Monday, May 19, 2008

The Only Important Desire

I think the best way to be at peace with your life is to realize that it isn't up to you.

If your sole desire is to have a close personal relationship with God, it allows you to stop worrying about how things work out or if you're getting what you want. When you leave it up to God, you achieve freedom.

It's really hard to genuinely submit and trust that He will work everything out in the best possible way, but its the best way to release your heart from pain. He will. He knows best!

May God lead you to your happiness. <3

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Peace in Praise

Psalms 86

Psa 86:11
Teach me your way, O Lord,
and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.

Psa 86:12
I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.

Psa 86:13
For great is your love toward me;
you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.

Psa 86:14
The arrogant are attacking me, O God;
a band of ruthless men seeks my life—
men without regard for you.

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

Psa 86:16
Turn to me and have mercy on me;
grant your strength to your servant
and save your faithful son.

Psa 86:17
Give me a sign of your goodness,
that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
for you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Why Am I Here?

My heart aches for these people, and it aches knowing that I was one of them only a few months ago. I pray that each and every one of them is able to find God and realize that He loves them no matter what they've believed or haven't believed in the past.

I see You everywhere, Pt 2

I'm in awe every single day of the blessings that surround us, and I can't even remember how I was so blind to the things that go on around me. His Holy Spirit is so present in our lives.

My walk in faith has just begun, and as you know if you've been reading from the beginning, hit me like a ton of bricks! I'm not one to be "talked into" anything; as any of my friends would tell you, I'm pretty strong-willed and I need to know every detail before I will consider changing my mind on something.

So as you can imagine, my recent realization of the Lord has come as a shock to not only me, but my friends and my family. Though it's been surprising, I haven't run into any nay-sayers just yet, which I am thankful for, although it wouldn't sway my heart. Even my friends who are non-believers have been incredibly supportive of my newfound relationship with God.

The other day, I was talking to a good friend of mine, who is atheist and up until a couple months ago, we had identical views on spirituality. I was telling her about my baptism, because she wanted to know how it went. I not only told her about how incredible the event itself was, but also how thankful I felt for the series of events that took place: my ex coming to church despite his former protests, the pastor giving the most perfect message, and his heart having changed over that 45 minutes. I told her how I had been praying for him every night and how incredible it was to see my prayers being answered before my eyes. Coincidentally, she and her boyfriend broke up the day of my baptism, and she was having a really hard time with it. She couldn't understand why I seemed so calm and satisfied despite my heartache, but I explained that the salvation of his heart and spirit were much more important to me than our being together, and seeing God breathe life back into him was all I could want. As much as I want to be with him, I know that isn't for me to worry about - getting his heart back in the right place is the first priority, and I know that the Lord will take care of the rest, like in Matthew 6.

Hours later, I got a phone call from her. She had been reading my blog (if you're reading this, Hi! <3) and listening to me talk about the comfort I have found in knowing that God is ultimately leading my life and everything will work out for the best if I look to him rather than to myself. She called me later to tell me that after hearing so much about what has changed in me recently, it made her wonder if something was missing in her heart too. She wanted to know what I know that makes me feel so at peace with my life. And she wanted a "favor" (girl, you're crazy, it's my pleasure!): she wanted me to take her with me to church a few times, and she wants to go in with an open heart and open mind and see how she feels about everything. I can't begin to describe the feeling of knowing I touched someone to a point of possibly softening their heart to God as well. Truly incredible. I called my best friend (who baptized me by the way, what a meaningful way to be reborn!) to tell him and we were both so filled with joy and awe at the way He works. I also told my ex-boyfriend (I'll call him S from now on), who responded with, "Wow, you are being used by God left and right." Wow is right!

During another conversation, my best friend (who was raised in a very Christian home and has always been deeply faithful) told me that my faith in the Lord has strengthened his own in a powerful way, which I couldn't understand. He told me that he sees me as such a strong, independent person who doesn't accept anything as truth without extensive knowledge of the subject. So seeing me become so strong in faith has given new life to his own faith... somewhere along the lines of, "if even she believes it, it MUST be true!" (You're silly.) That's probably one of the sweetest things I've been told before. What an amazing compliment!

Weeks ago I surrendered my heart to his work and have let him guide me in what I do, and already he has used me to make an impact on those around me that I love so much and care so much about. How exciting it is to be truly filled with His love and sharing it with others!

