from Him.

God is truth. He knows the truth we are trying desperately to hide. When we won't face the truth in our own lives we build a wall between ourselves and God. How can we have a pure, whole, intimate relationship with God when He recognizes the truth and we deny its existence? There immediately becomes a separation that can't be overcome by agreeing to disagree. The only way to overcome this wall is to tear it down. The only way to tear it down is to empty the closet.

Admitting the existence of truth in your life may require you to be honest with yourself. Maybe your truth is something you've tried to hide from your own conscience. Or maybe it is something that involves other people in your life. Maybe you have made a web out of lies and deceit that must be uncovered and swept clean. Maybe you have held hostilities in the depths of your heart and you need to go to the person of whom you've had such thoughts, asking for forgiveness. Maybe you have been hanging onto bad habits and you need to seek accountability from a brother or sister in Christ.
Your truth may not look like any that I've laid out. It might come in a whole different form. But if you can call it to mind then you know where it sits in the closet. Bring it out, let God shine His light upon it. When His light reaches it the path to full-disclosure can come into view.

There is nothing in your life that is hidden from God. He see's all because He is the truth. When you come to truth in His Way and live in the light of His Truth you will experience Life. Abundant, magnificent Life. Not a life with a messy closet but Life free of the burden of unrecognized truth. Life spent in the Light of the God of all Truth.

Monday, September 23, 2013

What if?

The question of "what if" threatens and haunt us. The unknowns of the future can be scary. There seems to be a million and one ways our life could go wildly off course. On one hand we think we have control. But on another hand we know that there are countless ways in which we have absolutely no control. These "what ifs" are the things that paralyze us in fear. They stop us from taking chances and going out on a limb. They keep us in our safe, comfortable box.
But what if we turned up "what ifs" into "what nexts"? What if, instead of focusing on the ways in which life could go south, we started looking at the unknowns as opportunities? Every curve in the road that we can't see past could become, not a drop off, but a paradise. The dissolving of plans wouldn't be the end, just a change in direction. What if we started seeing our greatest obstacles as God's greatest opportunities? Our biggest fears as a chance to experience God's overwhelming courage?
Our "what ifs" would be turned upside down.

Life is often colored by fear: fear of what the future will bring, fear of an accident, fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, fear of failure. We stop dead in our tracks because we are afraid that somehow we will slip or fall. The outcome of our actions is unknown, subject to forces outside of our control. So we make excuses as to why we shouldn't act at all. We don't do our part in making something happen because we are afraid we will hit a wall somewhere along the way.
Fear is not of God. Fear is of satan. He wants to paralyze us. He wants us to be stuck glued to the bench on the sidelines instead of up playing in the game. He loves to use "what ifs" and the uncertainty they produce to keep us from moving forward in faith. He uses them to stop our walk.
The Bible urges us to cast off fear. Don't live life in the light of the "what ifs." Walk by faith, not by sight. You may see potential road blocks and land mines all over the path, so you stop. You don't make a move. What if one of those boulders gets in my way? Better to just stay put. 
2 Corinthians 5:7 tells us not to live by what we see. Live by what we know; live by faith. God might have a marvelous victory for you at the end of that road lined with what you classify as "danger." For God, getting past all of those obstacles is no trouble at all. If it is His will that you make it past them without an encounter along the way then He will see to it that every rock stays in its place and that your foot doesn't slip. And if it is His will that something does happen to block your way, He will either take you in another direction or He will show you how strong He is by overcoming it. Either way, you are safe with Him as your guide. You are sure to have a wonderful journey. How you will get there is not known to you or I, but one thing is for sure: the trip with Him is better than it is on your own.
If you live in fear you won't get very far. Your steps will be labored, not enjoyable. You will live in constant anxiety, wondering when the next shoe is going to drop. With God, you live in freedom. There won't be a need for fear because you are safe in the mighty arms of the master of your destiny. He holds the key, knows the future and created the very path you are on!
Walk by faith. There is no guarantee that this walk will always be fun or easy. Changes are there will be real difficulties along the way. But the beauty is that you are not the one in control of your difficulties. You are simply walking behind your guide. He will remove the road block. He will clear the way. He will show you the detour when you need it and take you down scenic side roads you might have missed.
There is an amazing journey prepared for you. Don't let the fear of "what if" paralyze you and cause you to miss all the beauty that lies ahead. Jump on board, embracing the faith that lives in excitement and anticipation of all that God has planned - what ifs and all.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A word of thanks

Good Sunday afternoon to you, dear reader. I hope that you were able to spend your morning at peace and in worship. I pray that your day thus far has been low stress and rejuvenating. I want you to spend your day with a mind at rest, not busy worrying, plotting or planning. But just soaking in the brilliance of a day filled with nothing but praise. No agenda. No schedule of to-dos. No workouts. No meetings. None of those tasks that flood the rest of the week. Just a day of ease.

