Who Is God To You?

Who Is God To You?

I’m amazed every week by what God lays on my guest’s hearts.  This particular post really humbled me.  I think so highly of Amy Wright.  She is a woman who loves God and really lives it out.  I think you’ll be moved by a glimpse into her heart and what God has shown her.

who

As I prayed about what God might have for me to share, I was a little surprised when He stirred my heart to something that started a few years ago–something so deeply personal to me, so near and dear to my heart. My prayer is that you will blessed as you read a piece of my heart.

Wright Newborn Wyatt-8087I am the mother of three handsome boys. Reece is five, Abel is three and Wyatt is about to turn one. My husband of 10 and half years, Devin, is my high school sweetheart and the rock of our family.

I have a piece that I work on now and again that has become a precious collection of ways God has revealed Himself and His great truth to me through the years. I have entitled it, “Who is God, Anyway?”. Something that Bobi Ann doesn’t know is that she has actually contributed to this work. In fact, you might say that her message helped propel the very beginnings of this effort. What I am going to share with you today is actually an excerpt from chapter one of my collection…

“I recently saw a social networking post that was a photograph of a handwritten page simply entitled “My Father…”. The single notebook page was a small list of what and who the Father was to this individual.

“My Father loves me, cares for me, forgives me, is compassionate”

and so on and so forth with a single scripture reference attached to each quality or characteristic of the Father. It was beautiful. This encouraged me to start my own list and to praise the Lord for the many ways in which I have been blessed to come to know and experience my Abba Father. I found it to be similar to a “Spiritual Marker” list like Henry Blackaby encourages everyone to compose in Experiencing God.

Spiritual markers are times in your life where you knew that the Father was speaking to you, guiding you, teaching you, or revealing himself to you in some way. Documenting spiritual markers is a profoundly powerful way to remember how God has worked in your life.

Around the same time that I began compiling this list of Godly characteristics I had come to know, I attended a women’s conference at my church. The speaker, Bobi Ann Allen, spoke about having satisfaction in Christ. She read from and referenced John chapter 4, the story of the “Woman at the Well.” She asked the ladies in attendance what it was they were searching and striving for that they felt would satisfy them.

“If I could just get “X” I would be satisfied.” Insert any given number of things into this “X” such as the right man, the right job, car, house, children, etc. In John Chapter 4, verse 10, Jesus says,

If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

It is God alone who can satisfy our inner “thirst”, not any material possession or person of this world? How then, can someone come to know and experience Christ in this way and thereby receive this “living water”?

How have I come to know Christ? How can I be and stay satisfied in my Lord?

This brings me back to the list from the social network. Who is God? I know that a vast amount of conclusive, theological, literary masterpieces on the topic, filled with sound biblical knowledge on God:

  • The sovereign creator of the universe;
  • Jesus, the son of God, who came and lived a sinless life in the flesh
  • The spotless Lamb who was crucified for all creation’s sin that if we believe in Him we may have eternal life; and
  • The Holy Spirit who is our Wonderful Counselor and guides and directs our paths
  • The many roles that all the members of the Holy Trinity play in existence past, present, and future.

All of this doctrinal truth is gravely important and essential to understanding what Christianity is about, who God is physically, and why we serve Him. However, I want to take some time to ponder and focus on the basic reality that Christianity is about one foundational thing: a real, personal, intimate relationship with the Creator. Who is God to me? Who is God to a single individual? How can I, and have I, experience God?”

If you have ever journaled about times in your life that God has spoken to or revealed Himself to you personally, you will understand when I tell you that looking back through my past writing, evokes so much emotion in my spirit as I recall the passion that God gave me at 2 am the night after that ladies conference when I sat for hours and began to write and recall all the intimate ways that I have come to experience God.

One can study, learn and becoming vastly knowledgeable about the Bible and theology, but as 1 Corinthians 13 tells us, without love, it is nothing. God is a loving Father that truly wants an intimate relationship with His children. It is in His loving embrace that we really come to know who He is.

There is nothing sweeter than the warm embrace of Jesus and His blessing of revelation when He allows us to see another characteristic of His love for us. He is my Savior, He is merciful, He is my joy and peace, my healer and the great physician, my standard, my Abba Father.

