Monday, December 08, 2008

I'll Trust You in Canaan, but Not in Egypt

Have you ever noticed that it's easier to trust God with some things than with others? For example, if you've ever talked with someone who is considering a move, it's quite common to hear them talk about how much they have been praying about the decision and that they are sure God will show them where they need to be. On some level, they trust that God can see the future and that He knows which local would be best for them even though they may not understand the reason.

Now, think about a situation that's a little more out of your control. For me, one of the first things that pops into my mind is singing up front. Oh man, if you want to make me nervous - that's a sure fire way to do it. I get all shaky and my voice starts to give out before I go up front. I can feel the adrenaline pumping and I just know something awful is going to happen. If nothing else I am just positive that I am going to be completely flat and totally miss that high note. "Oh, Lord, keep me calm." I pray. Keep me calm . . . that's it? I don't ask God to provide and give me a strong voice? I don't trust that at the end I will have completed the song in such a way that brings glory and honor to Him? When I'm done, I exit the stage accepting any compliments as an obligated expression of encouragement. Where is the trust?

In Genesis 12 Abram falls into this same trap that I often find myself in. He trusted God's covenant promise that his descendants would have the land of Canaan. He trusted so much that he immediately built an alter thanking God for the blessings that he beleivedwould come (v. 7). Yet, when it was time for Abram to go to Egypt he could not trust that God would protect him.

It seems that Abram trusted God in the things he could not see, the things he could do little about. There was no way Abram could march in to Canaan and conquer it. And to be quite honest, I don't know that it would have been the end of the world in the mind of Abram if he never possessed Canaan. It was easy for Abram to step back and take God at His word.

However, when it came to Sarai in Egypt, I can't help but wonder if Abram even thought to seek protection from the Lord. He didn't need to. He had his own tools and methods for dealing with this issue. He could take care of it on his own. Yet mans ways are not the same as the ways of the Lord.

I pray that God will help me to learn from Abram's mistakes. May I learn to turn to God first rather than trusting my own methods as far as they will reach. May I learn to ALWAYS have faith even when things don't seem to be going as I think they should, even when I'm not in control - especially then.

What about you? Do you need to trust God more?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fruit of the Spirit and Dry Noses




The fruit of the spirit is . . . My guess is that you can probably fill in at least one or two words such as patience or joy to follow this statement. Many of us know what a Christian is "supposed" to look like. We often struggle to do or say the right things. Have you ever considered the fact that we could be wrong?

I'm not saying that the fruits, the things mentioned in God's Word, are wrong. Rather, our methodology for obtaining these things could be a bit skewed. I'll use myself as a prime example here. Anyone who knows me knows that I struggle with patience. I want everything yesterday. I hate waiting for most things and am simply ready to get going. When I read God's Word I clearly see His calling to be patient. Texts like "Wait for the Lord. . ." Psalm 27:14. Or even the passage mentioned above often poke me, letting me know that something's got to give in my life.

So, I strive. I try really hard to be patient. I want God to work in my life. I want to be filled with the fruit of the spirit. I may even pray, "Lord, help me to be patient." I struggle through the battle ever a defeated foe.

STOP



There is something not right here. Another way of saying "fruit of the spirit" is saying the evidence that the Holy Spirit, God, is living and working in my life. It's kind of like with cats. When I was growing up I was always told that a healthy cat has a wet nose. I can picture myself walking up to P.J. (my childhood pet) and feeling her nose. Upon discovering that it is dry, I quickly go to the sink to get my hands all wet. Then, I rub the water all over her nose. There - now her nose is wet. She must be a healthy cat.

Therefore, if I recognize that I am a bit too impatient, or that I'm lacking in joy or peace rather than trying to muster up these characteristics, I need to be sent to my knees. A lack of patience is a sign that something else is wrong. It is a symptom of a larger problem. I need to take time in Gods Word, in prayer and in deep communion with Him. Only He can fix my dry nose and make it wet for good. Only allowing the Holy Spirit to truly dwell in my life will produce the kind of fruit that comes only from close connection with Him.

God's still working on me. There is a long way to go, but I pray that each day I may live in Him more and that I will allow Him to fill me more deeply with His Holy Spirit.

"Being confidant of this, that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ" Philippians 1:6

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Heart of Christmas




Do we really NEED more stuff for Christmas? Why not send out a wish list with items like health, food, water and security. ADRA's really useful gift catalog has all sorts of specific ideas with prices ranging from $5 to $500.

May we take advantage of this opportunity to give in Jesus name!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Simplifying My Heart

Simplifying. This is a word I've heard a lot lately from the camp meeting I attended recently, to blogs I like to read, to conversations with friends. Simplicity - It's a concept that I have a hard time putting into practice, yet God is teaching me so much!

Through a huge turn of events that I may be sharing with you soon, God has brought me back to His Word in a big way. He is teaching me to simplify my heart. He is teaching me two key principles in this process.

#1 - Spending time with God and taking opportunities to have candid conversations with Him is key to simplifying my life. I must serve God, not my schedule or expectations (Matthew 6:24). For me this has meant taking a few extra hours out a few days this week to be with God, even though that meant the house was cluttered most of the week - but oh, how freeing to sit at Jesus' feet!

#2 - Connecting with people and caring about them. How often I fail to connect with God's children because I'm too worried about my house being messy or about the to do list sitting on my counter. Jesus died for people, and they must rise to the top of my priority list. When I take time to really listen to others, it's amazing how my heart opens and my stress level dies. The focus shifts from me and my trials to others. It's a great feeling.