This morning I spent my time reveling in the ease in which I have hoped you too have shared. The morning was quiet and still, one of the first that truly felt like fall. The temperatures here in the north east have finally fallen and the air is crisp. Soon the leaves will start to transform into an array of oranges, reds and yellows. But this morning the landscape is still green even though the air has taken a dramatic plunge. Just the tips of the leaves have started to show that, before we know it, they too will be changing.
The rest of my morning consisted of a walk with Pippy and a visit to my childhood church. I had been missing my original church family members and wanted to make a stop in to say hi. It was good to see people who have prayed me through my darkest of times and still continue to lift me up faithfully. They are true prayer warriors. It is only right that I stop in every now and then to show them that I am improving and to thank them for never forgetting me. Because they don't. No matter how long I have been away, how much time has passed, they continue to carry me to the Lord in prayer. They never fail to send out cards of encouragement. They are steady and steadfast in their love and concern. I am abundantly blessed by their dedication. Words cannot describe how thankful I am for all the years and countless prayers with my name on them that have passed forth from their lips.
There faithfulness has shown a light in my unfaithfulness to be that kind of prayer warrior. I know prayer is vitally important and I know it is amazingly powerful. I have felt the affects of it in my own life. I have been blessed by it. Yet, I still slack off. I don't come to the feet of the Lord as often as I should.
What keeps me from being a mighty prayer warrior? How can I see the benefit and need for prayer yet not put it into fervent action? Where is my burning desire to fall on my face before Jesus and cry out to Him on behalf of those I love?
I am shamed and humbled by one man in particular at my childhood church. His name is Art.
Years ago (five I think), our church distributed "prayer bands." They were light blue rubber, the same style as the popular "Live Strong" bands. We were to trade ours with one person in the church and become the prayer warrior for that person. Every time you caught of a glimpse of your band, the idea was to remember that person and lift them up in a word of prayer.
My band is long gone. I don't know how long I kept it or where it ever disappeared to. Nor do I remember how diligent I was in praying for my band brother. But at least one person in my church never lost their band. They didn't stop praying either.
That one man is Art. And he has been praying for me.
For five years Art has worn that band without fail. It goes everywhere with him. It is wearing thin and hanging on by a thread, or maybe more appropriately, the grace of God. He keeps praying for me everyday. That band has been a staple of his wardrobe and a key part of his prayer life for over five years.
Here I am, going about my day, not thinking about what obstacles Art might be facing. I rarely remember to lift him up in prayer. I don't talk to him on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. We aren't related by blood or marriage. I don't even know his phone number. Yet he is out there praying for me every single day. He is taking my needs to the foot of the cross. He is lifting me up in the name of Jesus Christ. He is my prayer warrior, my guardian angel here on earth.
So, although this sounds paltry in the light of a blessing of such magnitude, thank you Art. Thank you for never forgetting me. Thank you for speaking my name in a prayer and sending it to the Lord most High. Even when you didn't know what my precise struggle might have been or particular trial, you kept speaking to God on my behalf; petitioning to the Lord for me to recieve abundant blessing. How can I ever thank you enough?
I have not always known it was you who was praying, but I have felt your words. I have been overcome with the love of God and experienced His pouring out of mercy and grace in my life. I have seen Him orchestrate the unexplainable right before my very eyes. I know He has heard your prayers and answered them. He has shown Himself in mighty ways. He has shown up even when I didn't ask him to. Little did I know that you, Art, were the one asking. When I didn't think to fall at my Lord's feet, you did. You went to the foot of the cross wearing a band in my name, asking God for things I didn't even know I needed. You prayed for blessings and He has delivered. You prayed for my healing of body and soul, and He has restored me.
I am the woman I am today because of the prayers of Art and the prayers of a little church on Lord Road. The thought of a life without the support of my faithful prayers warriors is unimaginable to me. I have been abundantly blessed because they have been mightily faithful.
This morning, as I continue to enjoy the peace and tranquility of a restful Sabbath, I will do so overcome with the blessing of a church that loves me unconditionally. My life is forever changed because they have been forever faithful. Thank you New Life. And thank you, Art. I love you all dearly.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Gardening 101

A garden won't produce fruit, vegetables or herbs if you don't tend to its needs. If you don't prune, water and feed your garden you won't have much to show for it.
Case in point: my garden. Or shall I say, my wanna-be garden.
My Mom had the great idea of starting a garden in the backyard of my new house. The yard is perfect for an at-home garden. It is sunny, flat and fenced in, protecting it from wandering deer who might be in search of a snack. This yard is just begging to be dug up. It practically came with a sign saying, "Plant seeds here!" My Mom was all in.
I've never been one to enjoy digging in dirt, but I too could share in the dream of growing my own herbs and carrots. I'm a vegetable lover so I could picture the sprouting of baby zucchini and even beets. The thought was exciting - my own produce! I could pick my spinach leaves and then come in and make dinner. This sounded right up my alley.
There was only one problem, I don't like to garden. I don't enjoy the process. I don't find digging holes and laying mulch relaxing. For some people it is therapeutic. For me it is work. Needless to say, my little dream of picking my own produce went out the window when I realized I wasn't going to put the effort in to ever have produce worth picking. The idea was short lived. My Mom did the work of digging the holes and planting the seeds. Unlike me, she enjoys that kind of activity. But I didn't stick with it long enough to see results. I didn't do the necessary tending, weeding, feeding and watering. I slacked off. My store bought produce became the proof.
In our bodies we can exhibit the same tendencies. We can have dreams of being healthy and whole, yet if we don't put in the work in and tend to our garden, then we won't have anything but flab and sickness to show for it.
God can give us the soil. He can give us the perfect conditions to have a plentiful harvest. But we must do the digging. If we don't plant the seeds and care for them then even the greatest of land won't produce a single lettuce leaf.
You have been given a body created for health and wholeness. In your physical being is everything needed to live abundantly. Still, you must take care of this gift.
1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Your body is the most precious of gardens, capable of producing the most glorious of fruit. You don't need to search for the perfect soil. You already have it. You don't need to scope out a plot of land with the perfect ratio of clouds and sun, hot and cold. Your already have the right conditions.
All you need is to tend to your temple, care for your garden. It is not complicated but it does take time and effort. The simple acts of watering and feeding aren't always the most exciting and sometimes they might feel like work, but they are needed if we want to have a body and life that are healthy and whole. God has called us to be intentional with our bodies in order that we might be good stewards of this precious gift he has bestowed on each of us.
Don't make the same mistake I made with my backyard garden. I didn't care for it and as a result my produce yield was practically nonexistent. My produce ended with a grand total of two: one zucchini and one miniscule carrot, approximately the size of my pinkie finger. I pray that in your life you will tend to your body with such diligence and care that you will yield a produce of great abundance, larger than your arms could possibly carry. You have the potential, the conditions are just right. All you need is to do a little gardening.

Victory in Jesus

There is a new book out called "Grow a Pair." Crass, I know. The whole premise of the book is to shake off the victim mentality and grow up. Take responsibility for your actions, your future and your life. Stop whining and start making something happen.
Well, alrighty then! I didn't know it was all so cut and dry. Just suck it up? Gees, why didn't you tell me sooner?
But the truth is it isn't that simple. Making it through life with confidence isn't as easy as saying the words. I am all for not being a victim, don't get me wrong. Playing the role of a victim isn't flattering. It doesn't look good on anyone. It doesn't wear well over the long haul. Yet, in all of our human gumption, we will fail to throw off the clock of victimhood if we are trying to do it on our own.
We have to claim victory. We have to be overcomes and there is only One sure-fire way to do that. There is only One person who can be triumphant in all circumstances.
Romans 8:37 says, "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."
It doesn't say, "you are more than a conquerer because you decided to stop whining." Or, "you are more than a conqueror because you grew a pair." (pardon my crassness, again). And it doesn't say, "you are more than a conqueror because you are one of the strong people." No, no and no! You aren't truly victorious in this life because of anything you have done. You can't earn your own victory. You can't win your battle on your own. You, without Christ, are not taking home the gold.
But, dear friend, there is hope for you. There is a path to victory. As the new self-help book says, there is a way to take back control of your life, business and sanity. The blueprint isn't found in any psychiatrist or mentors latest best seller. They might have some great tips on how to manage your finances or deal with your child's latest outburst but the best they can provide are mere bandage for a broken leg. They aren't truly fixing anything. They are simply covering it up at best. How long can you limp along on a fractured life? You might have a high pain tolerance - something I don't claim to have. Maybe you can go for a long time and even excel on crutches. But there is no true victory there.
The victory comes through salvation in Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth and the life. The ONLY way. The ONLY truth. The only LIFE. All other avenues to success are fraudulent. They are dead ends and no outlet streets. They don't lead to a triumphant end.
Through faith in Jesus Christ your smallest stumbling blocks and your greatest obstacles are already overcome. They are trampled under the feet of your Conqueror. For us, our life circumstances might look like a challenge but to Him they are the beginning of a great success story. He doesn't see all the possible problems and difficulties that lie in our path. He sees the gold metal at the end of the finish line. He sees the honor and glory that will be to His name when He is proclaimed the winner.
You are not a victim. You are a victor. Not by anything that you have done or any wisdom you have attained. You can claim the victory because Jesus has come to win the gold for you. He laid down his life so that you could have one. He carries your burdens so that he can make them beautiful. He overcomes your difficulties so that He can show His majesty. Through faith in Jesus Christ you have been released from your chains of victimhood and released into the freedom of victory.