Question: Who is God to you? I want to challenge you to make your own intimate list of the ways that you have personally experienced God.  Pray for God to refresh your memory and to reveal Himself in new ways. I pray you will be blessed beyond measure as you count the ways in which God has poured out His amazing love on you.

Photo: I am the mother of three handsome boys. Reece is five, Abel is three and Wyatt is about to turn one. My husband of 10 and half years, Devin, is my high school sweetheart and the rock of our family.

11 Reasons Your Child Cannot Miss Summer Camp

11 Reasons Your Child Cannot Miss Summer Camp

camp

Our 7-year-old, Kati Ann, was at Winshape camp last week.  I’ve been involved with camp for close to 25 years as a camper, counselor, or director and now for the first time as the parent of a camper.  I saw camp from a whole new perspective as the parent and this new vantage point only further validated to me that camp is important for everyone involved and here is why:

1. Learn Independence–life skills, memories made apart from parents.

Parent, your job is to help your child get ready to leave & that starts from birth.  Teach your child how to navigate situations apart from you and then give them an opportunity to try it out.  Camp is a great place to do that.

2. Teamwork

What kind of camp would it be if you were there by yourself?  Shared experiences and similar goals promote teamwork.  Learning to overcome difficulties together is a great life skill.  It also instills a healthy confidence.

3. Focused Time on a Particular Skill or Theme

Camp creates an environment with a different routine that allows time to concentrate on a particular skill or theme or both.  I have attended both Christian and secular camps as a camper and that focused time served me well.

4. Exposure to Positive Teenage Role Models

I’m sure there are exceptions but most camps won’t hire counselors that are losers.  So, what better place for your child to be exposed to some healthy, positive role models?  It is good for your child to be encouraged by and look up to someone older that is a leader.

5. Exploring new interests.

Seriously, think about it, don’t you do things at camp that you don’t necessarily get to do elsewhere? It is exposure to new stuff.  They may not have known they had an affinity for horses, basketball, or knitting but camp gives them an opportunity to try new things and discover new interests.

6. Part of shared experiences and lasting memories that involve something bigger than themselves.

I’d love to say self-centeredness is just a kid-thing but I know too many adults for that to be true.  However, don’t you want your child to have an experience that is bigger than just their little egocentric world?  Don’t you want to them to make memories that involved other people in a positive way?

7. Structured environment

Summer is laid back.  That’s what I love about it.  However, having the structured environment of camp helps children to learn to function in a societal system.  It helps them appreciate order.  Being relaxed is great but so is structure.

8. Outdoors

Breathing fresh air is important and lots of kids don’t do it enough.  Shoot, most adults don’t do it enough.  It is good to sweat, it is good to absorb nature and the world around you.  Being outdoors promotes emotional, mental and physical health.

9. Media-Free

Oh man, are we ever in a digital culture?  I’m not knocking it because there are lots of benefits to technology.  Yet, being disconnected from social media, video games and television allows kids to learn lifelong skills they might miss with a screen in their face.

10. Rite of Passage

Camp is a rite of passage.  It is a trial-period for doing life independently.  Experiencing homesickness, resolving conflict, and eating camp food are all part of an experience that readies children for that time when they will be accountable for all their decisions.

11. Adaptability

A new environment, a different routine and so many new people.  For some people all that new sounds exciting but for most, it makes them anxious.  However, I know from experience that the more exposure we get to new situations, the better we learn to adapt to them.  Camp offers children the opportunity to learn to adapt to new situations, environments and people.  Adaptability is a life-skill they can and will benefit from acquiring.

Question: What has your camp experience been?  What would you add to this list?

Disclaimer: Every camper’s experience is unique, but as a seasoned camper that has worked and camped at more camp sites than I can count, I can sincerely say–camp is where it’s at!

 

Is This What Faithful Looks Like?

Is This What Faithful Looks Like?

I’ve known Jana Spooner since we were babies. We have almost eerily followed a very similar life path, attending and graduating from the same colleges and seminaries, working with students in ministry and transitioning into the world of literature and writing at almost the exact same time.  I won’t bore you with the details, but really, I’m so excited for you to hear from my friend, Jana.  To read more from Jana you can visit her blog here.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about God’s faithfulness. It’s hard to fathom because no matter how hard we try, we can never be 100% faithful. We will always let someone down. We will always underwhelm someone. There will always be times when we will not live up to someone’s expectations.