Lord, all of my thanks and praise go to You and only You! You are incredible beyond words and You alone are worthy of my praise and gratitude. I am so grateful for Your love and devotion and the abundance of blessings you've given me. I am your servant! Please continue to guide me, Lord, in demonstrating to others the love that You give to us and in living in your example. Please continue to shine your blessed light on those who are in the midst of night, so they can be awakened with your Spirit again. Keep us safe and protected in Your love and mercy. Amen.

Friday, May 16, 2008

I see You everywhere, Pt 1

The acceptance of God into my life has made a considerable change on how I view the world and my experiences. Even my friends who haven't acknowledged His truth have seen this in me.

Its really incredible to think that only a few months ago, the same things could have happened to me and I would have written them off as happenstance. My realization that the Lord is behind each and every moment of my life has opened my eyes to everything He is doing with me and around me.

Friday marked the end of a relationship that I wasn't happy in for awhile, but I was patient with. I had been praying constantly on it, because my gut instinct told me that I needed to end it to be happy. But every prayer was answered with a very clear response; wait, give it time. So I kept pleading with God to help him find happiness and fulfillment in His love, and to open his heart the way that He opened mine. I asked God to speak clearly enough to him because I knew he couldn't hear Him anymore. I couldn't get him to come to church with me, and I believed that might be the first step in the process of living with the Lord again. When he came over Friday night to break up with me, I told him about all the things I'd been praying for, and that this didn't feel right. This wasn't the answer I kept getting. He told me sometimes our prayers are answered in ways we don't expect or want. I was crushed.

Two days went by without contacting each other. Sunday night was my baptism, and I had hoped he would come. I sent him the address and time, just in case, but didn't expect his appearance. Just as the service was starting, I got a message from him that he was there.

The service began, and the message was centered around how sometimes we can become dead, dry, and empty. He told us that sometimes it feels as though there is no hope for us, and no salvation. But the Lord can breathe His life into us and make us new again. He referenced the Valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37.

Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.'" - Ezekiel 37:4

"Then you, my people. will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land." - Ezekiel 37:13-14

As much as this service was a celebration of the death of my old self and the birth of my new life with Christ, I sat listening to Isaac's words and thanking God over and over again for having brought my (now ex) boyfriend to church, and for giving to him a sermon that he needed to hear more than anything. I felt so overwhelmed with joy and gratitude in the Lord for answering my prayers that I could hardly contain my smile during the whole service. I say it today and for the rest of my life, God is truly amazing! And since then, his heart seems to have softened to God's grace and he has brought Him back into his life, and has committed to living fully in His word.

He told me very early on in our relationship that as much as he cared about me as his girlfriend, my spirit was most important to him because that was eternal, and our relationship was worldly. I didn't understand fully what that meant, but knew it was a good thing. As our relationship grew, so did my spirit, which is how I have come to where I am today. Through our breakup and the deliverance of his Spirit back into the arms of the Lord, I can easily say that I understand exactly what he meant then, and that I care more about his Spirit than about our worldly relationship too. I love him and I want to be with him, and if it is God's will, we will be together again when his heart is fully restored and renewed in Christ. But as of now, the most important thing to me is supporting him and encouraging him on his journey returning to the Lord, and I pray that I am as helpful to him as he has been to me.

It is an indescribable feeling when you pray so hard for something and you realize that God has heard you, and you can clearly see his response right in front of you. I knew God wasn't going to let him go, and it is such a blessing to be able to witness the remarkable change in his heart.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

You watch over me in the deepest valleys.

I'm in a deep valley. I know the Lord is here watching out for me, but I hope He can find me down here.

Friday, May 9, 2008

An Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters

Mike shared this with us during last Sunday's message, and it really stuck with me.


by Portia Nelson


I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost ... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place
but, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.


I walk down another street.

Life is all about choices.

When we learn from our mistakes, we can choose a different path.

Being a Christian doesn't mean being a perfect person. A Christian is someone who has decided to entrust his or her life to Jesus Christ. A Christian trusts Christ for forgiveness of sin, a right standing before God, and guidance in life. As a rule, as human beings, we cannot be perfect. We were born as flesh, and in order to live with God we need to die of the flesh and be reborn to the Holy Spirit that lives within us. This is what it means to be baptized, and I'm very excited to say that I am being baptized this Sunday. I haven't been this excited about something in a long time, and I can't wait to publicly celebrate my new life for and with the Lord.