Friday, September 20, 2013


Depending on my own stamina...
I am weak...
I am frail...
I fall down and I'm slow to get up....
I'm quick to anger and slow to forgive....
I'm a terrible listener and far too forgetful....
I'm self-centered and self-involved....
I lack humility but have an abundance of pride....
I am a liar and a cheat...
I am a lover of money, a pursuer of all things material....
I am disobedient and rebellious....
I want to quit early and come in late...
I am lustful and envious...
I am easily frustrated....
I curse, steal and deceive...
I am short on love but long on judgement...

But God has broken me.
He has broken my stamina and destroyed my self-reliance. He has taken my self-dependence and stomped on it with His mighty strength. He has revealed my sinful ways. He has shined a light on the darkness of my heart. He has crushed my rebellion and called out my disobedience.
He loves me that much.
His love is so great that He wouldn't let me wander lost. He came and found me. He had to pull me off my path of destruction. But he went out of His way so He could do that just that. He grabbed my arm, captured my soul and showed me the disastrous life I was living. He showed me how a life devoid of Him was no life at all. It was going through the motions, but it wasn't living. It was just making it, not thriving. Without him my life was doomed, with no hope of an eternity in heaven, no future beyond the grave. Without His saving grace I was nothing but a lousy sinner. Period, end of story.
But with Him, my worst became His best. My darkest corners became filled with brightest of light - His light. The ugliest parts of my soul became beautiful. He transformed me. He took me upon His shoulders because I was too weak to carry myself. I could never make myself holy. I couldn't make myself whole. Only through Christ could salvation of my soul be found.

Now I am a new creation. I am restored and rebuilt. I am nothing like the girl I used to be and I'm not yet the woman I am destined to become. But God is doing a continual work in my heart. He is constantly refining me to become more like Him and less like the sinful mess I used to be.

Depending on my Savior I am forgiven...
I am free...
I am filled with His love...
I am living by grace...
I am walking by faith...
I am calling on the Lord for my patience...
I am asking God to teach me forgiveness and mercy...
I am learning to listen...
I am releasing my judgements and frustrations...
I am focusing on Jesus Christ...
I am praying to be filled with the Holy Spirit...
I am choosing obedience...
I am searching God's heart and His wisdom...
I am speaking the words of truth...
I am reading the promises of God...
I am surrounding myself with beauty and light...

Only through Christ. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Only by the Almighty Hand of God.
Only by Depending On My Savior.

Use it or lose it

The principle of use it or lose it is well known and universally believed in the fitness world. When you stop physical training, no matter how fit you are, you are going to lose your capacity to perform at the levels you once could. In one study, fit individuals (people who had a steady routine of working out for a year plus) were told to quit their workout program so that their decline in capability could be measured. Within three months they couldn't even perform half of their previous aerobic capacity. What it took a year to build, it took only three months to destroy.
It is undeniable, when you quit challenging your muscles they quit showing up. When you don't use them they will, inevitably, be lost.
I found this out the hard way when my treatments by my chiropractor sidelined me from any physical activity. From dead-lifts to vacuuming, my orders were no physical exercise - except walking. All I was allowed to do was walk to my hearts content. In fact, walking was prescribed and encouraged. It would be good for the flared muscle in my leg, the chiropractor told me. This was a prescription I was happy to fill. I walked to my hearts content and then some. I walked Pippy everyday without fail. My walking muscle was and is in great shape.
Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said for my fitness capabilities in any other area. I couldn't lift the smallest of weights in the gym for any more than a few reps. My ability to run was beyond pathetic. Doing squats - even with just my body weight - made me fatigued before I even finished the first set. I had lost all of the muscle I had once worked so hard for. I wasn't able to use it for over a year and in return I lost it.
When I stepped back into a gym, grasping the light five pound weights, the task ahead looked daunting and frankly, embarrassing. My arms and legs looked like sticks. I was starting from scratch. But slowly and surely I was able to build some endurance and strength back into my little body. I had to start small, but by sticking to a routine again I was able to see progress. I simply had to start challenging the muscles.
This morning you may be feeling weak and out of shape - and I don't just mean physically. Spiritually you may be feeling dry. Maybe it has been a while since you've worked anything out with God. Your spiritual muscle may be flabby or nonexistent. Let me give you a word of encouragement: you can get it back in shape.
There is no quick fix to a flabby muscle, be it a bicep, tricep, or hamstring. The same goes for your spiritual muscle. To rebuild, or to start the building process for the very first time, you have to push through the embarrassment of weakness, the difficulty of getting into a routine and the discomfort that comes  from challenging yourself in a new way. When you begin the task ahead it will look daunting. But be encouraged, the muscle can and will respond! You just need to keep coming to the table, keep coming to the gym, to stimulate the muscles.
To retrain your spiritual muscle it will take time in God's word - more time than just a Sunday morning or mid-week Bible study. Daily, regular Bible reading is the only way to truly get to know God's word and strengthen your scriptural knowledge muscle. This muscle holds fast to the promises of God, knows the truths and scriptures and is able to combat the attacks of the devil by using the words of God as a weapon. You need this muscle.
Your spiritual muscles need to bathed in prayer. Through prayer you become in tune with the guiding of the Holy Spirit. There is no way to explain what it is like to be filled with God, it goes beyond mere words. It is an indwelling that takes you soaring to new heights and gives you a peace that overcomes all of your circumstances. Prayer is our connection with this power. We are able to come to our Father and lay down our burdens. Through prayer we become filled with more of His love.
Possibly the hardest part of training the spirit for me personally is spending quiet time with God. This should be easy, right? Just silence yourself. Rest in the presence of the Lord God. Yet, for me being still can be a challenge. This is a muscle that could use some toning in my own life. God wants to speak to me but when I'm doing all the talking I run the risk of missing what He has to say. I need to quiet my lips and open my ears to truly listen with the belief that God will speak to me.
Whether it is a flabby soul or flabby tummy, there is hope! Your body and spirit have the ability to be toned again. You are not destined to a life of weak muscles. Through a steady routine of training your muscles and challenging them in new ways, you can see progress and growth. The potential is all there, you just need to get started. You have all that is needed to become an amazing picture of transformation. You just pick up your Bible; pick up that set of weights.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Words, slogans and the truth