But the thing about God’s faithfulness is that there are no external criteria by which He is measured. He IS faithful. He will never let anyone down. He can’t, because He IS faithfulness.

In Lamentations 3:22-24 (HCSB), the prophet Jeremiah penned these words:

Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! I say: The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.

Lam 3 pic

I recently heard someone recounting the events of their year, including a successful business venture, blessings to family, etc. Their conclusion was that it was wonderful to look back and see that God had been faithful. Yes, He was faithful, but His faithfulness would not be changed one iota if nothing good ever happened to us. Ever. The fact that we experience blessing is not an indicator of more faithfulness on God’s part, nor are difficult circumstances an indicator of less faithfulness from God.
I think we can be tempted to look back and say, “I prayed for this thing to happen and it did, therefore God is faithful.”

My husband prayed for this job and he got it. God is faithful.

We prayed for a baby and we got pregnant. God is faithful.

We prayed for the money to come through and it did. God is faithful.

This year has already had its fair share of trials. February was a particularly frustrating month as our family faced some large unplanned expenses. A plumber came out to check a leak in our basement bathroom. What did he find? A septic tank! This is a bad thing. It’s a bad thing because we do not live in the country, folks. We are right in the middle of suburbia where every other house in our area filled in their septic tanks in the 1960’s. And our contract clearly stated the house we were buying (and have now lived in for over 3 years) was on city sewer. After that discovery, we found more leaks, and more surprises and more things that needed to be replaced, filled in, repaired, you name it, and of course, all the while, the price tag kept going up. I started calling my husband Tom Hanks. (If you don’t understand this reference, please do yourself a favor and rent “The Money Pit” now. It came out in 1986, so I realize that may have been before some of you reading this were born. I think we have it on VHS.)

At times we thought we might be spared at least some of the expense. The previous homeowner had either not known or not disclosed the septic tank. Maybe he could cover some of the cost. Maybe the city could waive their astronomical fee for a piece of paper giving you permission to tap into their water line. Maybe insurance could cover part of it. Nope, none of those worked out. Nothing about that situation worked out like we had hoped. And we still haven’t replaced all of the dry wall in the basement from the ordeal, so I’m reminded every day that this did not work out like we wanted.
Was God not faithful? We prayed. Did God not come through for us?

Yes, He was faithful. Because He is always faithful. God can’t NOT be faithful. Even though our particular situation didn’t work out like we hoped, His faithfulness is beyond our individual circumstances. It is for eternity and He will always be faithful in keeping His promises. He sent His Son and did not abandon us in our sin! The Gospel is His ultimate faithfulness! 

faithfulness1

If you’re not familiar with the rest of the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah did not write those words out of a time of prosperity. Earlier in the very same chapter he wrote of affliction, bitterness, homelessness, hardship, darkness, and depression. Just to name a few! Yet he says, “Great is Your faithfulness . . . I will put my hope in You.”Jeremiah understood that across time, from the beginning of the story to the end of the story, God would be faithful to keep His Word to His people.

There are times where I can look back and say, “See how we prayed and God answered our prayers just the way we thought He would.” But there are as many times where I look back and say, “I don’t know what you were doing there Lord, but I know You were faithful. You always are.” Either way, He is faithful.

We prayed for the job and didn’t get it. God is faithful.

We prayed for health and experienced loss. God is faithful.

We prayed desperately for You to change these circumstances. You didn’t. You are faithful.

We prayed for good things; things we believed were Your will. We didn’t see those things come to pass. You are faithful.

