STRUGGLE

One of my all time favorite songs is, Casting Crowns, Voice of truth. When I hear that first verse I picture Peter as he climbed out of the boat to walk on the water with Jesus. To step out of my comfort zone.

Recently I stepped out of my comfort zone twice in one week. These were not what I would call, onto the crashing waves steps, but they were steps. Baby steps maybe, but we have to begin somewhere, right?

I think I have been open in this blog about how I struggle with jealousy, envy, and how it can lead to bitterness. If I haven’t been in the past I sure meant to be. So, for a couple of months, I had began to travel down that old familiar road of being jealous and envious of others. It was small things but I let it slowly slip in and it was beginning to effect my relationships with others and with God. To the point that I wasn’t even wanting to sit in worship.

There is a cycle I go through when I let this sin creep into my heart. Anyone who struggles with this will recognize the cycle of sin. At first you are jealous, that gives way to guilt. How could I be jealous when God has blessed me in every single area of my life. How could I be so ungrateful. The next step in the cycle is hating yourself, then feeling like if I am so disgusted with myself surly God is just as disgusted with me. Satan uses it all to draw me away from God, the place I should run to.

So, how did I step out of my comfort zone in this? The first thing I did (from recommendation by my husband), was to talk to someone. Because normally I ride it out, ashamed to admit to someone that I have these horrible feelings hidden in me. I contacted someone I know, but who isn’t in my circle of friends, someone outside of our church.

She was kind enough to meet with me one evening. To just sit down over a cup of tea and listen. She let me talk without feeling judged, then she offered suggestions. Three that stuck with me and have helped me. She said God knows you are jealous, it isn’t a secret to him, and he already died on the cross for it. Tell him, he already knows, but he wants to hear it. She always reminded me that God doesn’t operate out of that box that we know as love. God doesn’t get tired of us coming to him with the same issue over and over. His love isn’t bound by a box, its unlimited and unconditional. She also said Satan can’t hear your thoughts, if you are going to fight him you need to speak out loud. Quote scripture out loud.

The second thing I did to step out of my comfort zone that week (which happen to be the week of revival at our church), was to apologize to one of those women I had been jealous of. I asked her if I could pray at the alter with her. I confessed my jealousy to her and asked for forgiveness in letting it come between our friendship.

Neither one of those things are big deals, or earth shattering to the kingdom, but they brought a new freedom to me. It is funny that during this year of quarantine (which to me means locked down or locked up) God has been working on freedom in my life. I have gotten a good handle in the past ten years or so on the part of grace that lets me know that God loves me no matter what I do or don’t do. That I can’t change His love for me. But this year He has been showing me a new side of grace. The side that says it’s ok to mess up, it’s ok to say no, it’s ok to step outside of the box. It’s ok to be myself, the good, the bad, and the ugly and he is still going to love me. Not just love me but adore me, in fact scripture says that he sings over me. I think of the love I have when rocking Bella or Milo and singing over them. I can’t fathom how much more God’s love is for me.

We all struggle with something, it’s ok to need to help. Step out on the crashing waves. The realm of the unknown is where Jesus is. He’s holding out His hand.

MY RANT!!!

Wow, looking back I have not blogged in five months. Five months, why is that? There are so many things going on in the world right now, Covid, quarantine, protests, rioting, the Presidential election. The world is a different place than it was five months ago. Five months ago, I couldn’t even imagine that we would be where we are right now. Wearing masks everywhere we go, kids only going to school part time, the rest is done on line, no concerts or large groups, restaurants partial capacity, travel has changed, and all of this is becoming the normal for us.

Over the past couple of months I have chosen to be off of social media for the most part. I will log on once in a while to check up on friends and family who are away. I miss keeping up with their lives, new baby pictures, weddings, engagements, major life events, but the rest of what is on social media breaks my heart.

I think we have forgotten something very important, especially as Christians, and what a sad thing to forget.

Ephesians 6:12-13 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the EVIL DAY….”

If there is one thing I think we all can agree on it, it is that we are in an evil day. But the evil isn’t our brother and sister, THEY ARE NOT our enemy. “The enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”, 1 Peter 5:8. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy”, John 10:10. “the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field” Genesis 3:1.

Our enemy, the one we fight against, is the devil. His goal is to divide and conquer, and he is very crafty at it. If he can get us to fight against each other, he doesn’t have to do anything. We will destroy each other, all he has to do is stand back cross his arms, watch, and smile.