John 3:3-7 Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." 4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?" 5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 "Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'

We are all born as humans, but only when our hearts and spirits are with the Lord can we be born as the Spirit. The only perfect person was Jesus, who was both human and the Lord here on earth. While we can never expect to be as perfect and holy as God, we can live by His example and make our decisions based on honoring Him, not fulfilling our worldly desires. To live by Christ's word is to be selfless, not selfish. He taught us to be kind, loving, honest, generous, and forgiving.

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" - (Matthew 5:38-47)

Every single day, we are confronted with choices. Of course it's tempting to choose the one that is selfish, simple, easy, and immediately fulfilling. As humans, we are prone to picking the easy route; the one that will benefit us. The other choice is almost always more trying, more difficult, and more Godly. God shows us unfaltering love, devotion, and forgiveness. Why shouldn't we honor Him by doing the same for each other? We learned from Jesus to put others before ourselves, but our culture dictates that we should live "every man for himself." Though the easy choice might be instantly satisfying to ourselves, it rarely honors God or satiates us for long. When we live for ourselves, we never experience true joy. Real joy comes from living for God, and doing his work.

During the baptism class I went to on Wednesday, the teacher was talking about how living for God doesn't necessarily mean "doing good." Many times, we can go through the motions of doing good deeds, but if we do them to fulfill our desire to feel good about ourselves, these actions aren't honoring God; only ourselves. He was telling us how he was volunteering with an organization to build houses, and was feeling good until his co-workers showed up, and it turned out that day was the day where they had developmentally handicapped people working on the house. His good feeling quickly turned to frustration and irritation, because now the hard work became hard work and trying to teach/help out someone else, who was having a hard time, in their own job as well. He was trying to help a man with cerebral palsy use a table saw. God spoke to him, and hit him with a "two by four," as he put it. He asked him how he could possibly look down on these people, who although disabled, would spend their day trying to help someone else. Not only were they working through their adversity to help another, but they were getting immense joy from it. He told him that maybe, just maybe, he may get to be one of those people one day - one who, no matter how big of a struggle it is, puts others before themselves and gains more joy from that than anything else. He told him those were "his people."

Every day, we are given the opportunity to either live for ourselves, or live for others and most importantly God. Jesus demonstrated a servant's heart, and the way to be truly enlightened and fulfilled is to find joy in living by His example. This isn't to say we make the choice and we are finished. Living with the Lord is a journey, not a destination. It is a lifelong effort of the spirit to be as close to Him as possible.

Lord, it is so easy sometimes to feel like I should be putting myself first, because that is what I see around me and it seems like the only way to save myself from being hurt. But I know that is not how you lived or what you want from me, and I am so thankful for the kind and generous heart you blessed me with. Lord, Strengthen my heart so I may continue to give to him who asks of me, to go two miles when forced to go one, and to love and pray for those who may not love and pray for me, because I know that is your way. I am devoting my heart to you, and surrendering myself. Please continue to guide me, I'm listening. Let your love rain down on he who is lacking love for himself, shine your light on his darkness. Thank you Lord for selflessly sacrificing your own to absolve us of our own selfish acts. Forgive me for the things I am lacking and help me to see where I can do better for you. Amen.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Protect, Trust, Hope, and Persevere

I keep finding myself back at this place, where the struggle between my boyfriend and I is so great that I question why it is that I'm still here. I know the easy road would be to turn away and cut ties. The difficult one is the one I keep choosing, though. My gut keeps telling me to break up with him and move on, because it isn't good and I deserve more than what I'm getting. But I keep praying to God for him to get through the rough time he's having and for the strength to be here to support him if that's what I need to do. I keep asking God what I should do; if I should leave him and move on, because it sure feels like it. Despite the feeling in my head, I keep getting the response that I need to give it time, and that I need to wait. Going against the Lord's wishes never got anyone anywhere.

So I am here, fighting for us. I do it because I know deep down he's a one in a million, and because I know he's capable of the kind of love I have searched for. I know he has all the key components that I've wanted in a mate. I know when I met him he made me feel validated in who I am, and important, and smart, and beautiful. And above all else, he opened my heart and led me to God. He's changed my life. I think there is something much deeper going on here than a brief dating relationship.

