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.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Truth For Your Day

How can I add to this? Read it out loud. Hear it. Believe it.
Let it sink deep within your soul today…

Psalm 136
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords.
His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to him who alone does mighty miracles.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who made the heavens so skillfully.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who placed the earth among the waters.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who made the heavenly lights—
His faithful love endures forever.
the sun to rule the day,
His faithful love endures forever.
and the moon and stars to rule the night.
His faithful love endures forever.

10 Give thanks to him who killed the firstborn of Egypt.
His faithful love endures forever.
11 He brought Israel out of Egypt.
His faithful love endures forever.
12 He acted with a strong hand and powerful arm.
His faithful love endures forever.
13 Give thanks to him who parted the Red Sea.[a]
His faithful love endures forever.
14 He led Israel safely through,
His faithful love endures forever.
15 but he hurled Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea.
His faithful love endures forever.
16 Give thanks to him who led his people through the wilderness.
His faithful love endures forever.

17 Give thanks to him who struck down mighty kings.
His faithful love endures forever.
18 He killed powerful kings—
His faithful love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites,
His faithful love endures forever.
20 and Og king of Bashan.
His faithful love endures forever.
21 God gave the land of these kings as an inheritance—
His faithful love endures forever.
22 a special possession to his servant Israel.
His faithful love endures forever.

23 He remembered us in our weakness.
His faithful love endures forever.
24 He saved us from our enemies.
His faithful love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every living thing.
His faithful love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His faithful love endures forever.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ahhhh.....

How is your week going?

Are you bustling?
Scurrying?
Striving?
Stressing?

That’s how my week was going last week.  And then I sat down for my morning quiet time and in the course of my study, read today’s key verse.

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17 emphasis added)

God’s words jumped out and snatched the focus of my heart.

Quiet.

My soul responded to that word with longing… with a catch of a breath… and then with this long, slow exhale…with relief.
In the midst of my busy, God slowed me down. 

Don’t miss the contrast in this verse.
I’m to be quiet.  God is to be loud.
I’m the still one.  God is the active one.

That certainly did not match the reality in which I walked at the moment.

But it gave me the perspective, the hope, the courage to still, to quiet, to bask in the beauty and strength and constancy and tenderness of God’s love.

This verse wants to speak into your frenzy.
It wants to arrest the stress, the striving, the scurrying and quiet you with God’s presence, God’s peace and God’s purpose.

Be intentional today.

Take the time to reflect on, to bask in, to rejoice in God’s great love for you.  He’s singing over you.  Not humming mind you-Singing loudly! Let that truth settle deep in your soul. It changes your whole perspective.

That to do list? God’s got it.
That broken relationship? God’s got it.
That unresolved problem? God’s got it.
That unknown? God’s got it.
Most importantly, God’s got YOU!

Right now, smack dab in the middle of your struggle, God’s got you.  Rest in that truth my friend.  Picture yourself securely in His hands…hands large enough to hold the oceans, powerful enough to create the heavens, tender enough to catch every tear we shed, faithful enough to receive the nails we deserve.

God’s got you today.  He’s singing loudly over you.  Let’s commit to let Him lead today while we quietly snuggle close.

Thank you Father for the precious way you love us. Helps us to hear you singing, to recognize your rejoicing, to trust your saving. Let the truth of your love overwhelm us and quiet us.  May it still our striving, our stressing and our scurrying. Help us to cling to this truth throughout the day that we can walk in peace.  Thank you for slowing me down and shifting my eyes. Be my vision this day. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Freebie Give Away

Today is the end of my first week with students.
It’s been a good week.

But I’m tired.

I’ve found one of the best ways to replenish the storehouses is giving.  I know.  It sounds counter intuitive.  But in God’s economy, when you give, more is given.

So in honor of that, today I’m giving away a $5 Starbucks gift card…something to perc you up when you need a lift. (Get it?... coffee… percolate….perk :)
I will give what I need and trust the joy of giving to fill me up.

To enter the freebie give away, simply comment below with a favorite school memory.  It doesn’t have to be long, but can be. Maybe it’s that favorite teacher you’ve never forgotten, that time you surprised yourself with a grade or success, or even a struggle that fueled you for great things later in life.

All who comment by midnight, Sunday, August 31, will be entered to win.
Thank you to all who enter.  It will be fun to enjoy each other’s stories.

Good Luck and let the fun begin!

(If you have trouble posting, you can email me at julia@ondryground.org to add your story.)


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Nothing To Fear

Have you ever read a verse that simply startled you?
That happened to me this week. 
It startled me because it corrected a misconception I’d never really voiced, yet internally knew existed.
 
The Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge. (John 5:22)
 
This verse surfaced a fear I’ve subtly held of God the Father.
 
Growing up, like many daughters, I feared displeasing my Dad. On the farm this was especially compounded by the often severity of the mistakes one could make.  I must confess two of my more complicated blunders involved backing a tractor and wagon so poorly I bent the metal wagon tongue beyond repair, as well as several times opening the door on the wrong set of cows to leave the milk parlor.  This resulted in those with the milkers still attached escaping before finished, pulling off milkers, sometimes disconnecting tubing, and walking all over the equipment. 
 
Needless to say, emotions often ran high in those intense moments.  But it took me years to realize the emotions of those moments were directed at those situations, not at me personally. Instead a root of fear grew instead. I feared displeasing those over me. I never wanted to face another’s anger.
 
This root wound its way into my faith as well. The Bible stories in the Old Testament show a rather fierce and angry side of God. Fire from heaven, the ground swallowing people whole, His using the Israelites to execute His judgment on those who rejected him all fed into the fear. Could I trust a God like this?
 
Instead I preferred Jesus.  Jesus was love, my friend, my mediator and advocate. The stories in the New Testament of grace and forgiveness make for much happier reading.
 
I’ve since grown in my balance, understanding and approach to God.  But yet, when I read this verse in John, it startled me. That root of fear obviously still lingers.
 
The Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge.
 
I read and reread and reread this verse. It really is true! I don’t need to fear God’s judgment. The security I have in Jesus’ love is the same security I can have in the Father’s - because He released his judgment into the hands of Jesus.
 
I am so happy to pull out that root of fear in my heart!  I have nothing to fear in God. Do you struggle to trust God? Do you fear His intentions toward you?  Let’s accept this truth and start a new seed in our hearts today.
 
Neither the Father nor the Son expect perfection. They knew my sinner state before my birth. Ephesians explains that while we were still sinners Jesus died on our behalf. My lack of perfection comes as no surprise and is already planned for.
 
All the Father and the Son ask for is belief. Trust. Faith. Knowing their heart of goodness, mercy, holiness and love.  Then, from this truth comes my obedience; not fear.  And that is such a better place to live.
 
Father God, please make this truth grow deep into our hearts. May its roots force out all roots of fear. Help us to know you in truth. Thank you for the light of your Word to reveal the dark places in our lives. Help me to stand strong on this Word when fear whispers against your name. I want to live free of all fear in my relationship with you. In Jesus Name, Amen.