Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Body Knows

It always amazes me how the body just knows.

You don't have to look at the calendar. You don't have to keep track of days. But inside I just know... October is here.

Yes, the Eagles playing and return of NFL football bring back memories.  So do the cooler temps, changing leaves, start of wheelchair basketball season. Maybe it is just all of those zillions of little memories and indicators.

But deep down I feel there's more to it than that. Maybe it's that mother's intuition that you just "know" things about your kids. But my body just knows when the fall season countdown begins... 3 months of anniversaries in a row.

The dreams begin. Flashbacks are triggered. It all just happens. Ready or not, fall is here and my heart just knows.

Precious, precious memories. But it's also hard. The missing intensifies. The wishing you weren't the only one remembering continues. Year after year it doesn't change. Not in my heart at least.

Thanks for the continued prayers my friends. October holds Peter's birthday, November is Andrew's anniversary, and December is Peter's.

The good news is, they are whole, healed, and rejoicing together.
And God is ever faithful.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Word Play

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:9

I call myself a word girl. I’m intrigued by words and when the nuances of definitions comes into play, my mind loves to chase down the significance. That’s what happened this week.

In reading in Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, one sentence caught my attention.

"If there is sin, confess it, not admit it." (Sept. 24th)

My mind immediately started to wrestle with the difference between the two. Admit often is listed within the definition of confess and vice versa. Was there really a difference?

Dictionary.com lists definitions as such:

Confess

1. to acknowledge or avow (a fault, crime, misdeed, weakness, etc.) by way of revelation.
2. to own or admit as true:
3. to declare or acknowledge (one's sins), especially to God or a priest in order to obtain absolution.
4. (of a priest) to hear the confession of (a person).
5. to acknowledge one's belief or faith in; declare adherence to.
6. to reveal by circumstances.

Admit

1. to allow to enter; grant or afford entrance to:
2. to give right or means of entrance to:
3. to permit to exercise a certain function or privilege:
4. to permit; allow.
5. to allow or concede as valid:
6. to acknowledge; confess:
7. to grant in argument; concede:

As I processed through the definitions and read many scriptures about confession, what came to mind was a difference of motive. I think to confess means to come with an intent of repentance. You do admit your sins but out of remorse, a desire to do differently, a realization that you have offended one you love.

To admit I think falls short of that. It implies acknowledgement, conceding as true, but lacks remorse, the desire to change. I’ve heard it often accompanied with pride at one’s choices.

“Yeah, I’m a sinner. Look how bad I am!”

As I’ve chased down these thoughts, I realized the difference is a relationship. The motive of repentance, the desire to change, comes from the realization of offense to one you love. When I love Jesus more than myself, and more than my sin, I find the motivation to change.

I can honestly say I’ve not always had this. I’ve wanted to change out of fear of God’s rejection, but that comes from love of myself, my desire to protect my future. I’ve boasted at times about my imperfections in pride, but that again came from a love of myself. I wanted others to think I was OK and not too goody-two-shoes that they’d not want to be with me.

But when there’s been a true turning away of sin and unhealthy choices, it has come from the life changing realization of how it hurts God’s heart. When I see my own sin as the nails holding Christ to the cross, my own actions as the thorns piercing his brow, my own choices as the spit upon his face… that brings me to my knees. How could I respond so to One who loves me so?

I’ve found word play in scripture to be a valuable tool to understanding and loving the Word. Whether comparing two similar words or contrasting opposite themes, a little word wrestling can be life changing.

Father God, forgive my times when I serve self over you. Many moments when my choices cause you pain and mock the great sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. Holy Spirit rise up within me that I would see sin for what it is. That I’d take no pride in it. That I’d refuse to hide in it. That my one sole motive in every choice I make would be in honoring you and the relationship you’ve allowed me to enjoy. Jesus consume my world, my heart, my mind, my soul. Be the filter of my vision and perspective. Continue to use your Word to bind our hearts together. In Jesus Name, Amen.

 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Keeping What's Mine

I read a great sentence by Oswald Chambers this week in His Utmost for My Highest. I had it previously highlighted but it obviously didn’t stick because it felt like a new revelation all over again.

“Satan does not tempt us to do wrong things; he tempts us in order to make us lose what God has put into us by regeneration.” (Sept. 18th)

It impacted me so much this week because of earlier struggles I’d experienced the day before. Again, I found myself striving for other’s approval and affirmation.

I experienced an internal emotional frenzy as I feared reaction and misinterpretation to comments I’d made. Thankfully the fears proved totally unfounded but I endured over 12 hours of turmoil and failed to experience peace until I knew my fears would not materialize.

So when I read this verse the next day, its truth hit home. Satan wants to rob me of what I already have.

I have complete security and value in Christ.

Nothing can separate me from his love. (Romans 8:35-39)

It is guaranteed,
untouchable,
undeniable,
unconditional,
and forever real.

So why am I leaning on people instead? Why am I making their approval more important? Why does my peace and security and sense of value rest on them instead of God?

These are the questions I asked myself after my ordeal this week. But going forward, my question is this:

How do I stop doing it?