I’m thankful His faithfulness is forever; that His mercies never end. Therefore, whether times are good or bad, I will put all my hope in Him. He is faithful to the end of time.

faithful2

 

What I’m Reading This Summer

What I’m Reading This Summer

stack of books

I don’t just read during the summer but something about summer and reading just go together.  So, I thought I’d share with you what I’ve been reading this summer with a few comments and maybe you’ll share with me some of what you’ve been reading this summer.

spiritual warfare for womenI started Leighann McCoy’s book Spiritual Warfare for Women back in the spring but have been using it in preparation for my fall Bible Study called Warrior Up.  It is so good.  I fell in love with Leighann through her stories and have quoted her in a past post.  Spiritual Warfare is real and it serves us well to educate ourselves as to the Enemy’s schemes and God’s powerful triumph.

mended heart

I reviewed Suzanne Eller‘s book The Mended Heart a few weeks back here because of a mutual connection we have with Bible Gateway’s Blogger Grid.  I have since bought several copies to share with women who I know could benefit from it’s relatable content for the hurting heart.  Even as I read the very last page, God spoke to me through The Mended Heart.

citizen

While I traveled to London on a mission trip in early June, I had the opportunity to work with IMB missionary and co-founder and director of the Awaken Movement, Rob Peabody.  Rob had just finished his first book called Citizen which released this month in UK but will release in the States in September.  Rob shared a copy with me to review on my blog closer to the release in September.  I’ll share more about it in September but let me just say, this book was a page-turner.  I underlined so much of this book!

never-eat-aloneI joined an organization called Blogging for Books last month and received my first book for review a couple of weeks ago called Never Eat Alone.  It is a book about networking and building relationships.  To be honest, I practically had an anxiety attack as I read it.  The idea of building relationships with an agenda turns my stomach–which is really funny since that’s what missions is about.  I don’t want you to misunderstand–the book itself is not bad.  It has some really thought-provoking ideas.  The premise just stretches this introvert further than I want to go right now.  With that said, Jared has picked it up and being the extrovert of our relationship has enjoyed it much more.

chasing godJust this week, I picked up Angie Smith‘s book, Chasing God.  I was handed this book at a conference I attended back in November.  While I was there, I met with a publisher at B&H Publishing and had the opportunity to share with her the premise of my own book.  With excitement, she told me I must read Chasing God by Angie Smith.  I was equally excited (meet my friend, Sarcasm) and waited until July to actually pick it up!  No, really…so far it is a great book.  I’ve barely made it through the first chapter and there are sentences that have played over and over in my head.

bible

Finally, (And not because it’s an afterthought), I’ve been reading my Bible.  I’ve been particularly concentrating on the book of Romans this summer.  There are parts of that book that are hard to get through because there is so much theological meat.  But, I’m slowly working through Paul’s words to the Romans about the law and grace.  The Bible never disappoints if we read it with the intent of knowing God more.

What’s on your summer reading list?  What books would you recommend?  What would warn against?  Leave a reply in the comments below.  Happy Reading!

 

 

A Little Oil For An Empty Jar

A Little Oil For An Empty Jar

You never know when you’ll run into a new person–someone you really like.  Debbie Gillingham is someone I met on my trip to London and someone I found charming right away.  Debbie is a believer on a mission in London to reach the lost and make Jesus famous–you know, pretty much what every believer is called to!  Debbie is an amazing worship leader.  You should check out her music and her website here.  I’m thrilled to introduce you to Debbie and give you a glimpse into her heart.

jar

The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.” Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few.  Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.” But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”–2 Kings 4:1-7

I have read this story a number of times, I’ve made notes and highlighted but I never quite got it until I was able to relate to the widow.

Now, I have never, and am likely never to, experience such abject poverty, where my only worldly possession or anything I own of value are a tiny amount of oil (such an insignificant amount that she initially even forgot she had it). Prior to this affliction, the widow probably led a comfortable life. She was married to a man who was one of the prophets.

Picture her living in a quiet suburb with roses in the garden and white picket fence. She is well respected (albeit because of who she is married to) and doesn’t really want for much. Yet, now she was in so much debt, it would cost her the freedom her of sons to reconcile. Picture the white paint chipping off the fence, the garden becoming ever more overgrown, her neighbours gossiping about the state of the house, the garden, her–in abject poverty in a middle class neighbourhood.

Despite my inability to relate to the widow in the physical, my heart can completely relates to her spiritually. This women had lost the love of her life and with him, her security, her hope, her future. Although I have never had to experience the agony of bereavement. I, too, have felt like I lost my security, hope and future.