These two discoveries are making all the difference in the world. I feel so free.

Find out how others are simplifying on Living Simply Saturday.

Monday, August 25, 2008

40-day Fast


As Arlen and I have been talking lately and realizing our need for simplification, we have also realized how confused we really are. We read books and listen to sermons. It seems like everyone has a message, but they don't always agree.

Who is right? What should we believe? We can't even explain some of the truths we hold dear.

In his first letter, Peter says this:

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." ~ 1 Peter 3:15


It seems like I constantly have so many questions, and rather than taking the time required to seek out God's truths in His word I look for an easier answer. This is not what God has called us to. So often He speaks of persistence in coming to Him.

Arlen and I have decided to take a 40 day fast. We are not fasting from food. Rather we are taking 40 days apart when our only guide, the only influence we seek, is that of God's Word and the Holy Spirit. We will not read anything other than the Bible for 40 days.

For Arlen, this means searching God's word for business advice and principles. For me, it means going to God for answers on parenting and what it means to be a woman. For both of us, we must face God and discover how to truly draw near to Him.

We picked 40 days because that is the amount of time Jesus spent in the desert before His public ministry. We thought we would start by following Christ's example from the beginning.

Why am I telling you all this? First of all, I want to share with you the lessons I am learning as I drink deeply from the words of life. Secondly, because I want you to join us on this journey. Put away watching TV or reading books, blogs, or magazines that are a substitute for real spiritual meat, and take all the time you would be putting into those things to turn to the Bible.

If you want to take this challenge, feel free to leave a comment below along with the date you are starting the challenge, and we will pray for you as you embark on your journey.

May God bless you.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

It's Like Cancer


I have been wanting to post for quite some time now, but have not been able to because things have been so busy and haywire. It's nice to have a little spare time to sit and write.

As you know from an earlier post, Arlen and I recently took a trip to Maryland for a wedding. It was a great trip, and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. There is one thing in particular, however, that really sticks out in my mind.

When we went to church on Sabbath, we ran into Arlen's aunt and uncle. Before I go on, I need to give you a little background. A while back, Arlen's aunt was diagnosed with stage four cancer - I think it was ovarian cancer. This was bad news. The Lord has really blessed though, and against all odds, she is now cancer free.

As I sat beside her at church, an announcement was made about a church member who was diagnosed with cancer. Immediately Arlen's aunt leaned over and began to tell me about her cancer experience. Then she told me about a supplament she began taking early on in her diagnosis. She told me how the supplement greatly reduced the side effects of the chemotherapy. She explained how the doctors were completely amazed at the positive results of her condition and they could not figure it out. She was sure God had given her this supplement and that it made all the difference.

She then went on to explain how saddened she was by others she had seen suffering who weren't even willing to try the very thing that healed her. She explained that it is safe - it is a whole food supplement. She even told me that if someone who takes this miracle cure sees no improvement in six months, their money is completely refunded. She had given people tubs of this stuff, and when they died from cancer and their homes were cleaned out, the containers were completely unopened. She just couldn't understand how someone facing death couldn't try it - what did they have to lose? She knew it wouldn't work for everyone, but wasn't it worth a try?

Before the day was over, she gave me a book explaining the science behind this supplement. Then she gave me more books to give to people I knew who might benefit from it. This product saved her life, and she knew it could save more - she was going to do everything in her power to see that it would save more.

Wow! This all struck me. This is the situation our world is in! We are all sick with the most deadly disease: sin. But Jesus is THE cure. He's far better than the cure Arlen's aunt found because He CAN save everyone from sin - no exceptions. Yet how often do we get excited about this cure? How often are we eager to share it with those around us?

When we share Jesus with others, it's true, some people will put Him on a shelf and leave Him there unopened. We can't let that discourage us. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. Why don't we urge people to give Him a try, to let Him into their hearts? What do they have to loose? What do we have to loose?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Writer's Block

Why is it that I have a steady stream of things to write and share, yet when I sit in front of the computer, it's like my brain has a traffic jam?

Is that what writer's block is all about?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Going on a Road Trip . . . Sort of

That's right in just a few hours (hopefully fewer), Arlen and I are headed out for a trip to Maryland. His best childhood friend is getting married, and we want to be there for the big event.

Of course, a road trip to Maryland means nine hours in the car today, and nine hours in the car on Sunday. And you know what - we can't wait!

Pray that God will bless this time as an opportunity to lay aside all of our usual distractions so that we can spend time in prayer and reflection and ultimately focus on Him.

Here we go, 18 hours of quality time with my husband and my Lord, what could be better than that?!

Image by: Ian Britton at Freefoto.com

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Faith and Expectations

It seems that I'm frequently stuck in a spot where I am disappointed. Expectations are set and often unreached.

Today the lingering question that has been on my mind is this:

Are my expectations too high, or is my faith too weak?

Am I putting my hope, my strength, my trust in myself and what I am capable of doing, or am I trusting in God and what He can do?

He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you.
~ Luke 17:6

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
~ Matthew 19:26

Friday, July 18, 2008

Moving in Faith

Wow, it's been a while since I have posted.

Things have been busy here at the Byrd household. Most days my house is filled with the laughter of children from our church. I am offering childcare to a few children every day. It is a lot of fun, but a lot of work.

I am still involved with Junior's Sabbath School at the church and have recently taken on the task of writing the curriculum. It's tough to keep up with, but I try to stay at least two weeks ahead. I am enjoying it, and the kids seem to be liking it too. Pray that God will continue to work on their hearts as they develop a deeper love for Him and His Word.