I hate feeling like if I say, black lives matter, there are people who think I must be anti police, and think all police are bad. I also hate feeling like if I say, I support the police, there are people who think I am racists and don’t care about people. Neither one could be farther from the truth. I feel like things do have to change, but I don’t know what the answers are for that change. I don’t have the answers, but that doesn’t mean I have to pick a side.

I will vote in November, at the polls, because I feel like everyone has a responsibility to vote. Maybe you say, neither one are worth voting for, and maybe your right. So, why vote? Voting is still a way to voice our opinion. These are the two candidates people, choose one. I will choose based on my moral views, choose based on yours, but don’t wish harm or death to the other one. Place your vote, and accept the outcome. This is America, that is the way it works. Or at least the way it used to.

Right now I am sure Satan feels like he is winning, because we as a nation have never been more divided than we are right now. And I see too many people out there who are claiming Christianity, yet jumping on Satan’s band wagon of division.

Luke 10:19, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”

We hold the power to heal this nation inside each of us. We have the power to heal instead of destroy. We have the power to help not harm. We have the power to bring unity instead of division. We have the power to love or hate. What will you choose?? Will you choose to fight your brother or fight the enemy??

GOOD GOOD FATHER

I have been very fortunate during this “stay at home” time. My kids have still let me see my grandkids. I have had a couple of extra days off during the week, and have actually even gotten to spend some extra quality time with these munchkins. I am so thankful for that, because they both are growing so fast and are at milestone places in their childhood. Milo is learning to walk, he is just about there. Bella is potty training, go Bella, go Bella (literally).

There is one thing I have noticed as I watch them. Even as young people, toddlers, they know when they have done something to please you. They know when they get it right. When Milo takes those few steps into your arms he is smiling from ear to ear. He knows he accomplished something, and knows you are excited and pleased. When Bella goes on the potty chair, she can’t wait to announce it to everyone around. She runs out with a big smile on her face, I went potty.

As I thought about that this week I thought about my relationship with God. I know when I get my walk right. I know what pleases Him. I get that smile on my face, that satisfaction that I pleased my Father. I want to run into the room and announce I read my Bible this morning, I prayed, I listened, I was kind to my husband, I was a cheerful giver, I put others first. I know the things I am suppose to do.

As I was thinking about that God said look at Milo and Bella’s parents. Those times that Milo doesn’t get it right and falls, do Chris and KC yell? Do they call him names, do they condemn him? No they lovingly pick him up, set him on his feet, and encourage him to try again. When Bells has an accident do Brittany and Will yell? Do they say you are never going to get this, why can’t you do better? No, they lovingly say it was an accident, start all over, and try again.

My heavenly Father is the same way. When I fall, he lovingly picks me up, sets me on my feet and encourages me to try again. He doesn’t condemn, he never condemns, he convicts, but he doesn’t condemn. He says start over, try again. My kids are all good, loving parents, who love their kids and want to see them succeed. But as loving and as encouraging as they are God is even better.

Luke 11:13 “So, if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” Let me remember today as I go through my day, that you are a good and loving Father, you want to see me succeed, you want to see that smile of success on my face. Thank you for being that Father.

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES

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Church Corona style. As I tuned into my church’s early on line service this morning they were having technical difficulties. I am sure they were not the only ones. I am sure in most services this morning, there were issues, maybe ones not seen, but ones people were fighting behind the scenes. Hundreds of churches large and small are learning how to do church in a whole new different way. With new and different, come difficulties and set backs, and learning curves, especially when you are dealing with technical components.

At first I started praying that God would correct the problems, and get everything going on track like it should. As the service went on with a few issues I started praying a different prayer. I started praying that the people dealing with the issues would stay calm, that Satan wouldn’t get a foot hold that might bring anger or frustration for them. That they would realize they were not battling against technology, they were battling against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against a spiritual wickedness in high places. That in their temptation, God would get the glory.

I need to remember to pray for the right things. Not always pray that God would correct hard ships in my life or the lives of others, but that he would help me remember what I am fighting against. That I would remember there is a power greater that lives in me. Not always praying that something might just go away, but that I would conquer and give the glory to God. There is power and awe in God removing something, but there is a greater witness in someone who overcomes and conquers because of the power of God in their life.

I am sure Satan is not pleased that thousands of people are now watching church on line on Sunday mornings. What you meant for evil (closing church doors) God meant for good (on line church reaching thousands). People who have never set foot in church are now watching and hearing the word on line. What an opportunity for us as believers to share the word. It doesn’t get much easier than starting a watch party or sharing on our facebook page.

Let’s pray for each other, lets pray for safety and protection, but lets also pray for the power and confidence to believe in what God can do in peoples lives during this time. Let’s pray in the struggles, and fears, and unknowns, that we tap into the power to overcome, and in that overcoming we give the glory to the one who deserves it all. Satan doesn’t win.