In her desperation she runs to Elisha for help–a man clearly in close relationship with God.  She is essentially running to God, Himself, for answers. I don’t think for a second that God answered her prayers in the way she wanted or was expecting. In her situation, I would pray for financial provision, expecting someone to slide an envelope full of 20′s under my door.  I would look for answers which required little of me other than approaching God in the first place.  But God had other plans…

She would need to exercise her faith, she would need to operate on little information or understanding as to how collecting 100′s of jars and pouring a tiny amount of oil into them would clear her debt. She has to swallow her pride. A women, respected and wealthy now begging her neighbours for empty jars with no real explanation as to why she needed them! She wasn’t just going to the neighbors to borrow a jar, she needed all they had in the house. I can only imagine the gossip. The widow had to put any embarrassment aside, swallow any ounce of pride in order to be obedient to what was asked of her.

The widow must have focused her eyes on the heavens, overcoming her own anxieties and collected what she could, or dared to. She, with the help of her sons, poured the tiny amount of oil she had into the jars, one by one, filling up every jar. The little oil she had poured endlessly….until….she ran out of jars. The amount of empty vessels she would have would limit the amount of blessing she received.

The bible says

‘… if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonourable, he will be a vessel for honourable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.’ (Timothy 2:21).

We are the vessel for God to work through.

God cannot pour oil into a jar that is already full of honey. He needs an empty vessel. We need to empty ourselves, like the women, forgetting embarrassment, pride and status in order for God to pour abundantly into us. We need faith to keep this cycle continuing. Its not just about getting rid of the stuff that would hinder our walk with God.  We cannot just hoard God’s blessing, we must use it, and be poured out for ‘honourable use’.

If we continue this cycle of collecting, filling and outpouring, we ensure that we are receiving the full blessing He has for us, getting rid of the rubbish that hinders us and being a blessing to others also.

Dear Parents, They Really Are Listening

Dear Parents, They Really Are Listening

My daughter is seven and the girl is no dummy.  Quite the opposite actually.  She understands social cues better than a lot of adults I know.  When her father and I are trying to have a conversation regarding a topic we don’t want her to hear, she quickly picks up on our attempt at subtlety and keenly zones in.  Geez, can we not have a little privacy?!?  But where is that laser focus when it comes to instructions such as cleaning her room or turning off the television?  I have actually questioned whether or not her hearing needs to be checked.

The instances when her hearing seems to be lacking are more frequent than I would like to admit.  And though, I continue to move my lips, I’m uncertain if there is anything really sinking in.  And then she leaves me a note like this.

KA's letter

What?!?  She heard that?  She really heard me every time I told her how special she is?  She heard me speak over her the truth that God has a plan for her? She really heard me?  Wow, she’s really listening!

And then it sinks in…She’s.Really.Listening.  Listening and watching.  That’s a lot of responsibility.  She’s absorbing what it looks like when I say I love Jesus more than I love anyone else.  She’s paying attention to how I treat her daddy and the time I spend in the Word.

She’s listening and learning when I sit beside her and apologize for my unkind words and grumpy attitude.  She’s listening.  It does not escape her notice when she hears her father and I praying for her future spouse and second grade teacher.  She hears us as we speak words of life over her.

She’s listening.  And why would I be surprised?  I’m listening too.  I still listen to the words my parents speak over me.  Their approval still matters and their encouragement speaks volumes.

Oh dear Parent, speak life into your child.  Whether your child is 1 or 100, your words matter.  Speak life over your children.

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.–Proverbs 18:21 (The Message)

That is a sobering verse because my words aren’t always a pleasant fruit.  I don’t always get it right but my failure does not cancel out God’s faithfulness. (Romans 3:3) God is at work in my heart and my child’s heart.  I can depend on Him to use my weaknesses for His glory.  So, today, I have a choice to fill my heart with the life-giving truth of God’s Word.  As I fill my heart with His truth, I can speak life.

…out of the fullness (the overflow, the superabundance) of the heart the mouth speaks.–Matthew 12:34

I speak His life in my children because they are listening.

Question:  What are creative ways you speak life into your children?  How has it been received?

listening

Here’s What’s On Her Mind

Here’s What’s On Her Mind

This post is a little different and I love different.  It’s fun to mix things up.  When I asked Kristin Walker to guest post, she eagerly agreed and chose to write just like she was meeting you, my reader for the first time.  I love that!  Kristin and I have known each other almost since birth.  She’s adorable both inside and out and I know you’ll enjoy what’s on her mind!