A large part of our conflict I think is due to the struggles he is having in his own life. Although it is so hard sometimes, I can't justify leaving in his time of need. A lot of the time now I don't feel all those things that he made me feel originally. But I want to believe that this is a rough stretch and that we'll get through it. I want to believe that if I was having a hard time, he would stick around and be supportive of me, too. I think love can save a person. And I love him, even when I don't like him.

I'm reminding myself of this verse from Corinthians.

1Cr 13:4

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

1Cr 13:5

It is not rude, it is not self‑seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

1Cr 13:6

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

1Cr 13:7

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1Cr 13:8

Love never fails.

Lord, please let my love never fail. Let it protect us and not lose hope for us. Help me to see clearly what we can do to strengthen our bond and heal our relationship. Help us to love each other as much like You love us as we can. Please remind him of how much You love him, so he can love himself again. Restore our hearts for you and for each other. Amen.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Piece of Rope from the Lord

I've been having a real struggle lately in my relationship. I see all these positive things around me that are changing for the better: most importantly my new faith, my new job, new friends... but the past few weeks it's felt as though the one major negative thing in my life was my relationship with my boyfriend.

Things started to go downhill, and as soon as I saw them changing from the previously dream-like state that they were, I started to worry, and voiced my concerns. I knew that what I was saying was going to be construed as nagging or whining, but when I wouldn't say anything I would only feel worse. It wasn't doing any good to talk about them though, because it invariably turned into an argument with no end, and the result was never a positive resolution but only more frustration on both sides and increased distance between us.

One thing he kept saying to me was, "relax, just relax." But being told to "calm down" when you don't feel like you're stressed out is a really quick and easy way to make someone very angry, very quickly. And of course I would say, "I AM relaxed, I just don't feel good about ______ right now." And on and on we'd go, in circles.

So although things have seemed to get a lot better lately, I think it was really only on a surface level, because as I was trying to explain to him, there's a level of trust in our relationship that's missing in me right now. To which, of course, he kept saying, "just relax." (Arrggghhh!!!)

Finally, after literally 2 hours of arguing back and forth about how the issue wasn't my "relaxing" but the fact that some days I feel loved and some days I don't, he explained himself. He told me he was at church once, where he really hadn't felt like being at the time. The pastor was going to pray for him, and was asking God for any message that he might need to hear. After a few minutes of prayer, the pastor asked him to put out his hands, palms face up, and started shaking them, saying "relax," over and over. Initially this irritated him (it was something his dad had been saying to him for a long time when he would be upset or disappointed with how his life was going, which he responded to identically to how I have been the past few weeks), but the pastor just kept repeating over and over, "relax," as he shook his hands.

It occured to him, after about 15 minutes of this, that what he was trying to get him to do was submit himself to the Lord, and stop trying to be in control of everything. It's so easy for us to believe that as long as we retain a hold on any situation, we can control where it's going to go and how it's going to happen. In reality, we are never going to "be the boss" - God is the boss, and what it really boils down to is that it's always going to be up to Him. Like quicksand, we can either struggle against it (and sink fast), or we can relax and hang out there, because eventually God is going to come along with a branch or a piece of rope and pull us out.

So now here we were, having just argued our faces off, but it all made sense to me all of a sudden. I just need to submit myself to letting things happen. I care about my boyfriend and I show him in certain ways. He cares about me, and he'll show me in his ways too. But those ways aren't going to happen if I keep trying to direct the situation; I have to start just being, to allow him to show me the way he wants to show me. And ultimately, we both need to relax and let our guard down, so that God can lead us in the direction that He sees for us. If we don't relax and let our guard down and start listening to Him, we'll never hear what God wants to tell us.

And after our 3 hour phone call had to come to a close so that I could go to bed and he could get back to work, he left me with Matthew 6; a perfect lesson in God's branch. We need not worry about anything but our own faith in Him, and He will provide for us all that we need.

Mat 6:25

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

Mat 6:26

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 than they?

Mat 6:27

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[fn2]?

Mat 6:28

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.

Mat 6:29

Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

Mat 6:30

If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Mat 6:31

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

Mat 6:32

For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

Mat 6:33

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Mat 6:34

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

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