The next few weeks are busy as we will have more kids in the house, a rafting trip, a wedding to attend in Maryland, and new kittens coming again soon.

As I look at my life and the times we are in, I can't help but think that Jesus is coming soon. While He will come like a thief in the night, I want to be prepared. As I ponder that thought, I become increasingly aware of my lack of faith, of my impatience and tendency to plow ahead with my own notions of what I should be doing, rather than waiting on the Lord. I pray for the faith of those like Daniel, Caleb, Joshua, Stephen and of course Jesus. I tend to allow the persuasions of the world around me to get me down or I become wavering and cowardly, but I pray that God will give me the strength and the faith to believe and follow Him 100% no matter the cost.

"Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus." ~Revelation 14:12

"I have the LORD always before me:
because He is at my right hand,
I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad,
and my soul rejoiceth:
my flesh also shall rest in hope."

~Psalm 16:8-9


I pray that you are all doing well, and that God is working mightily in your lives as well!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Do Not Be Afraid

When I really studied Jeremiah for the first time, it was while I was taking a parenting class at Southern. As I took the class and continued to study, it became clear to me that when studied from the perspective of God as the Father and Israel as His children, there is no better parenting guide anywhere.

Seeing as I have been working with children so much more lately, I decided to re-read the book of Jeremiah. What a blessing it will bring.

I started today and I just wanted to share a couple passages - it's packed.

"But the Lord said to me, 'Do not say, "I am a youth," because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you,' declares the Lord." Jeremiah 1:7-8

"They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you," declares the Lord." Jeremiah 1:19


What amazing promises! I love the promise that God makes in verse 8 - "Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you, to deliver you." It seems that God makes this promise again and again to all who are willing to do His will. Abraham, Issac, Jacob, and Joshua just to name a few. If we are following God and are striving to do His will, we have no reason to fear.

Verse 19 really brings this home to me more. God is telling the people that they will have enemies fighting against them, but He encourages them to have faith, for He will deliver them. It is during the storms of life that the deliverance of God is hard to believe, yet we cannot forget that He "...will never leave [us] or forsake [us]." Deuteronomy 31:8

So for today, be bold, be courageous, for the Lord is with you.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Our Trip in Pictures

We just got back from a great weekend away. We were able to spend a lot of time enjoying God's creation. Here are some pictures from our Olive Garden meal (compliments of Arlen's parents), a trip to Parrot Mountain and a visit to the Smokey Mountain National park.

Olive Garden





Parrot Mountain



















Smokey Mountain National Park













Thursday, May 08, 2008

Vacation Time

Woo Hoo! In just a couple of hours Arlen and I are leaving for a long weekend getaway. Our anniversary is coming up (2 years on the 14th) and it's about time we get a little R&R.

We were planning on backpacking (due to free lodging costs), but my parents were able to get us a really nice 2 bedroom suite (complete with kitchen and all) at a resort near Gatlinburg. They have timeshare on a point system and aren't going to be able to use up all their points, so they're sharing with us! Thanks guys! The place looks great!

We are looking forward to a weekend with no computers, no work, no nothing - just me, Arlen and God! Yay.

I'll post pictures when we get back!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Why so many rules?

Image by: Ian Britton at freefoto.com

I know one thing our society today struggles with: rules and authority.

It seems we are always trying to find ways to bend the rules, or we'll push things as far as we can without getting in trouble. "If I only drive 5mph over the speed limit I won't be pulled over." "Everyone else is doing it and they're not getting in trouble, so that must not be a rule they enforce."

I am typically a rule-follower, but I tend to do it with much griping and complaining if I don't understand the rule or if I don't agree with the decisions made by those in authority. I sometimes even take the attitude - If I were in charge, I would do it this way.

While I do need to learn to respect authority and rules that do not contradict God's laws (Romans 13:1). I can rest in the strength of God's laws. Don't get me wrong I still struggle with these sometimes. As I was reading in Deuteronomy 6 this morning I learned a few things though.

I know so many people who see God as this mean authoritarian, but that's not at all true. So, why does God give us so many laws and commands?

The first answer is because He wants us to do them (v 1). This may seem kind of obvious, but I know that so many times I read God's word and think about what He's calling me to do . . . and it ends there. He wants us to be doers of the word and not merely hearers (James 1:22). Of course, we must remember that it is only by His strength that we can do this, but He longs for us to do His commands.

The second reason God wants us to keep His commands is so that all "may be well with you" (v 3). God gives us His rules for our good. Think of it this way. Why do you tell your 3 year old not to put her hand on the stove? Probably because it could be hot and by putting her hand on it she could burn herself very badly. This is a rule or law that you've given her out of love - to protect her. If she puts her hand on the burner will you love her any less? No, but she will have a pretty serious burn, and possibly some scars from her choices. That's just the way it is with God. His rules are for our happiness and continual growth in Him.

It is my prayer today that I may not be grouchy and skimp on God's rules, but that I may follow them with a joyful heart!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Faithful in the BIG - Faithful in the little

This is one of the ways I'm learning to be faithful in the little things.

I'm really excited about all of the things God is teaching me. I've been eagerly working on Joshua's House a lot this week. As I've been working, I realize that so much more is possible than I ever thought.

You see, I have this problem. I get this big, huge, massive idea in my mind and then I go for it. Sometimes these are high ideals to live up to, sometimes they are programs I want to start, or projects I get myself into. The problem is that I push myself so hard and am not content with anything less than the finished product.