Woman-Thinking

Thank you Bobi Ann for asking me to share on your blog this week! Writing is not my thing, so we will see how this goes. A little about me to start off…I’ve been married to my husband Mark for 6 years and we have two little boys. Luke is 4, red hair, blue eyes and fair skin. Jake just turned 2, blonde hair, brown eyes and right now is as tan as can be. It is amazing how different they look! They are quite a reminder every day of God’s creativity.

kristin1

I’m often asked, “Are you done? Don’t you want to try for a girl?” My husband has a “deal” with God, as he puts it, that we don’t “make girls.” We shall see. I just smile and say, “I don’t know. Maybe.” It normally depends on the day I’ve had with my boys. I was promoted (or demoted depending on the day ) to a “Stay at Home Mom” when Jake was born. I served as full-time children’s minister at our church south of Houston for almost 6 years and the first 2.5 years of Luke’s life.

My husband is an engineer and by default was called to children’s ministry as well. I had a pretty long list of “qualities” I wanted in a husband. Some of the tops were love Jesus, love serving, love kids, love sports and love the Baylor Bears! Mark exudes all of these! The Engineer thing wasn’t on my list, but I’m learning. It’s like a specific species or something. After months of praying and talking and praying and talking, we felt the Lord leading us to this new chapter in our story with me being at home. It has its challenges, of course, but I don’t regret it for one second. Some days are long (some really long), but years sure are short!

I have been thinking about what I wanted to share on BA’s blog. Right now we are in the middle of a week of Sports Camp for our kids at church. It’s a mixture of VBS and Sports in the evenings. I am heading up the cheerleading group. I was never a cheerleader. We have 100 plus girls. Enough said. We’ve got swimming lessons, goodbye parties, meals to deliver, extra kids over, orders to be processed for my little business, doctor’s appointments and a trip to get ready for next week. I wish I could say that most of my weeks aren’t like this one, but that would be a lie. It seems like each week is different, yet all are filled with a long to-do/to-go to list. Sometimes these lists are stressful and require immediate attention and other times they aren’t so demanding. I have a hard time slowing down and saying “no.”

Over the last couple of years (since I have been home full-time with my boys) I have struggled with the balance of life. Anyone else out there identify with this? It seems there is never enough time in the day, week for quiet time with Jesus, “me” time, time with my hubby, time with each of my kids, family time, time to serve in our community, time to serve in our church, time with friends, time with those that don’t know Jesus, time to grocery shop, time to….. Ok, you get the point! The sad part is this is actually a very small list compared to what all came to mind!

I would like to say that I have this all figured out–that God sent me a text to tell me exactly how to do this and I have “spreadsheeted” (my husband would be proud) my time each day and week to be mathematically perfect! WRONG! I will say that over the years the Lord has always given me exactly what I needed exactly when I needed it. Here are a few verses I have clung to on various days over the last few months.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:5-9

I will never be perfect or have it all figured out, but God has not asked me to be perfect. If I cling to Him each and every day, He promises to give me power and strength I need.

I am the only mom my kids have and the only wife my husband has. What am I doing with the time I have with them right now? As I go about my day do I impress the things of the Lord upon my children? Do I model them in front of my children?

In the busyness of my days and weeks I strive to lean into the Lord, listen to him and share all of this with my children throughout our days. It is not always easy and often hard. I am thankful I am not alone. I pray you are encouraged and challenged a little today by what’s on my mind.☺

kristin2

My Allegiance Has Changed

My Allegiance Has Changed

flag

As a natural born citizen of the United States of America, I have been raised to take great pride in my citizenship.  My grandmother was a history professor for 41 years and in combination with my mom who holds a Bachelor’s degree in History, the sacrificial road to our freedom and patriotism has not been lost on me.  As a child, our family vacations were not spent at  Disney World, but visiting battleships.  My indoctrination as a citizen of this great land was not taken lightly.

I am proud to be an American.  I have often felt privileged to be born into a nation where so much liberty, so much wealth, so much freedom was available.  I have questioned how I would be so lucky to be born here.  I’ve been touted with our country’s superiority.  I have found identity as an American.  I have bought into the American dream.