SILENCE

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“Snow brings a special quality with it – the power to stop life as you know it dead in its tracks.” –Nancy Hatch Woodward.

I have no idea who Nancy Hatch Woodward is but this quote lines up with this blog. When I look at this picture of the snow, I am reminded of how I feel when I sit at a window in the middle of winter and look out and watch it snow. There is some type of quite peace that is found in watching snow fall. There is no sound even though there is movement. There is only a deep seated peace and still. Close your eyes for a minute and just imagine it, can you see it, can you feel it?

I felt that same still peace when I opened my eyes this morning. We had the window open, it was light out and all I could hear were birds, maybe an occasional dog barking but not even very many of those. This was late morning not like 6:00 A.M. There were no voices outside, no one mowing their lawn, NO cars on the road. No one out moving about. No one headed out for early morning errands, no one rushing to get their yard mowed before starting their busy day, no one headed off to baseball or soccer games, birthday parties or family gatherings.

It’s peaceful, yet a little disturbing for someone who wears “busy” as a crown. Brittany and Bella sing the wheels on the bus when they are going somewhere in the car. They have their own version, everyone in the family has their own saying. Chris on the bus says “Go Cubs Go”, Poppy on the bus says “Boo Ya”, each family member has their own thing. Mimi on the bus says, “hurry up, hurry up”. That is a perfect description of MiMi, constantly going, constantly doing. Busy is a crutch, or a coping mechanism for me. If I am busy, I must be important, right? If I am busy I must be doing things and people will like me, right? If I am busy I must be pleasing God, right? If I am busy I don’t have to stop and process or take inventory of my life. I know those are wrong and bad, I KNOW. They are a DNA I am trying very hard to break.

This whole shut down has shed some light on that for me. A part of me almost feels guilty. It hasn’t really hit yet here in the small town in the midwest where I live. I am not naive enough to think that it won’t. I am practicing all the things we are suppose to be doing to keep everyone safe. In reality right now I am getting a couple of days a week off, I am getting more time at home with Brett, cooking, reading, relaxing. This is not a real hard ship for me yet. I feel horrible for the people who are in the middle of all of this, who are losing loved ones, who are worried about loved ones, who go to work everyday wondering if they are bringing it home to their family, who have lost their jobs, who are worried about their businesses. People who are being majorly affected by all of this. But right now for me it is just a minor inconvenience. I know that is the grace of God on my life, and I am thankful for it.

This virus, like a major snow storm, has the ability to stop life as we know it dead in our tracks. But that same snow storm brings a calm and a peace. Lets find the calm and the peace in Corona. Maybe like me God is telling you, just be still and listen. Watch and see what I will do in this. I have heard people say they are praying more than they ever have before. People are spending Saturday mornings, sleeping in, relaxing, and enjoying their families instead of rushing out the door. People are cooking and eating at home together. People who would never set foot in a church are watching sermons on line. Busy people are seeing its OK to slow down.

I don’t know what the future holds in all of this, but I do know who holds the future, and I trust in the one who does. May you find the peace and the calm in the storm today.

PJ Church

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Back in the fall when we had revival. I remember seeing kids come in to church in their pj’s. Made sense they would be ready to go to bed when they got home. I was kind of jealous. Well today I had the opportunity to go to church in my pj’s. All across the country church chairs and pews are empty this morning like this picture. Pastors and worship leaders are bringing a message in front of empty chairs. Even though the chairs are empty, satan doesn’t win. Thousands will be watching live from their living rooms in thousands of homes.

I gathered my bible and my glass of tea like I do each Sunday morning, but instead of running out the door late, I sat down on my couch with my lap top and my two dogs. My lap top failed me, kept freezing up and the sound would stop. (It’s old I think I need a new one, hint hint Brett). So, I jumped on and watched on my phone. It was amazing. I sang at the top of my lungs, the dogs didn’t care. I did realize however, how much I rely on those words on the screen. Robbey was just as engaging on video. The message was just as good.

We probably all have a sign in our house that says “Gather” because it was the big movement, gather with your tribe, gather with your peeps, gather with your family, gather with the people you love. That is what part of church is, gathering together to worship. But we did that today, we gathered, we worshiped together, we communicated. We came together just like God commands us to do. God doesn’t just meet us in a church building, that isn’t where He resides. He was in living rooms all across the country today, just like he is everyday.