For example. I am excited about producing a Christian website for kids with all sorts of usability worked out, an awesome design, lots of features, the whole nine yards. I have all of these great resources I've been sitting on, waiting for a large sum of money, or a kind volunteer who would be willing to make the website a reality. Why? Why am I just sitting there? I can make a website now. It may not be ideal, but I must be faithful in the little things, right? Does this mean my dream should die? No! But it means I should be more willing to take tiny steps to get there rather than taking one giant leap.

I often do this in my Spiritual life as well. I expect to be transformed all at once, and I forget that it's the work of a lifetime. Just like the story of the servants who were give talents when the master left, I want to be faithful with what I have now - big or small.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

"Be Thou Thyself the Answer to All My Questionings"

Questions. Many, many questions. My mind has been flooded with nothing but questions. I am at a place of being quite unsure in life. What is my role? Where should my time be invested? What does it mean to be a good wife? Of all the needs I recognize in this world, which ones should I pursue, and what roles is God calling others to, and asking that I simply pray for? How do I relate to people? What should an average day look like? How should I relate to others? When should I be solitary, and when should I be social? And the questions continue to flow from my mind in a meandering stream.

It seems like nothing is quite sure right now. Even my relationship with God. I know there is something missing. There is a broken link in the connection, but what? How do I fix it? Where is it broken? What is my next step? Where do I go from here? Am I doing too much? Am I doing enough?

One of my favorite passages, Proverbs 3:5-6 says this:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths."


Does my problem lie with a lack of trust? Do I lean on my own understanding? If so, how do I trust more? How do I silence my own understanding?

Where do I go from here?

Title taken from lyrics of the hymn "Live Out Thy Life Within Me"

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Finding Peace in Discipline

I'm learning that an old dog can learn new tricks. God has been teaching me discipline over the past few days. I think I'm actually learning now too. There are many times I have to totally surrender my will to God's and depend on Him to help me do what I know I should do, but don't really want to. It's quite amazing. I often find that once I really get into the undesired task at hand it's not nearly as bad as I thought it was.

The coolest thing is that I have been filled with so much more joy! The joy doesn't come from all of the things I've gotten done (even though it's Wednesday, and I have accomplished more than I typically do in a whole week). I find that the guilt I used to be bogged down with from not doing what I should, or feeling guilty because I hadn't accomplished the task I set out to do is gone. I don't always get everything done, but I know that I am doing my best, and that I am living in God's will, and that's a wonderful place to be!

I have enjoyed reading John 14:15-31. It goes right along with what I'm learning. I will leave you with one of my favorite parts.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. ~John 14:27

Sunday, April 20, 2008

New Every Morning

Today I took the reigns. When I had a chance (time scheduled to spend with God), I did other things and continued on my way. I allowed the burdens of this world to crush my soul and discourage me. I listened to the chastisements of the Tempter. But by God's grace, I returned to Him, and this is where He led me:

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;

it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.

Lamentations 3:22-26

How thankful I am that we have a compassionate Savior. How unworthy I am to receive His grace. How blessed I am to be called His child.

Thank You Lord, for never giving up on me!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

More Time With Thee O Lord

Image by: Ian Britton at freefoto.com

There is so much that God is teaching me right now that it's rather difficult to know what to write about. I guess that's why blogging is so great. I forces me to slow down and process one thought, one lesson at a time.

I think right now, I am going to share with you two quotes from the book I'm reading. Before I get started though, it's just amazing to me how many things in this book have been so on target with the things God has been teaching me over the years in my life. It is quite astounding actually.

That being said, here's quote number one:

These are lessons that only he who himself has learned can teach. It is because so many parents and teachers profess to believe the word of God while their lives deny its power, that the teaching of Scripture has no greater effect upon the youth. -p.259


This is the whole push behind Joshua's House. It is so important that children are raised from a young age, with a love for God. It is crucial that they learn to have a deep and intimate relationship with Him. Knowing all the right things simply isn't enough. Yet how are the children supposed to learn when few adults have this relationship with Christ themselves?

'Come and hear the message that has come from the LORD.' My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. - Ezekiel 33:30-32


I pray that I may be a doer of the word and not merely a hearer. Listening to God's word, hearing His voice is not enough. As I teach children and work with them, my responsibility is great. I cannot teach them to have a relationship with Christ if I do not know Him myself.

After reading this, I could not help but ask myself - do I have this deep relationship with God? Do I have something to share with them, or am I merely passing along information? As I questioned, another paragraph in my reading caused me to probe even deeper:

Many, even in their seasons of devotion, fail of receiving the blessing of real communion with God. They are in too great haste. With hurried steps they press through the circle of Christ's loving presence, pausing perhaps a moment within the sacred precincts, but not waiting for counsel. They have no time to remain with the divine Teacher. With their burdens they return to their work. -p. 260


Wow - that is totally me. It hit the nail right on the head! Why do I constantly fret and worry? Why do I stress out? Why do I continually struggle to lay my burdens at the feet of Jesus? It's because I do not spend enough time with Him.

Oh Lord, help me to spend more time with you each and every day. Help me to wait for Your council. Help me to know You.

Here is another passage to ponder.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Woman of Proverbs 31

Last night as I was spending time with God, I decided to study one of the women of the Bible. In my study, God led me to Proverbs 31. If you are a female, just bringing up this figure most likely elicits one of two responses.

Response #1: You are squirming with discomfort. The woman of Proverbs 31 is too much to look up to. When does she sleep? Can someone possibly do that much? She must be Superwoman. If I just ignore she exists, my life will be much happier.

Response #2: The Proverbs 31 woman - now she is someone to look up to, someone I strive to be like. And then you make a list of all of the tasks she has accomplished and plan to be just like her.