I have pledged my allegiance to the United States of America and never questioned if that allegiance was congruent with my citizenship in the Kingdom of the heaven.  I have naively accepted my nationality as my identity and it most certainly is.  Yet, my identity goes far beyond this societal system. There will be a day when God will not ask how well I represented the United States of America.  His concern is how I have made my appeal to a lost world as His ambassador.

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.–2 Corinthians 5:20

As my eyes have been opened and I’ve studied and read for myself the truths found in Scripture, my desire is to opt out of the American dream I once bought into.  I am less concerned for the moral condition of our country and more troubled over the spiritual condition of our churches.  As Christians, we proudly recognize the sacrifice of the military and their families (as well we should) but consider the sacrifice of believers optional and even radical.  How could we possibly make an appeal for Christ when we find our identity as Americans preferable to our identity as Christians?

It begs the question, how do I use my dual-citizenship of the USA and the Kingdom of God to make an appeal for Christ?

Let me suggest that we open our eyes to the lost world around us.  We must be proactive in our approach.  We are not fighting for the return of our country’s moral compass.  We are fighting for souls.  I’m not suggesting you knock down doors or thump people with Bibles.  I’m suggesting we find ways to die to ourselves in order to further the Kingdom.

rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,–Philippians 2:7

Find ways to serve those in your circle of influence.  Think of ways you can give unselfishly of your time and resources not just to starving children in third world countries but to the hurting in your own backyard.

Making an appeal for Jesus as an ambassador means you sacrifice–you find ways to disadvantage yourself in order to gain the advantage to reach souls. Our sacrifice given out of love is the way we demonstrate who Jesus is and what Jesus did.

I am proud to be an American.  I am grateful for those who have gone before of me, who have sacrificed their lives for my liberty.  But I pledge my allegiance first to the only Kingdom that will last.

Question:  What are you thoughts about your allegiance to American vs. your allegiance to Jesus?

See Community Differently

See Community Differently

I met Jenna Lorick at East Texas Baptist University.  She was Jenna Draper then and my college roommate.  Jenna married her college sweetheart about a month before I married mine and we both entered into the crazy, exciting life of a pastor’s wife.  I’m excited for you to hear Jenna’s heart in today’s post.  To read more from Jenna (including her adoption story) you can visit her blog here.

communityCommunity…one of the new buzz words finding it’s way into most Christian circles today. It’s the idea of doing life together. Having community is knowing there is someone there, someone to walk through the hard times and the best of times with you.

To be honest I have had what I like to call “automatic community” for the last 11 years of my life. You see my husband has severed on staff at churches our entire married life. Moving to a new church is like having an automatic new set of friends. Everyone is excited to meet the pastor and his family and there is no shortage of community. I totally took it for granted!

In the summer of 2012, God asked us to make a big change. My husband left the pastorate to serve our state convention as the director or evangelism. This meant moving to a new city and a new house just 8 days before we boarded a plane to Uganda where I would spend the next 6 weeks adopting our precious daughter.

When I finally arrived home on Thanksgiving with our sweet Kenzi girl it was time to unpack the house, celebrate Christmas and New Years and host all of our family and friends who where coming to meet our daughter for the first time.

jennaugandaI remember waking up after all of the craziness and excitement died down and being scared to death. I lived in a new city, my husband had a new job, our kids were at new schools, I wasn’t the pastor’s wife anymore, we didn’t have a home church, and I didn’t have a single friend…so long automatic community.

I was a mess and I wasn’t exactly sure where I fit in anymore. I was frustrated with the Lord and His timing. Why did all of this have to be so crazy? Why couldn’t we have moved AFTER we brought Kenzi home and had some time to settle in as a family 6? I had so many questions.

And then God whispered to my heart…

I did it this way so you would have to trust me more.

That was not exactly the answer I was looking for.

However, slowly I began to trust and lean not on my own understanding. We bonded as a family of 6 and had some of the most precious family moments that we may not have gotten to experience if we had been in a place where we had our automatic community. Our boys bonded with their sister and with each other in ways they had never experienced before. What I started out complaining about, I ended up thanking Him for. His ways really are so good.