Words have power.
Just ask a bodybuilder. They love their slogans. "No pain no gain." "Shut up and squat." "You earn your body." "Lightweight baby." "Excuses are for people who don't want it bad enough."
The list could go on and on. But you get the mental picture, right?...the big, muscle bulging lifter in the gym standing over a little scrawny, newbie who is struggling with a barbell. The veteran heavyweight is yelling at the little guy, "Come on, you pansy! You lift like a girl! My Momma lifts more than that!"
Aren't you inspired reading such encouragement and uplifting motivation?
Oh, you're not?
Me neither.

Words have the power to build us up or to tear us down. Words can stunt our growth or send us soaring to new heights. Words can inspire us to take action or shame us into moving forward. They can be small, just a few syllables, but words can have a significant and lasting impact.
I was struck by the power of words this weekend as I engaged in rigorous exercise with my sisters in Christ at the International Christian Wellness Conference. As we jumped around the room for Revelation Wellness and held downward dog for longer than I thought my arms could stand, the words of scripture were poured out through the voices of our instructors and the music they played. Prayers were being prayed, the messages of the Psalms and words of the Gospels were being proclaimed and praises to God were being sung.
I became overwhelmed with love and mercy. The overpowering of the Holy Spirit came upon me like a hug. When I let my mind focus in on the words that were being proclaimed my body became renewed with God-given endurance. The yoga poses that made my arms shake became an act of surrender and crying out to my God. The interval training of the wellness class became an act of worship. My heart and body was being filled with something heavenly.
There is not a single workout slogan or mantra that could ever give me that kind of strength. Those empty words that shout "Just do it" can't renew my spirit. They leave my soul empty and my body tired. That isn't the kind of workout I'm craving. I want a workout that takes my spirit to new heights and leaves my body feeling reinvigorated and reignited to go forth in service to the Lord. I want to walk away from a workout not feeling beaten down but feeling lifted up.
The words I heard during those workouts did just that. I finished the hour of aerobic activity and muscle conditioning feeling a strength I didn't have when I entered the room. My resources didn't feel depleted. Instead of exerting all the energy I could muster, I was being filled with energy by God's indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He used the scripture to sustain me. Praise came flowing from my lips and worship became the attitude of my heart.
It is astounding the impact that words can have on the way we see the world around us. They shape the way we see everyday circumstances and major life events. We have the free will to turn our ears to the words of God and let our airwaves be filled with truth. A set of circumstances that look like all doom and gloom can be transformed by the power of proclaiming God's promises and the truth found in scripture. A challenging workout can be taken from a test of muscle endurance to a spiritual renewal. What was once difficult becomes enjoyable. What was once negative can become positive.
The words you speak into your life and the words that fill your airwaves will have a profound impact on who you are. The choice is yours. Will you fill yourself with the mantras of this world that tell you to dig deeper within yourself to tough it out? Or will you listen to the word of God that tells you to dig deeper into HIM and let him fill you with the endurance and sustenance to soar on the wings of eagles? The choose is simple - as simple as a syllable or two. Yet, the impact it will have on your life is nothing short of radical.

Not if...but when

Be ready for the attack because the question is not "if" it will come. The question is "when" will it come.
Maybe this sounds a bit extreme to you. An attack? That sounds like war. I thought we were talking about getting fit.
We are.
Fit for the fight.
In this life we are in the middle of a battle each and every day. It is the most intense of fights that is battling for the most sacred of territory: the human soul. Satan badly wants to win. He has an arsenal of tactics he uses to tear us down and gain ground. He uses fear, failure, rejection, guilt, shame, lies, inferiority...the list could go on forever. He takes every negative emotion and revels in it, using it to further his purpose of getting us deeper into darkness.
But God is standing in the light offering us a suit of armor if only we will put it on.
Ephesians 6:10-17 says, "Finally , be strong in The Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
Isn't this encouraging? Yes, the battle is going to come and you are going to be on the front lines. But you are not ill equipped. You have everything you need to not only fight but win! Hallelujah and praise The Lord. He knows the adversary we will come up against. He knew, before he created us, that we would need all of this armor to fight in His army and be victorious through Him. Most importantly, He knew that on our own we would be destined to defeat.
So, in his wisdom and love, He has taken care of us. He has filled our lives with resources that are found only in Him. When we accept His armor we can go confidently into the battle knowing that we aren't fighting on our own, but God is acting in and through us to reign victorious.

When you surrender your life to Christ and receive his gift of salvation you might as well be putting a big "X" on your chest. Better yet, make it a big cross. Because satan will be eyeing you as if you are the target in a game of darts. Your cross is the spot. He loves nothing more than to pull children of God away from their loving Father. He desires to thwart God's good plans for you. Those who have yet to become born again aren't under this same intensity of fire. Satan already has them. But you, dear friend, are on the enemy's radar screen. Are you ready for battle?
You must be fit to go into the fight. You must be aware of the lies the devil will try to feed you. At times they will be convincing. You will begin to doubt your worth and place in God's kingdom. You will question whether or not there is a plan for your future that is prosperous as the Bible promises. Satan loves when he puts doubt and fear into your mind. So be on high alert for these scare tactics. They are some of his favorites.
The list of weapons that satan will employ is limitless and different for every person but the armor of God is always the same: truth, righteousness, faith, salvation, the word of God.
Ephesians 6 goes on in verse 18 to say, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests."
There is nothing more defeating to satan then a forgiven sinner on their knees, crying out to God. Speak to your savior. Speak the words of scripture and truth. Pick up your armor. Go into battle with a clear mind, a firm foundation and a reassurance that the battle is already won because God has gone before you. He has plotted your path and made sure you are equipped to handle the trials you will face. There is never an attack that comes as a surprise to him. He knew it would come and He gave you everything you need to overcome it.
Just like a marathon runner prepares for the big race, prepare for the battle. Every marathon runner prepares for months or years before putting on their special number, setting them apart from all the others competing in the race. They wear through running shoes, spend hours building their muscles in the gym and work to build their endurance. Without the proper preparation the race will certainly get the better of them. Likewise, we cannot go into battle without getting to know our armor. We must get into scripture and learn the promises of God. We cannot wait for the battle to come. We must prepare in advance.
Today as you prepare for the duties and responsibilities that lie ahead don't forget to put on your most precious of apparel. Put on your armor. Satan is on the prowl and he would love nothing more than to steal your joy and shake your peace. Don't give him the satisfaction. Go into battle clothed with the armor of God. Face today, and each day, with the protection of your almighty God who reigns victorious over the fiercest of enemies. Through Him, and Him alone, the war has been waged and the enemy has been defeated.