Those may not be 100% accurate, but I have to admit that I frequently jump between the two responses. Yet, as I studied last night, God taught me a few things.

Point #1: Jesus is our ultimate example. While the Proverbs 31 woman is pretty cool, and we can learn a lot from her, we must never place her example above God's example.

Point #3: It's in the principles. Just as with most Biblical characters and stories, God often chooses to teach us principles. There are many in the Bible whom God specifically called to follow Him. Yet when the healed demoniac asked to follow Jesus, he was told to stay where he was and tell others about how he was healed. Yet in cases of both followers and the demoniac, the principle is the same - we must be willing to give up everything, including our own desires, to be obedient to God's callings.

Here are some of the principles we can learn from the Proverbs 31 woman:
  • Diligence/Hard work
  • Care for family
  • Stewardship
  • Compassion
  • Wisdom
  • Fear of the Lord
Point #3: We can't do it ourselves. This is so crucial, and is something I'm learning in so many areas of my life. Just as I posted before, we can do nothing without God. We must allow Him to work in us. Then life becomes less of an issue of a list to check off, and more a life of surrender and dependence on God's strength to follow through with His plans for our lives.

I guess the main thing that is sticking with me from this study is my need to depend on God. So often I become stressed and overwhelmed. What do others think about my house, my work, my life, etc? How do they perceive me? Am I doing things the right way? Am I making the right choices? I often feel that my life has to look perfect and pristine - just like the Proverbs 31 woman. So I try . . . really hard.

Yet it is in trying that I go wrong. I cannot let social constraints determine what is important or how I should live my life. I cannot base my choices on perceived expectations of others. I must allow God to have all of my heart and my life. He can then work in me to make me more diligent, caring, compassionate, wise and a better steward. He can also help me to learn to grow in Him and give Him higher priority.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

To Blog or Not to Blog, That is the Question.


So, I'm realizing the importance of blogging again. It's not to get my grand ideas out there to share with the world what's going on in my life. It's not to build a strong community. It's not to share advice. It's to help build my relationship with God.

That may sound like an odd reason, but it couldn't be any closer to the truth. I am someone who processes my thoughts, who makes sense of life by sharing. I am a talker by nature. However, in this day in age it is hard to come by people to listen. Even if I did, there is only so much I can say at once. Blogging gives me an opportunity to internalize, sort thorough, and apply what I'm learning.

Sometimes it's hard to make things concise. Sometimes it's hard to make things make sense at all, but that struggling through my thoughts, that sticking through until something comes out, tends to make all the difference in the world.

So, I am going to try to do just that. I am going to try to blog more. Hold me to it too. If you haven't seen a blog in a while, ask me why. And pray for me. Pray that this blog does not become something that's all about my cooking or how good I am at this or that. I may share some of these things at times, but this should never become my focus. If no one ever reads this blog, I pray that through my writings and ramblings I may draw closer to God. If others do read it, I pray that it may provoke some deeper thinking in their minds that they may draw closer to their Heavenly Father.

So, with a whirlwind racing through my mind, I am going to jot a few notes about some of the important things that I want to share, but must save for other blogs (writing about them all now would produce a volume far too large for one entry).

This is the book I'm currently reading. It's "Education" by Ellen G. White. I am learning so much from this book, and I look forward to sharing insights with you. I really think that this is a great read for Teachers, Parents, or anyone who comes into contact with children at any point. In fact this book has great stuff for people who don't do anything of the sort. It has truly been a blessing to me.

The lesson that I'm currently learning is self-discipline. I have a long way to go, but God is helping me. I know I can't do anything on my own. When I see that pile of dishes that needs to be washed I am learning to stop trying to muster up the discipline to just get up and do them. Rather, I'm learning to turn to God and say, "Lord, I don't want to do them, but please, help me do them anyway." He usually not only helps me, but gives me a cheerful heart as well.

The last thing I'm learning is how to love my husband more. I won't go into much detail as I'm just beginning to touch the surface of this area. I just know that I have been pleading with God for such a long time to show me what it means to be a wife. He is starting to show me step-by-step.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

It's Not About Me


All too often I get caught in a trap. It is a trap that many Christians get caught in. It's the trap of focusing on self. Now, I'm not talking about narcissism here. What I'm talking about is sort of akin to a theology of works. Let me explain.

I continually have this measure of things that a Christian is supposed to be. Some of the things on this spiritual yard-stick are Biblical, some are self-imposed and others come from the influences of those around me. For example the fruit of the spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. ~Galatians 5:22-23
It's easy for me to take a look at that passage an say, "Okay, I need more love, I need more joy, I need more peace, certainly more patience, I can use more kindness . . . So, what do I need to do to be more joyful? How can I make myself more happy? Maybe if I put on a joyful mask, my heart will follow suit. "

I think you get my point - I try to change myself and to focus on theses acts or works to make them a reality in my life. That is all wrong. I can't. No matter how hard I work. No matter what I do. I cannot change myself to have these things be a part of me. In the case of the fruits of the spirit, I must remember that they are just that. Outgrowths of the Holy Spirit at work in my life, not a result of my striving.

Jeremiah 13:23 says:

Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.
This can seem hopeless but after talking to the rich young ruler, Jesus tells His disciples,

"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." ~Matthew 19:26


Although we cannot change ourselves, Christ has the power to change us. So what are we to do? Why does the Bible tell us these things? Why does it show us the actions that follow the commitment? It gives us an opportunity to see our need of Christ. When we look at God's word and recognize where we have gone wrong, it is not our job to reform ourselves. No, we must draw closer and closer to our heavenly Father, surrendering our whole heart to Him. It is only in this submission that we may become changed.