Once we felt solid as a new family of 6 it didn’t take long for me to have a longing for community again. I needed a place to belong. I wanted people to do this crazy life of ours with. I began praying that the Lord would help us to find community. Of course when it didn’t happen in my timing I got frustrated with the Lord once again. I read about the community sweet friends of ours had found while they were living in Uganda and I was jealous. I asked the Lord why He had answered my friends prayer for community and not mine. This time the answer was more than a whisper in my heart.

“Are you looking for a community to bless you or are you looking for a community to be a blessing to?”

Ouch! That one stung quite a bit!

I love the way God meets us right where we are. It’s true, I was looking for a community to bless me. I wanted friends to walk through life with ME and to bless MY life. I was not looking for a community where I could serve and be a blessing.

Not long after that God brought two precious ladies into my life. One I met in the parking lot where we pick up our kiddos from school. The other I met at a playdate I decided to crash. God really does work in mysterious ways! We all three had an instant connection and it seemed like we had been friends for years.

My husband encouraged me to start a bible study in my home with these new friends. I was scared. What if they think I am crazy? What if they don’t want to? There is no way we can make it work, we all have kids, how would we even get anything accomplished with all of the kids running around? I had a million excuses. And then I remembered what the Lord had spoken to my heart about being a blessing instead of looking for a blessing.

I set my fears and doubts aside and sent them a text about having a bible study. Almost instantly the reply came back…YES!

jenna's friendsFor 6 months now the three of us have experienced real community as we meet together each Wednesday to study and discuss His word, to pray for one another, to celebrate our triumphs, and hold each others hands through our losses. I have been so blessed by these sweet friends and our times together!

We were made to encourage and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11), to stir one another on to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24), to sharpen one another (Proverbs 27:17), to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and to be encouraged by one another’s faith (Romans 1:12). We were made for community! Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t just look for a community to bless you but look for a community where God can use you to be a blessing…I promise you will still be the one who is blessed! And don’t be surprised if you find that community in some crazy place…like a parking lot!

Question: How has your life been impacted through community?

The Mended Heart–A Book Review

The Mended Heart–A Book Review

The-Mended-HeartIf you a regular follower of my blog, you may feel like I’ve already reviewed The Mending Heart because this is the third mention of the book.  But this is the official review.  I agreed to review The Mended Heart by Suzanne Eller because of our connection through Bible Gateway Blogger Grid.  I thought it would be good experience for me as a blogger and who knows I might enjoy the book.

So, I received my copy of the book in the mail and began reading it.  When I first picked the book up and read through the first chapter or so, I remember telling Jared about it.  “I don’t know if I like this book.  I’m not sure I can connect with the content.”  Regardless, I kept reading and I’m so glad I did.  As I have found is often the case with God, the reason I believe something is placed in my life usually turns into a profoundly different reason that He orchestrated for my good.

I mentioned in a previous post that as I read some of the stories in Eller’s book, I didn’t relate.  I had thoughts like “I haven’t hurt enough.”  “I’m inadequate to minister to others.”  However, during the very week I had such thoughts, I began to experience a new kind of hurt. As I began a season of processing through grief and disappointment, God had already orchestrated that The Mended Heart was in my hand.

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 6.02.55 PMThere are so many truths I have been reminded of in this book.  It is a book I want to share with others that are also dealing with pain whether recent or from their past.  I saw a tweet that summed up my thoughts of this book perfectly! ——————->

This book is worth your time.

Here is one of the many quotes I love from the book

“When we place a value on knowing Christ, rather than thinking that we know everything there is to know about a situation or a person–or even ourselves–we start to see things through the eyes of our heavenly Father.  This knowledge becomes conviction (a set of beliefs), which translates into our character, which changes us and the way we approach life.”

This is the first book I’ve read by this Suzanne Eller and as an author, she does something I love.  She allows the reader in. I finished this book and felt like if I walked up to her, I would hug her neck and call her “Suz” because I know her.  Reading her work made me feel like she knows me.  I made a friend through the writing of Suzanne Eller–she just doesn’t know it yet!  I can’t wait to go back and pick up one of her other books.

You can learn more about Suzanne Eller by clicking here.  If your heart needs healing (no matter the circumstance), I would encourage you to pick up a copy of The Mended Heart.

Question:  What is book that God placed in your hand at just the right time?  I’d love to hear your stories of God’s provision through Christian writing.