A girl without a plan

Have you ever known someone who always seemed to know, without a shadow of a doubt, what they would do in life, what their "plan" was and how they would accomplish it? In high school they were the graduates who were headed off to the college they had talked about since freshman year with a declared major that they would never end up changing in their four years of education. These people seem to have it all figured out. They plot out a future. They execute their plan.
I am not said person.
I am the girl with no plan. I am the college student with a rotation of majors. I am the high-schooler with no dream college. I am the part-time worker with no distinct career path. I don't have a five year plan. I don't even have a one year plan.  Heck, I don't even have a one day plan!
And yet, here I am, living a life better than anything I could have ever imagined. It wasn't a plan that got me here - not my plan at least. It was HIS plan.
I have always been a dreamer. Not necessarily a logical planner. I love to come up with fanciful schemes. I am a great one for dreaming up another trip or another business idea. But very few of these "plans" ever come to fruition. Not many even make it past the stage of a mental image.
And yet, God has given birth to dreams that I couldn't even imagine ever coming true. He has given life to dreams that were deep in the recesses of my mind, bringing them into vivid color and making them part of a plan I couldn't have come up with much less executed.
Isn't He beautiful? Aren't His ways extraordinary? You can be a dreamer, lousy at planning logically for a realistic future that is deemed smart and sensible by the world's standards and still have a beautiful journey through life! You don't need a five year plan. You just need God.

As I sit in an airplane bound for Charlotte and then onto Pittsburgh, I am in awe of the road my life has taken. Each turn has felt like a new surprise being revealed. In my mind's eye I never saw all of the events in my life taking shape this way. But God, in all of his limitless knowledge, has had my story plotted out for all of time, before I was ever born or a twinkle in my mother's eye. He knew that I would be on this plane. He knew that I would go through a valley period of isolation and struggle for years as a young adult. He knew all of the details that have been such a shock to me.
The places he has taken me have been nothing short of miraculous. This past weekend was no exception. I ended up at the International Christian Wellness Conference by His grace. I didn't know what to expect when I registered to attend. I didn't know a single soul that would be in attendance. I didn't know how many people would be there, how old, what their backgrounds would be like or what I would learn. I could have never foreseen the amazing weekend that unfolded.
God blessed me from the moment I stepped on the first plane bound for my adventure. He put people in my path that showed me repeated God winks. I had encounters that couldn't be described in any way other than God's divine intervention.
At the conference He gave me the privilege of sharing my story. Even greater, He gave me the opportunity to hear the testimonies of other women. They were an inspiration and encouragement on my journey. I was given the chance to speak to women of faith with years in God's mission field and the fitness field. They showed me love from the very start. I immediately knew I was sharing the weekend with true believers in not just fitness but a deep faith that overwhelms their lives and influences every aspect of their being.
I didn't plan to end up there. God did.
God has plotted out my future for me and is taking me to amazing places. He knows I am not a planner, and thankfully that is A-O-K with Him. He doesn't need my plans. In fact, He laughs at my plans.
He wants my heart. He wants me to be sold out for Him, living in childlike obedience. He wants me to delight in Him so that he can give me the true desires, the dreams, of my heart. He doesn't just want to fulfill a five year plan that I sketched out on notebook paper. He wants to shock and awe! He is in the business of blowing our measly little plans out of the window!
I never thought I'd say that I'm thankful for being a girl without a plan. But instead of trying to hide it, I want to shout it from the rooftop. I don't have a path that I have thought out. I don't have a target date for reaching point A, B or C. I don't have a goal for my income. I don't have a projected career path. I don't have a certain number of kids I want or a certain place that I'm dead set on living. I'm a girl with no plan!
What I am is a girl sold out to God's will for my life. I am convinced that the plan he has is so much better than any I could come up with. And the fun part is that his plan is a surprise. It is like a perpetual Christmas morning. Each day I get to wake up knowing that my duty is to The Lord. If I live in obedience to Him, continually choosing the path that will further his kingdom, then I don't need to worry about the logistics. God already has them under HIS control.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Your mountain

Dear Reader,

I don't know who out there will come across this post. I know that the eyes that read these words are few and far between. Most people will never hear what I have to share on this simple little blogspot. But, for those who happen upon its message, my prayer is that it is an encouragement to your weary soul. Because aren't we all weary sometimes? Don't we all come to a place in life where the future looks daunting and the motivation to continue on is scarce? My prayer is that you will find strength and hope for your journey through the words God pours out through my hands. I don't have any credentials or letters by my name to recommend me. But I have a story and I have a life and body that is proof of the power of God.