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." ~John 15:5

Monday, March 03, 2008

As If for Jesus

I was looking around the house today at all the work has been done. We are getting into the last few stages and it's coming together. The builders will most certainly be done by the end of this week. We still have our work cut out for us, but that's a whole other blog.

As I was looking I was thinking about how this isn't our home. We have never really looked at it that way. This is God's house. He owns it, we are simply keeping it up for Him and making it available for His purposes. What if all of the work I did on the house reflected that? What if I never cut corners?

What if I did that with all of my work? What if I washed dishes as if I was washing them for God? What if I cleaned, cooked, shopped, taught, tutored, ran Joshua's House as if I was doing it all for God? What a difference it would make.

But that is what God called us to do - I just pray that He can help me to remember to live my life to His glory.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
~ 1 Corinthians 10: 31

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
~ 1 Peter 4:11

The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
~ Matthew 25:40

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Use a Pencil

I just discovered something simple that takes a little stress out of my life: write with a pencil. I know it seems crazy, but I found that writing in my day planner with pencil makes my life much easier. I still use a pen sometimes, but only for things that are set in stone that I know won't change. I write everything else in pencil - including meals, how I'm spending blocks of time, exercise, everything.

For some reason, being able to erase and change things around easily gives me peace of mind. For example, I was going to spend most of tomorrow painting the kitchen. Two things changed. First of all, my husband and I decided we want to finish the bathroom before the kitchen. Second, the builders are still working, and I don't feel comfortable doing a lot of heavy work when they are around. Solution, erase, copy, move around - presto chango, and all stress free - keeping my planner looking nice and neat.

I know this may not sound like much to you guys, but it made a BIG difference to me. It's like using a pencil gives me freedom to be more flexible. I love it.

Fruit of the spirit - Joy


Joy. This is a word that is talked about throughout the Bible. David talks about joy, Jesus talks about Joy, Paul talks about joy. In fact one of the fruits of the spirit is joy.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
~Galatians 5:22-23a
So, joy is a fruit of the spirit, what does that mean? That means if Christ is living in us, our hearts will be filled with joy!

God longs for our hearts to be filled with joy. He shows us that through nature - singing birds, beautiful flowers, the sun and moon that give us light and so much more. He gives us joy through people - loved ones that surround us. He longs to fill our hearts with joy so that we may have so much of it that it does not diminish even in the face of adversity.

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Let us do just that. Leave a comment and give thanks to God. What makes you joyful? How does God bring happiness into your life?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Reignition

I have some exciting news! My passion for Joshua's House is growing again! I can't wait to be able to really delve into things. It's hard because now with remodeling the house, teaching, leading Sabbath School, and being a wife I only have about 10 hours a week available to work on Joshua's house. But God knows that, and whatever I have is enough for Him.

You are probably wondering what made the change, what pulled me out of the slump. Two things really. First of all, sharing. You know that's how things are. The more we share with others about things that are exciting to us, the more excited we get. That's why it's so important for us to continually share with others what God is doing in our lives. May our lips never quiet.
I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.

My soul will boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.

~ Psalm 34:1-3

The second thing is remembering who I am and what God has called me to. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I am a missionary for God right here. Often the going gets tough, and because I live in comfortable suburbia, it's easy to forget my calling. Yet God never fails to call me back. So here I am. I am ready to serve God however He calls me to serve. I'm ready to give Him my all, be it through Joshua's House, my contact with people at the grocery store, serving my husband, or anything in-between.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
~ Colossi ans 3:1-4


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Creating Margins


This Sabbath included a lot of serious prayer and wrestling with God . . . and my schedule. Arlen and I have come to realize how unreasonable our schedules and expectations are. The worst thing was coming to terms with the fact that we haven't been allowing God to be Lord of our lives. Rather, we have tried to do things our own way. We are working really hard with God to get on track.

We are both trying to learn to live with margins. (Margins are breathing room in your schedule where nothing is planned.) It's so easy for us to cram everything in as tight as we can. We then end up stressed and rarely have time for the things that are really important in life (like people). Another thing that we noticed is that we rarely take time to actually evaluate or schedules and expectations.

One of the first steps for me was making the decision to cut some things out of my schedule. After this semester, I will not be teaching at Southern any more. I am also dropping two of the three things I'm involved with at church. (Don't worry, I'm not leaving the Junior department.) Even with these changes, things are a bit tight, but God will continue to lead.

As I was working on my new system of schedules and to do lists I found some interesting discoveries. I looked at my to do list and picked the really important things that "must be done this week." After I chose these items I began looking at how much time each one is really going to take. Then I started trying to put them all into my schedule. Maybe if I didn't sleep, and added 2-5 hours to every day I could get them all done. At first these discoveries were a bit discouraging; yet as I pondered, this new information became liberating. Now I can give others proper expectations about when I can get things done. I can have proper expectations for myself. Not only that, but I won't be so hard on myself for failing to keep up with an impossible schedule.

I'm also learning that the things that are important to God are the things that are most important period . . . regardless of what others think. This one can be hard for me at times, but when people see something about me or my life, they are only catching a small glimpse. Even I can see but a shadow of it all - only God has a bird's eye view.

I can tell that God is working in my life in so many ways. I still have much to learn and many ways to grow. This is all rather exciting.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Beagle Chasing

I just realized that so many of my blogs are about stress and learning to trust in God. (I'm a slow learner, but I'm so thankful God hasn't given up on me.) In lieu of this, I thought I should submit a blog on something a little different.