When facing temptation, Jesus lived the pattern for us to follow. As he faced Satan’s temptation in the wilderness, he countered every shortcut to what God had already promised Him with scripture. This must be my response.

So my quest has begun for my own arsenal- scriptures to memorize and wield in my mental battles for perspective. But I realize, I can’t just know them… I have to choose to use them, to believe them.

Here are a few I have so far:

If God is for us, who can be against us? Rom. 8:31

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Rom. 8:38

No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 8:39

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2Cor. 12:9

Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7

For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught. Prov. 3:26

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is [His] faithfulness. Lam. 3:21-23

You are precious and honored in my sight, and…I love you. Isa. 43:4

You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. Isa. 62:3

For [you] are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Eph. 2:10


Do you have some great scriptures to add? I’d love for you to comment below and add more to the list.

Father God, thank you for the abundant gifts you graciously gave us when we declared our dependence upon Jesus. Help us to stand firm in those gifts and not pursue the temptations that would make us settle for lesser things, false things that we would substitute for the truth in you. I don’t want to forget or reject the freedom, the peace, the value and the security I have in you. Help me to stand firm and wield my weapon of your Word and your truth diligently and well. May I rest in the truth and reality of your gifts and never settle for less. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Friday, September 19, 2014

God's Not a Meanie

Last post’s question continued to plague me.
Why am I so slow to run to God?

So I finally did what I failed to do last week in the midst of my challenges. I prayed.

I prayed for answers. I prayed for guidance. I prayed for clarity.
And God provided.

But he addressed not only the challenges of my week. He also spoke into my question.

See I had this thought whisper through my mind.

You’ve been so proud of how smooth things have been going. You know if you don’t stay dependent, God will send some trouble to force you back to Him.

At first, I accepted that thought and kept right on going. But then I paused and looked back at that statement again.

The more I studied it, the greater my insight grew.

See I’ve had this thought before. I’ve agreed with it before. I’ve stated it about others before.

But suddenly I found fault with it. I found a very subtle lie in this sentence, a lie against God’s character.

See this statement claims God will send trouble if I step away. He will punish me to bring me back.

He does want me back. But God isn’t a meanie. He doesn’t send trouble.

Trouble WILL come. It’s guaranteed. Jesus said to expect it. We live in a fallen world. Trouble will come.

But the struggle I experience when trouble comes depends on MY steps, not God’s. If I have moved away from God, out of pride, self-reliance, or disobedience, I am the one who moved. God didn’t. God’s staying as close as always. But I’ve moved out from under his protection.

I've accepted this lie about God’s character. I accepted the thought that God would purpose trouble for me, that He would be against me. I’ve been accepting this subtle belief that God would punish me when I do less than His best. He was a meanie at times that I had to keep happy. But this is not true.

See…

Trouble from a broken world + self-reliance = stress and anxiety

Trouble from a broken world + reliance on God = peace

Notice which one brings the result I crave. Notice which one has God involved. Notice any coincidence?

God is always good. He is always for me. THIS is truth. He is never out to get me.

Could this lie be the source of my hesitation? Maybe I’m so slow to run to Him because distrust his intentions?

It might not be the only reason, but I cannot trust God if don’t know the truth about Him. And if I don’t trust Him, I won’t run to Him. My steps determine how much of God’s protection I enjoy. He is and will always be a God who never changes.

Thank you Lord, that your Word is true. You are for me. I never have anything to fear in running to you. You don’t send trouble to punish me. You simply stay close waiting for me to step back toward you. Continue to reveal the untruths in my beliefs. Correct any misconception I have of you so I can trust you completely.  I want to live my life fully connected to you.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Why am I so SLOW?


The trouble is with me…. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Rom. 7:14-15

Last post I wrote about dependence.  I shared instruction God provided as I faced challenges in my week.

But why am I so slow to get it?

Unfortunately, my week did not end well.  I did not get out of the way. 
I reacted.
I took over.
I got emotional.

It was all about me, me, me!

As I struggled, why didn’t I pause to pray?
Why do I fail to do what I know to do?

As Paul exclaims in Romans 7, I don’t really understand myself… I want to do what is right but I don’t do it.

This is my prayer today:  That God would somehow interrupt my self-reliance; that He would raise my awareness as soon as I take the very first step away from His will. I need the Holy Spirit to shout at me because I’m obviously missing His whispers.

Why am I so slow to turn to God?
 
He alone is always the answer I need…the peace for my anxiety, the wisdom for my confusion, the self-control for my frenzy, the power to move the mountains I face. 

With all He provides, why don’t I race to Him first thing?

Can you relate?
Do you know the truth but fail to live it?

Join me in repentance.
Join me in recommitment.
Join me in persevering.
Let’s change these habits and surrender to God’s control.

Father God, forgive my waywardness this week. Forgive my arrogance that I would rely on myself instead of run to you. I know only you can bring success to these challenges. Arrest my self-reliance. Sensitize me to your voice. Help me move out of the way that you can flow through me instead. Change me. Break these habits. Help me live a life of trust and dependence.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Dependence

Apart from [Christ, I] can do nothing John 15:5

This morning as I sit here with my Bible study, I’m tired.  Life is full.  I struggle for balance. I wrestle to not let the discomfort of an incomplete to do list overtake my peace.