This morning your journey may be feeling like a climb straight up the side of a mountain. The path is treacherous. Your foot struggles to find a stable place to land. You are practically brought to your knees when you stumble. How much longer? Is a paved path up ahead? Is the top of the mountain within sight yet?
On this side of your mountain you see nothing but obstacles. Forget the view. You don't see anything but the ground beneath your feet, the jagged rocks that threaten to send you tumbling down and the steep drop off that sends a shiver up your spine at the thought of what happens if you lose your balance. You are worn out and tired. Your stamina is waning. Your legs want a rest. Your body wants a shower.
Maybe you could just turn back? Head back down to the base of the mountain where the ground was level and you felt safe. But the mountain keeps calling you forward: "Just a little while longer"...."Just wait till you see the view from the top"...."Come further"....
But how? How will you keep moving along when you feel too weak, too small, too vulnerable to finish the climb?
Turn to your constant Help, your Sustainer, your Living Water, your Portion. When you are weak, He is strong. When you can't take another step, He will lend you a hand and a word of encouragement. When you stumble, He will reach out and catch you. When your breathing becomes labored, He will restore it with His mighty breath.
If you think you can't make it up this mountain, you're right. You can't. But He can. It is too big for you to tackle on your own. You might make it pretty far all by yourself but you will be worn out, aching and sore. Your climb will be a constant struggle.
Don't try to tackle it on your own. Let God guide and carry you. Cry out to Him in your pain and allow Him to heal you. Cry out to Him when you are too tired to go on and let Him infuse you with renewed endurance.
I don't know what your mountain looks like today. Maybe it is emotional. It might be spiritual. Or maybe it is a physical mountain peak. Whatever your mountain, God can overcome it. He is bigger then the highest peak. The elevations that sound too daunting to us are a stroll around the park to Him. Don't try to be your own cheerleader. Don't try to climb your mountain by yourself. Call on God and He will go with you.
As you struggle up your mountain I know it will feel never ending and tiring. Even with God, there will be moments of weakness where your human desire for resolution, a peak, will surface and cause you to grow impatient of the climb. Keep hold of God's promise that He has great things in store for you. Just get to the top, the view will be worth every ounce of sweat and every difficult step you had to take.
In the midst of your journey you will be too distracted to appreciate the beauty that surrounds you. At the top the landscape will finally come into full view. The beauty of creation and the marvelous work of God's hand will become evident. Without the climb you won't get the extraordinary view. You must scale the most difficult walls and steepest mountains too see the greatest of glories.
So, dear reader, keep climbing. I don't know what your view will look like in the end. All I can promise you is that it will be abundantly worth it!

Your Friend,


Monday, September 16, 2013

For your health

Life is not a series of coincidences. God is orchestrating even the smallest details of your day. He is involved in the life altering and the easily overlooked. He shows up in the most obscure of places, when you are going about your day to day business. You may not be out there searching for him in the grocery store aisles, red light in a traffic jam or seat on a plane but none the less, he can still show up. He is remarkable in his ability to infiltrate every crevice of our ordinary lives.
Today I was given the perfect example of God's not-so-coincidendal drop in. It happened in downtown Scottsdale in one of their many jewerly stores. I was on the hunt for something pretty: Mom's orders. She encouraged me to get myself a reminder of the trip and, being the obedient daughter I am, I went into shopping mode (obedience can be so tough sometimes don't you think?)
I had walked in and out of what felt like ten different jewerly stores looking at the shiny cases but nothing seemed quite right. I had a picture in my head of a simple silver ring with a round blue stone. I thought I'd have lots to choose from but instead I didn't even have one to settle on. So I kept going up and down the streets. Finally I had exhausted all but one option. I figured I'd go into this last store, even though it didn't look like it had quite the selection of the others, and give it one last shot to find the ring of my mind's eye.
By now I'm sure you know where this is going.... to a pretty silver ring with a blue stone.
You'd be right. I walked around the circle of the store peering in all the cases. Again, nothing. A woman with a thick accent approached me and asked what I was looking for. "I can help you find it very quickly," she said. Normally I reply with a "thanks but I'm just browsing" but I wasn't just browsing and I wanted to find the perfect ring so I took her up on her offer. I told her I wanted a ring.
She immediately jumped into action. "It's over here," she said.
I hadn't told her that I wanted my ring to be silver with a blue stone, round or oval please. I didn't have time to get that far. She was up a few stairs to another circle of counters unlocking a case that housed an array of gigantic rings with silver bands and huge stones, some red, some white, and some blue.
I immediately tried to tell her that these were too big and that I just wanted something small and petite that wouldn't cover my whole hand! Again, she wouldn't let me get a word in. She was off and running, telling me about how she had my ring right here.
I gave up trying to stop her and waited for her to pull out "my ring." She reached in and out came a silver ring with an oval, blue stone. It was delicate but not so small that you would miss it. The stone didn't cover my whole hand. The band was precisely my size.
I put it on and the lady just smiled. "This is your ring," she told me.
How did she know?
I didn't ask. I just told her I'd take it.
After I paid for the ring she removed the tag and placed it in my hand. I slipped it on my ring finger on my left hand. (I'm married to Christ so I get to wear a ring on that finger).
Once it was on she reached across the counter and said, "For good health."
My jaw might have dropped, I'm not sure because I didn't ask to see the video surviellence in the store. But I'm quite certain that it must have the ground. I asked her to repeat what she said. Again, she told me it was for my health.
How did this woman know that this particular ring, one that I hadn't described, was my ring.  And how did she know that this ring was a symbol of my renewed health through Christ and my restored body through the power of God?
Beloved, there are no coincidences. You might not believe that God cares about where you buy your jewelry. But he is intricately involved in even the most insignificant of details. He can show up at a church revival and he can show up in Iranian woman's jewelry store. He isn't confined to only the "Holy places" or your morning devotional. He wants to be with you everywhere. When you invite him to be your constant companion he will faithfully go forth with you, everywhere and always. He will come along for the ride no matter where it takes you. When he is your traveling companion you can be sure that the miraculous will occur in the middle of the mundane. The ordinary will be turned into something extraordinary.
I am still in awe as I reflect on those three simple words: for your health. These past three days have been a love letter from God celebrating the amazing work he has done in my spirit and body. This ringis a symbol of that glorious restoration.

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found; he is my light, my strength, my song.
Is he yours?
Today as I sat in the middle of the gym at Living Streams Church, comfortably seated on a yoga mat in a position of calm and in a state of peace, I began to reflect on the abundance of strength I am given by my Savior. I have not done anything to deserve it. I haven't lifted heavy enough weights to grow my muscles big and strong. I haven't been a warrior in the face of all my trials.
I have picked up weights that were small and only mildly challenging. I have quit running when I knew I could go further.
I have cried in the middle of my darkest moments. I have crumbled to the ground when my life has proven more difficult then I could handle.
On my own I have been the embodiment of weak. I haven't been able to muster up enough courage out of my own core. I haven't been able to endure simply by chanting the words "try harder." All of these human tactics have fallen short for me. None have truly lifted me to soaring heights. They have just kept me limping along, tripping at times and completely falling at others.
Yet, there has been a hope for me. It hasn't come from me but it has been for me. It is from Christ. He is the hope that has carried me. It wasn't until I came to the end of my own flesh that I found him there, waiting to carry me in his unlimited strength.
He has given me strength to walk when it hurt, run when it seemed impossible. He has empowered me to lift weights that look daunting for longer then I thought my little muscles could possibly endure.
In my spirit He has come into my darkest places and shined a light. He has brought with Him patience and peace, pouring them out to me as often as I need them and ask for them. He has never let me down. He has been faithful in carrying me even when I thought my body wouldn't. There were days when it seemed my body simply couldn't go on. But He proved, over and over, that with him nothing is impossible.
In this little body He has shown that He can be all the strength we, His weak children, will ever need. My prayer for you is that you will see your need for His strength. Don't try to push through it on your own. No matter what your struggle: a run, a crisis of health, a dissolving marriage, a set of push-ups, inadequacy, failure, an eating disorder, a broken heart, an addiction... don't rely on your own muscle. Rely on HIS. He will carry you even when you don't have it in you to take another step. Cry out to Him. Believe that He is enough to take you to the top of the mountain. Hold tight to your Hope.
Let him be your All in All. Stand in the love of Christ. He wants to be your light, your strength and your most beautiful song. Will you let Him?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Marvelously ruined