I would love to impart some useful piece of knowledge, but nothing is coming to mind . . . Oh, I know, I'll tell you a fun story.

As some of you know I want a dog so very badly!! I have wanted one for a long time, but now that we have a house, that desire has grown into a gigantic . . . thing. I'm sure a lot of this is because now, having a dog is actually an option. Yet, even thought it is a possibility, my husband and I have decided to wait on getting such a fun, furry friend for a few other things.

#1 - We need to get the house done and be all settled in
#2 - We need to get Arlen's cat all comfy and settled
#3 - Some certain financial goals must be met

Having said all of this, I can now tell my story.

As Arlen and I were headed back from Hilton Head on Saturday, Arlen spotted a beagle on the side of the interstate. My immediate response was to pull over - a dog on the interstate can only mean something bad. Unfortunately I did not convey this information to Arlen fast enough. In the back of my mind too, I knew that if we rescued the little tyke and were unable to find it's owners (which is likely because it was probably a dumped dog), we would end up keeping it. I liked this idea, but I ultimately let Arlen make the decision about going on or turning back.

He decided to turn back.

I became excited, picturing myself driving back with a cute little dog in my arms. "Lord," I prayed, "please help us to get the dog, and help it to be okay."

To make a long story short, after backtracking several exits, talking to a friendly sheriff and running like crazy, we were unable to find the missing hound. It seems there was another family or couple who had the same idea as us, and they were able to get to the little guy first. (At least we think that must be what happened.)

I have to admit that at first I was a little bummed. After 30+ minutes of searching, and an eager anticipation of a new pet, I was a bit crushed.

However as I got home, I realized just how perfect God's timing is. When we got home, hardly any more work had been done on finishing our house. In my moment of excitement, I had forgotten about some important financial obligations that would have been strained, not to mention the mental stability of my husband's beloved cat.

God wants us to ask Him for things. Sometimes He says yes, and sometimes He says no. When He says no, we must trust that He is looking out for us, even when we can't see it.

Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

~ Psalm 27:14

Out on a Limb


I saw this picture today and thought, "boy can I relate."

Sometimes I feel as if life is so crazy and busy that I am going to fall off of the limb that I'm barely hanging on to.

This happened to me today. It seemed like everything was going wrong. Things with the house were not going well, things with Joshua's house were not going well and on top of all that, my external back-up hard-drive appeared to be broken. I had taken the time to plan out my day nicely and be realistic about my expectations, but I felt like I was just barely hanging on to a limb.

I want you to look at that picture closer though. Does that leopard look scared? Does he look like he is barely hanging on? No. He knows that he is on a solid surface that will support him well. What if he started freaking out and didn't trust the strong branch underneath him? Do you think he would be so safe then? Of course not - he would be in danger of falling off.

Hmm . . . it started making sense. If I will just trust the foundation I have under me, and not freak out, things won't be so bad. Upon this discovery, I stopped for a few minutes to spend some time with the One who holds me. I realized how often I don't trust Him and I depend on my own strength. He led me here, and it is here that I will leave you (NIV emphasis mine):

Psalm 51

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.

5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.

14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;
build up the walls of Jerusalem.

19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices,
whole burnt offerings to delight you;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Pondering...

Some things I long for:
  • A finished home that I can settle into
  • More funding for Joshua's House
  • A few Godly friends who I can study the Bible with and turn to for a pointer back to God
  • Opportunities to help others
  • Wisdom with finances
  • Patience
  • Dedication
  • The ability to get out of the rat race of life and into a slower pace of life
  • My backup drive for my computer to work again

Some things that I am thankful for
  • A roof over my head
  • A wonderful and loving husband
  • Many friends who call me to tell me happy birthday and the like (it really means a lot)
  • God's strength to quit my job after this semester (even though I really do love it)
  • A dishwasher
  • The Bible
  • My $25 Thrift Store Recliner that is oh so comfy
  • The beautiful morning chorus provided by God's creation
  • Spring is coming!
  • Plenty of food to eat
Some promises to cling to:
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 1:6

if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.
~2 Timothy 2:13

Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he answers him from his holy heaven
with the saving power of his right hand.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

~Psalm 20:6-7


Friday, February 15, 2008

An Oystercatcher and a Pearl


We saw this funny little creature flying about as we sat eating at a sea-side restaurant on Hilton Head Island. Then I saw it, the bird flew up into the air and dropped an oyster to the rocky beach below. It quickly swooped down and gobbled up the contents of the cracked shells. Right away I knew what type of sea bird this was - it was an Oystercatcher. I had learned about these birds in a biology class.

Oystercatchers pick their oysters very carefully. They do not pick little ones because the tiny shells are too difficult to break. By the time the birds fly high enough for the shells to break, it is likely that another bird will slyly dive down and steal the food before the oystercatcher can reach it. It is important that they are patient and wait for the oysters to grow to just the right size.

They do not pick big oysters because they break at about the same height as the medium ones, but are much heavier to carry. By the time it's all said and done, the smart sea birds end up getting the greatest amount of calories for the least amount of effort by searching for the medium-sized oysters. Greediness certainly does not pay off.

It's amazing how God makes all of his animals in such unique ways, with just the abilities they need to survive. And it's amazing how much we can learn from them. It is important that we are persistent, just like the little oystercatchers. We must make sure we search for just the right oyster. We cannot lazily pick the little ones but must be patient for maturation. We must not be greedy either, picking what looks the best (in the worlds eyes), striving to get ahead. Rather, we must seek the good things that God has for us. We must be patient for Him.