I wouldn’t want this to be church all the time, because I did miss seeing faces. But if this is what church is for the next couple of weeks or months, who knows. We will survive and thrive. God will get the glory and the word will be preached. Our God and his message are bigger and more powerful that any virus. Thanks Redemption for allowing this to happen. Join us next week on the app Redemption Church.

THE UNKNOWN

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So, with everything going on I have started to blog numerous times. I just didn’t know what to write, so many thoughts, so many angles, so much confusion. As I sit here on the couch it has been such a strange last two weeks. Yet today seemed like such a normal Saturday. Actually not really a normal Saturday, the Saturday’s I dream of having. Brett and I slept in, hung around the house, watched mindless fun TV (no news), walked the dogs, made chili, did some laundry, some cleaning, had a nap. A relaxing day because with everything going on we chose to stay at home. Normally we would be out running errands or shopping, doing busy stuff. Yet so many people I know are on the front lines of this, and their day was far from normal or relaxing.

As this started it was like a train wreck for me, I couldn’t turn away. I watched and read everything I could on it. I was addicted and couldn’t get enough. I read but couldn’t process all the information. This is where I am now two weeks in. I do not personally have a fear of getting this virus, not that I don’t think that I won’t. I know there is a good chance I probably will at some point, but I believe it would be mild for me. My fear, and has been from the beginning is not to spread it to someone else, who can not handle it.

I am still working. I work in the transportation industry, trucks are still running. So, I am in contact with people at work, drivers who have been all over the country, bringing in paperwork from all different people and places. I am washing my hands more, I am using hand sanitizer. I am working on keeping my hands away from my face, I didn’t realize until now how much I do that. Bad habit I am now trying to break. I am just going to work and coming home, not venturing out besides grocery store when needed.

If you would ask me what my biggest fear in all of this is. It would be the unknown. How long will this last, how many will get sick, how will this affect my family financially, will anyone in my family get sick, will there be stricter guidelines on what to do or not do, how will this affect the country in general, how long will it take to bounce back, will we bounce back? Those are the fears that run through my head.

Yet, Thursday morning as I was backing out of my garage to go to work, I glanced over and saw the tree in my front yard. It is just starting to bloom. I took the time to stop and look at it for a few minutes, as I took time to look at it I also noticed birds singing. And I was reminded of these verses from Matthew 6, “If God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?”, and “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable then they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

Now I did not know where those verses were but I knew they were in there. I had read them enough times, and heard sermons preached on them, and read them in devotions, and heard them in song. I was able to goggle and find them right away. What I am trying to say is, we don’t have to know the bible by heart, we just need to know the truths that are in it.

Spend some of this time while you are at home reading the bible, or reading a devotion book, download some apps, I have a few on my phone, try out the YouVersion app, First 5, SheReadsTruth, Redemption Church App, RightNowMedia. Get in his word know whats in there, so when struggles, and fears come your way you have a anchor to hold onto. You have truth to calm the fear. None of this is a surprise to God, he saw it coming and he already knows the end. He already knows the answers to all those things that are my unknown. I trust that if he takes care of the flowers, and the birds he will take care of us.

ENDURANCE

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One of the devotions I read this week by David Platt said, “Ask the Lord to give you the grace to follow Him in faith and in glad obedience.”

Grace – The free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” A divinely given talent or blessing.

Following God on my own in faith and obedience is hard. Not just hard but impossible. I will follow for awhile but eventually I will fail, I will fall. So often for me, that is the problem. I try to do it on my own power. This says, ask the Lord to give you the grace to follow. And grace says a divine given talent or blessing. Meaning it comes from the power of God, not my power. My power will fail.

With His power we will have the endurance that Paul talks about. The endurance of someone running a race. I have a friend, Candy, who runs 50 and 100 mile races. She does Iron Man competitions. I am amazed by her endurance to do these things. To push herself to those extremes. I have run a couple of 5K’s and I know the endurance it took for me just to complete those, but those are nothing compared to a 50 or 100 mile race.

Me running a 5K can compare to me trying to follow and be obedient to Christ on my own. I can do it for a little bit. I can push myself. But me following Christ for a life time is what it would be like for me to run a 100 mile race. I can not do it on my own strength. I need a divine intervention to complete it.

I think as Christians we feel like failures in saying that, I do anyway. Saying I don’t have the will power or desire to constantly follow you on my own. It feels like letting Him down. But isn’t that what God wants? He wants me to depend on his strength and not my own.

My thoughts on endurance are beginning to change. For so long I felt like endurance in my Christian walk was just for the hard times, the times of loss, of despair, of fear, and doubt, when I could not go alone. Just for the 5Ks.