God has given us the most precious picture of restoration right here on earth. In each and every physical body he has provided a perfect vehicle in which to show the power of salvation and ability to make new the old and broken.
Isn't this picture the most beautiful you can imagine? Just look at your own life.
When I look back on my life I see the destruction I brought upon myself. Physically and spiritually. Physically I took my body for granted. I ate whenever, whatever. I over-ate at times and under-ate at others. I didn't build up my body with the healthiest or most beneficial of foods. I didn't challenge my body to grow in strength. I thought little of my health. I had it, so what did I need to worry about?
Have you ever slipped into this complacency? Can you relate to the error in my ways?
It took losing all I had in my physical body to understand how precious a gift I had. My body had to be ripped down to nothing, stripped of its strength and size so it couldn't be dependent on itself. My weight had to fall to dangerously low numbers. My legs had to throb with each step. I had to lose my healthy body so that I could see what it is I had.
I had to be marvelously ruined.
When I look at the trajectory of my struggle I am struck by the parallels I see between my physical journey and my spiritual journey. The outward journey that has been displayed in my physical body has been a mirror image of the inward journey that has taken place within the recesses of my soul, at the core of my being, in my innermost spirit.
That too had to be marvelously ruined.
The spiritual journey downward was subtle at first, small steps down the wrong path. But over time the divide between the road I should have been following and the one I had ended up on became so expansive that it was undeniable. I was in a state of rebellion against God, my parents and obedience to the Biblical standards laid out in scripture. I was walking my own path and in the process, destroying my life: relationships, commitments, integrity, honesty, joy, peace... they all became burnt out remnants of what they had once been. I was a hypocrite, a liar, selfish and living deep in sin. I had destroyed all the goodness that had once been in my life. All of the wonderful blessings that God had bestowed on me were squandered away in what I thought was my right to live life the way I wanted. In the end, it left me in a state of chaos, bound by sin and living a life of repeated destructive behaviors.
My life went up in flames. And then it went crumbling to the ground. Ashes.
And when there was nothing left God was able to break in. He was able to rebuild.
He had to let destruction take hold so that my faulty foundation could be scrapped away. The tearing down of my life was needed so that a new, better, stronger structure could take its place. A new structure, built by the hands of God, built on his word and designed by his loving hand. My construction had been built with my own human effort. In the end my lack of architectural know-how became abundantly apparent. And that is when the whole thing went crashing down.
My spiritual life had to go through a state of tearing down before it could be rebuilt. My body had to be stripped of all its resources before it could be refilled with heavenly resources and Godly strength.
This journey has been a long one. It has been trying at times. But not for a moment would I trade a second of it. Being marvelously ruined has been the greatest blessing I have ever received. I can't imagine one better. I can't imagine a love more divine then the love God has poured out on me in my darkest hours, at my absolute lowest points.
This is the beauty of restoration. We can make a mockery of God. We can ruin the very lives he has given us. We can squander all of the blessings he has poured out on us. And yet, he forgives. He restores. He rebuilds.
He can make us beautiful again. He can restore our bodies and restore our souls. He can take all of the  darkness of our spirit and transform it into something beautiful. He can wipe clean the slate of sin we have filled with our rebellious, selfish, disobedient living and make it pristine again.  He can make us new.
In our bodies he can rebuild the muscles we have let waste away. He can heal our suffering ligaments, tendons and bones that have become broken and frail. He can breathe new life into the painful, dark places within that have left us suffering. If we have neglected to take care of our physical beings he is there, ready and willing to be the strength we need on the road to tending to our temple.
He desires to restore your body and spirit so that it is at its best. He created you for strength, endurance, wellness and wholeness so that you can travel to all the places God has in store for you. He wants you to be a well-oiled machine that can travel along the road with him without sputtering out and breaking down. He needs you to be at your peak so that you can keep up with his big plans!
He can restore you physically. He can make you whole again. And, most importantly, he can do the same in your spiritual body. He can make it new. No matter how far away you have fallen or how much destruction has taken place, he can rebuild. This is the beauty of Jesus on the cross. He came to restore you, make you whole and save you from the messes you've made. Aren't you thankful?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Not just another Tuesday morning

Today is a big day! Have you heard? This day is monumental. Its importance is of utter significance. It could, quite possibly, be a defining day for your future. This day might very well be one you look back on and say, "Yes, it was that day that everything changed for me."
So, what is so special about today? Is this one of those days that conspiracy theorists and theologians have deemed "the date" for the end of the world? Is there a big election? Is a new technology being unveiled that will revolutionize your life? (Yes, the next generation of i phone is being announced but I highly doubt it will alter the course of your life.) Am I giving you a free subscription to, ensuring that today Mr. or Mrs. Right will be flung into your life, right onto your computer screen?
No to all of the above. I don't claim to know when the end times will come. If there is a big election I am unaware of it. Technology is cool but not this exciting, in my opinion. And, sorry to disappoint, but there is no free subscription of coming your way.
Today is exciting and monumental for another reason all together.

Today is exciting and monumental because it is the day the Lord has made.
Uh-oh, did I let you down? Were you expecting a big announcement or some deep, philosophical observation?
I hope you don't overlook the importance of my declaration just because you've heard it before. You probably sang the little song in Sunday School as a child. The leader sings out the simple chorus, "This is the day" and then all the little kids repeat. It goes on, "that the Lord has made," and once again the children repeat. Then, "I will rejoice...and be glad in it."
It is so simple, isn't it? When we're young we sing it with conviction. We don't fully grasp the depth and significance of our words but still we join in the chorus wholeheartedly.
Then we grow up. And we stop singing the song. Our music becomes more complicated, the words more in-depth. The words of classic hymns replace the simple melodies of a children's song. Yet, we are still called to be "children of God."
Matthew 18:3, "And he said, 'Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me."
The song of our heart, all though it grows in obedience and understanding, is still to be a song of simple devotion. We don't need fancy words or complex reasoning. Life doesn't have to become complicated. What we proclaim can still be as simple as declaring this day the Lord's.