This kind of reminds me of the parable of the pearl of great price:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
~Matthew 13:45-46

The merchant took the time to look for the right pearl. He would not settle for lesser pearls, and he did not want pearls that may have been bigger, but were indeed less valuable in the end. He gave his all for what he knew would ultimately be the greatest gain.

Don't settle for less, and don't give up too soon. Give your all for that one special pearl.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Mustard Seed Faith


It was Friday. I sat nervously looking at the clock, then the pad of paper in front of me, then to the computer. I had an interview in just a few minutes and I was quickly trying to come up with questions to ask those wishing to work for Joshua's House.

It's hard to plan an interview when I've never seen one or been to one. I was pretty sure who I wanted to hire already. What if I made a fool of myself? Oh dear - I thought I must be more stressed than the interviewees.

I went into my first interview with no problems. Shortly after, the second interview was scheduled and I went through the whole nervous process again.

Somewhere in between I looked at my schedule for next week - ack! It was already filling up. My schedule just changed from working a maximum of 3 hours on Monday and 3 hours on Wednesday to a minimum of 7 hours each of those days. I was already feeling like there was just too much to do. So I began to stress a little more.

As I finished the second interview for Joshua's House and had my hiring all done, my stress level increased again. I didn't realize how much work it was going to take to get the workers going. For the next little while I've got my work cut out for me.

Not only that, but now I really have to get on top of fund raising. I need funds for a computer or two, software, hardware, sound effects and not to mention I still need funds to go through the 501(c)(3) process.

My head was spinning.

Then it came:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." ~Matthew 11:28-30


Rest. . . peace. . . how great those would be.

Then I realized that Joshua's House is not my ministry, but God's. I can look to Him to provide. I must trust Him:

"If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you." ~ Luke 17:6


Then I thought some more. It's not just about trusting God to lead with Joshua's House but with all of my life. Everything that I do belongs to Him. Every tiny part of my schedule, everything I'm involved in, from work to Sabbath School, etc.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
~Proverbs 3:5-6


I am so thankful for an amazing job, lots of kids to be around at church, a wonderful husband, and a chance to minister to kids at Southern, and a chance to be a part of a new ministry God has started. Isn't our God amazing?!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

2 Timothy 2:13 - He is Faithful

My husband and I have experienced a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. And that's no understatement. I think that we would both agree it's in the top 5 of our worst weeks ever. But . . . we are still here. :)

It's true that the trials have been tough, but isn't that to be expected of any mission journey? We are currently displaced. We had to leave our apartment and for three weeks now have been living with Arlen's parents. We were supposed to move directly into our new house, but things have not gone according to plan. We honestly aren't sure when we will be able to move. Arlen's whole office crew is camped out on his parent's dining room table. We hope to at least be able to move into the office of the house by early next week at the VERY latest. In the meantime, I will become a master at laying wood laminate floor to try to hurry things along. Woo Hoo!

In the wake of being sort of homeless, we have had some personal crises arise, along with smaller things that would not be a big deal were it not for the other larger issues at hand. Yet God has never left our sides. Even when we have doubted and our faith has grown weak, He has been there walking through it all along with us. He has shared our pains and sorrows and our joys and triumphs.

There is no telling what's around the corner, it may be more trials, it may be a period of great triumphs. Only God knows, and that's why I must ever lean on Him and trust His guidance!

Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.

~ 2 Timothy 2:11-13

Sunday, January 13, 2008

In the Beginning...

Over the past year my life has been utterly out of control. My life has been so busy and hectic that it has been all I could do to hold myself together each day. Amidst all of this something in me has changed. I have lost my passion and zeal for life, for the things that are really important to me, for God even. Suddenly life has become this great survival race rather than what it was meant to be - a life in service, a joyful life, to my King.

I was talking to God about this last night and I was sharing with Him a bit about my loss of passion in life. Among other things one of the things that has turned from sheer pleasure to something I seem to avoid (if only subconsciously) is my time with Him. Especially digging into His word. A few years ago I woke up early (4am) every day so that I could have two uninterrupted hours to spend with my Heavenly Father. I would spend half of that time praying and half of that time diving deep into the precious words of my savior. I was always sad when that time was over, and it seemed like I could never get enough of Gods Word. I would just soak it up, eager to share what I was learning with those around me. How I long for such a joy and excitement.

I was also sharing with God my desire to truly know His Word. Even when I read it and drink deep, I soon forget what I've read or where it is. It seems like there are so many people (most of them much older) who have clung to the Word of God for such encouragement and guidance. They can refer to God's Word no matter what is going on in their lives. I want to be like that, yet, having that kind of familiarity with a book that is so big and huge and...you get the point...is just...well...overwhelming and intimidating. So as I prayed, I asked God where to begin. What is the first step that I can take.

For some reason, whenever I hit these stupors in my life God always seems to take me back to the same place . . . the beginning. So, there I went.

1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. 3Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. 4God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.


Looking at the first verse I realized something. God is the founder of the universe. He had an amazing idea, and was able to start something bigger than we could ever imagine all on His own. Last night it dawned on me that if I read no more in the whole Bible, that one verse would be enough to help me realize that God is worthy to be praised. He needs no more credentials.

Yet even now, God continues to speak to me. I get so frustrated and feel inadequate when it comes to starting Joshua's House (a non-profit organization I'm building). But, if God can create the whole universe, why do I even bother to be concerned. I have the founder of this planet as my partner! Wow!