I am beginning to see that endurance is also for the daily walk. Those small things. Like tonight in CR I caught myself judging someone. Then God stopped me and said you have no idea what this person is going through. So instead of judging I prayed God let me give this person a genuine smile, a sincere, heart felt, I am glad you are here. At work, I am kind of first point of contact. There are days I don’t feel like talking or smiling, but maybe that is what the person walking in the door needs. There are times when Brett and I both feel we are right about something, some days being right isn’t the most important thing. Instead of being frustrated, showing patience. A kind word in place of a curt answer. An encouraging word instead of a negative response.

When you can’t say another nice word, or give another smile, listen to another story, hold your tongue, CYF, on your own power. When you ask the Lord to give you the grace to follow Him in faith and in glad obedience. That’s the 100 mile endurance.

God, like Paul let me run the race with endurance that comes from you.

CYF

Last week when I met with my group of girls, we came up with CYF. I have been working on a blog about it. It all started with a conversation about masking your face, not letting it show all your emotion. Bella seems to be in fast training in this picture. Her frustration with her Mom is all over her face. Years of stuffing allows me to be boiling mad at you on the inside and smile on the outside. Now according to Brett, eye rolling is apparently a different story for me.

For this particular group of friends though the face is a difficult thing. Lisa was telling about a time when she was upset with someone at an event. She said she was talking to the person and from across the room Kim sent her a text that said, “Cover your face.” Brittany said CYF, and it stuck. So we have been having fun with it this week. On a side note Kim adamantly does not remember sending the text, and doesn’t believe this sounds like anything she might say. But that is a completely different blog.

This week I have been thinking about that. Should we cover our face? Is masking wrong? Is it wrong to show our true expressions all the time? Honesty is always the best policy, but is that true with my face?

I think there has to be a middle ground there somewhere. Masking all the time is wrong. You can’t be genuine, and sincere, open and honest if you never show your emotions.

However, I think sometimes it is important not to let our expressions give away our feelings. If someone is sharing something very personal with you and your face shows disgust, shock, or judgment they may be afraid to share with anyone else. I struggle with this in CR. When people are telling horrible stories from their childhood, I know my face reacts. It isn’t reacting to them or judging them. It is reacting to how sorry I feel for what they went through, but my face doesn’t tell them that.

Sometimes we just don’t know what someone else is walking through. They may be dealing with sickness, grieve, waiting on test results, a spouse that walked out, a wayward child, loss of a job, depression. Showing anger or frustration with them may be more than they can take. Even though you may be angry or frustrated with them, a smile on your face could be the one thing that turns their day, or life around.

Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” What if these were the things we covered our face with today? Could you make a difference?

I will be over here working on HYE – hold your eyes.

GERMINATION

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This paragraph was in a devotion I read this week.

“Are you weary today? Spend a few quiet moments inviting God to refresh your soul. Ask him to strengthen you, to speak tenderly to your heart, and to show you which way to go. Sit worshiping at the well of your Father and drink deeply.”

I don’t know that I have ever asked God to refresh my soul, or to speak tenderly to my heart. I feel like I should be able to arouse refreshment on my own power. I know that God is a loving God, however, if I feel like I am not up to “my standard” or not where “I think” he expects me to be. Then I don’t expect him to speak tenderly to my heart. I expect reprimand or disappointment. Actions of my own struggles.

Sit, worship, and drink deeply. Even as I read that and want that. A part of me says, “that’s not the way it should be.” God doesn’t just want me to sit and ask and expect. He wants me to DO. (Old habits, and struggles die hard). But, maybe just maybe I am wrong. Maybe there are times when God says, you are tired, and worn out and its OK. Just sit for a bit and rejuvenate.

There is a part in the plant growth process where a seed sits in the dirt before it burst forth and grows. It is called germination?

Germination – 1) The development of a plant from a seed after a period of dormancy. 2) The process of something coming into existence and developing.

I looked and there are 5 steps in the germination process

  1. imbibition – water fills the seed.
  2. The water activates enzymes that begin the plants growth.
  3. The seed grows a root to access water underground.
  4. The seed grows shoots that grow towards the sun.
  5. The shoots grow leaves and begin photomorphogenesis.

Those are the same steps we take when we accept Christ. He fills us with the holy spirit, The holy spirit activates growth in us, we grow deep roots, we grow and are drawn toward the Son, and we develop disciples.

Maybe the germination process in our spiritual life isn’t a one time thing. Each time we start something new, or move to another level, or develop a deeper bond there is growth. There is germination. Maybe I am in a season of germination and that’s OK for a little while.

A plant that isn’t growing is dying. The same is true for us. Thank you God that you continue to grow us, no matter how old we are.