This day is the day the Lord has made. You can rejoice in that and be glad. You can take today as a special day for growth. You can use this day to anticipate the miraculous, knowing that you serve a God that is able to do all things in his limitless power. Today is a day that you can see healing, love, peace and joy all become realities in your very life.
Because today is special, set apart and ordained by your God who sits upon his throne on heaven. Isn't that a beautiful image? Today, a day unlike any other, was not an accident. It was created by the hands of a master potter using the most precise techniques to design the most intricate of details.

And you thought today was just another Tuesday morning?

Whether or not today is the day that God turns your life upside down in a way you can touch, feel and see, this day is something exceptional. You can experience all things wondrous and amazing if you will allow God to fill you with the Holy Spirit, making your ordinary truly extraordinary. Because that is what he desires to do for all of us. He wants to come into our mundane, run-of-the-mill, average lives and make them mind-blowingly, astonishingly (insert your favorite superlative here) extraordinary!
There is a beauty in walking with God and continually singing the praise of his glorious hand on each and every day. When you walk with him this closely and intimately you will find that even your simple days are sprinkled with the remarkable; it might be as inconspicuous as bumping into a stranger or as monumental as the birth of a baby. God can, and will, turn your life into a series of stepping stones that form a path to knowing more of his heart. Every day becomes a day for spiritual growth. Every circumstance becomes an opportunity to know God in a new way.
Today is no exception. It is the day the Lord has made. He wants to do something spectacular in it. He wants to bless you in it, no matter where you are or what you have on your to-list. He wants you to sing the children's song of praise and proclamation that this day is special because it is the handiwork of our almighty God.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

You've got mail

Hands down one of the best movies of all time is You've Got Mail. Someone older, from a different era than my own, might beg to differ. But if you were born in the 90's and are a female then there is a very probable chance that you adore this movie. 
Oh, you want me to enumerate the reasons I'm in love with this movie? Well sure I will, only since you asked.
1) It takes place in the fall. This, in my humble opinion, is the optimum movie setting. Fall is such a picturesque time of year. New York is tough to beat when it comes to the ranking of big cities. Put the two together and you have the ideal movie setting. 
2) Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Who doesn't love the two of them together? We fell in love with them in Sleepless in Seattle and they never fail to disappoint us.
3) AOL dial up. Old school internet connection is a step back in time. Plus it adds suspense - my kind of suspense. Will there be a new message in the inbox??? So much better then the kind of suspense that involves a possible murderer behind the next door.
4) A dog. I live in Chagrin Falls (aka dog town) so it would follow that I love dogs in my movies, too. 5) A small, family owned business. Who wouldn't want to have a shop around the corner that all the little kids flock to after school? This is small town America at its best - in the middle of a big city, no less. We all long for this kind of intimate sense of community at some point in our lives.
6) There is a villain: Fox Book Store. Again, my kind of villain, the kind that sells books at a discount price.
7) The Starbucks and its seats next to the window, overlooking those that pass by on the sidewalk. Starbucks is a passion of mine (can I call it that?)... Currently I am sitting in a Starbucks at just such a seat by the window overlooking the street and those that walk by on the sidewalks. My own little slice of You've Got Mail.

I could continue on to infinity with my litany of reasons I love You've Got Mail (and the reasons you should love it, too) but I think you get the point. There is one last reason for my love that I think it worth sharing. It is a bit more in depth. Not as basic as a cup of coffee. Not as definable as a dog. 
I love You've Got Mail because it can hit a chord with any person who has ever wanted to have love returned to them. It speaks to the heart that is longing for a love letter, a confirmation of mutual desire. 
At some point in life's journey we all feel deeply for someone. Some of us will act on that wheeling up of desire and proclaim it to the one that has captured our affection. Some do it in words, others in actions, some in a letter. Others keep their feelings close to their chest, never revealing the passion that is stirring within them. 
Whether or not you have ever made a declaration of love, chances are you have felt it inside of you and chances are you have desired that the other person would take the risk and proclaim the feeling first. You've wanted a love letter. 
You've wanted to get mail. 
In You've Got Mail the whole premise of the movie is based on wanting to hear the confirmation that this other person who you've fallen for and who your heart is yearning for, is thinking of you and is yearning for you in return. Neither person comes out and admits to such feelings, at least not right away. So instead they are holding onto inbox messages that keep their dream of mutual affection alive. With each new message comes a renewed hope that, yes, this person has a desire for me. My feelings are not just mine, but they are his as well. 
The greatest part of the movie is the end. If you've never seen it (which would be hard for me to believe) then I won't give it away. But as I'm sure you can figure out by my love of happy and not scary movies, the ending is a good one. There is a happily ever after. Blue birds do fly. There is a rainbow. Love wins out. 

Maybe you are like me today. You have felt love in the past and you took the leap of faith to proclaim it, declare it and act on it. But the ending wasn't a happily ever after fairy tale like you had hoped. Yet your desire to share love with someone still blooms within you, even if the love affair with a particular person does not. As Meg Ryan says, "there is the dream of someone else..." Maybe, like me, you are hanging onto that dream. 
My message to you, dear dreamer, is to hold on and not give up. I can't promise you that your dream will ever be fulfilled. I can't guarantee that mine will be either. None of us can. But I can assure you that your dream is a worthy one. Love is always a worthy cause. Love is always worth desiring. 
There is no perfect love this side of heaven. We must face reality and know that if we do reach a time in our life where love is felt and returned, that love will be imperfect. It will be flawed. But that doesn't mean that it can't be beautiful, so keep desiring it. Keep your heart open to being blessed by that imperfect human love. 
In the meantime, don't forget to read the love letters you already have in your inbox. No, not that inbox. A dial up or even a DSL connection is needed to receive these letters. The love letters that are awaiting you are right on your book shelf, tucked away in the scriptures that God has written for you. They are a passionate, intimate, burning letter of love and devotion.
Today, as you go through the routine of your day, dwell in the beauty of the words written for you. Here are just a few that God has penned to you, sent via the Holy Spirit in the form of ancient scriptures, meant for you today, tomorrow and forever. They are true for all of time, filled with as much passion now as they were the day there sentiment was scribbled onto paper. In them you will find  all the love letters your heart could ever imagine, more abundant and beautiful then any e-mail inbox could ever hold. 

Ephesians 2:4-5 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

Psalm 86:15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

John 3:16  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Psalm 107:8-9   Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men,  for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

Psalm 103:11   For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 

Lamentations 3:22-23   The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;is mercies never come to an end;they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.