So the current study in which I’m working proved extra timely this morning.  In my study on Battling Busyness, we took a look at an article by Lorraine Pintus, “At Peace in the Whirlwind.”

Several of her questions really hit home:

Why do I keep going when the Holy Spirit urges, “Pull over”?
Is my need to perform stronger than my desire to obey?

That’s what I keep coming back to.  Why do I have such unrest at unfinished tasks? Why do I struggle to obey?

In the section discussing Dependence, one section really spoke to me.  She referenced John 15:5 Apart from [Christ, I] can do nothing and Galatians 2:20 I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. I love the picture she offers.

How does this work?  When I am weary but have a Bible study to teach, I picture the tired me resting in a chair while Christ in me teaches the study.  When I want to look at a magazine but my children want me to read them a book, I order the selfish me to step aside while Christ in me reads Dr. Seuss’s Hope on Pep for the millionth time.  When I feel anger toward the driver who has just cut me off, the angry me moves over and Jesus in my offers a sympathetic you-must-have-had-a-bad-day waver.  Much of my dependence upon Christ involves me getting out of the way so that the King of kings may speak and act through me.

I love this picture.  As I enter my classroom today, my many meetings, and face the tasks ahead, I will picture Jesus doing them, not me. I’ll rely on His energy, His ideas, His patience. The emptiness I feel this morning simply becomes a channel for Him to flow through.

Offering my students and fellow staff members Jesus instead of tired Juli is such a better option, don’t you think?

As you face your weekend, I hope it includes time to rest. But I’d also challenge you to spend some time reflecting on these verses and these thoughts. Prepare for your day, prepare for your next work week by living dependent through each moment.  Picture Christ living out your week through you. We can trust God to provide everything we need. Let’s commit to live out Galatians 2:20:

 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Answered Prayers

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
 
I love how detailed and personal God is.  It doesn’t matter how seeming insignificant our desires are, God does long to fill them.

Just had to share a praise with you this week. 

The past 3 years since Peter has passed, it has been our annual tradition to attend an Eagles NFL home game on our around his birthday as part of our memorial tradition.  We often saw them lose but enjoyed the experience. 

But the team has changed a lot so that it no longer feels like Peter’s team.  We still cheer and follow, but last year we decided enough was enough.  It just wasn’t worth the expense, which was rather significant considering we weren’t season ticket holders and had to pay some big bucks to sit where we wanted to sit. As we left the stadium last October, we both agreed it was time to find a new way to honor Peter on his birthday.

Months passed and, although the question lingered, what will we do for Peter’s birthday?, it was merely a passing thought to address a later time.

Fast forward to this past week.  Our church hosted a special event as part of its newest Latin America missions initiative.  The Compassion Experience was a chance to take a hands-on look at the lives of two children rescued from poverty in Uganda and Bolivia.  It truly showed you how their stories had been changed through their Compassion sponsors.

My husband and I enjoyed the experience, sharing it with others in our small group.  At the end, we briefly perused the cards of children needing a sponsor.  I have to admit, I’ve attended many events offering sponsorship opportunities.  We already sponsor a child through our church’s AOET program. So I never really look to actually sponsor. But every time I look through the cards, I’ve committed that if I ever found children with Andrew’s and Peter’s birthdates (Month/Day… not necessarily year), I would sponsor them.  Yet I've never found one. 

The same thought went through my mind as I looked at the cards this week.
And then, I found Yessania.  Her birthday is October 19th….Peter’s day.

I have to admit, I cried and told Jeff after we completed the paper work, I really would rather have Peter. But I was at the same time thankful to have someone we could invest in, someone with which to share the blessings God’s given to us, someone whose story who would become part of Peter’s legacy.
 

The next day, as I contemplated the adjustments to our monthly budget, I realized something significant.  The amount we would spend each year to share God’s love and provision with this little girl was equivalent to the amount we spent each year to attend Peter’s birthday Eagles game.  God had answered my prayer that I never really prayed. He provided a new way, a much more worthy tradition, to honor our son.

I still don’t know how we’ll exactly spend Peter’s day.  But I do know that our son will be honored.  And I will never forget God’s tender mercies towards this mother’s heart that so misses her boys but yet strives to patiently trust God’s timing to see them again.

Thank you for letting me share.  Thank you for rejoicing with me in God’s tender love.

Before I go, can I encourage you to consider sponsoring a child yourself? The conditions these children experience, immersed in poverty, surrounded by danger from so many selfish people that fail to see them with value and respect… the limits placed on their futures and options, do not need to exist.  For so little money we can truly change their story.  They can experience the love of God in tangible, healthy, meaningful ways.

Please also consider their parents. Often at no fault of their own, these parents live broken hearted at what their children must endure, longing to do better for their children. As a mother who misses her boys daily, my heart does experience peace at their safety, wholeness, and joy. This is my chance to give Yessania’s mother that same gift…hope…a chance to see her daughter thrive…a chance for a better story.

Take a moment to visit Compassion’sWebsite and prayerfully consider how you can make a difference, sharing the merciful gifts God so tenderly grants to you.