Tuesday, July 31, 2012

how to take your spiritual life to new heights

In my last post, I talked about how I've really witnessed God working in my life to strengthen my faith. This is the second part of that post. I talked how I've noticed the change. Now I want to talk about HOW that change came about. (And I'm sorry it's so long! I tried to be brief!)

There is a secret to having growth in your faith. The secret is seeking God and opening your heart to the way He wants to move it. God wants to move our hearts, but because God gave us choice, we have to allow Him into our hearts to work. (Now, I still think that God can move us when our hearts are hard- goodness knows I don't want to deny the grace of God and how powerful it can be! But when we feel something missing and we long for a stronger faith, this is how we can do our part to let God to achieve it!) When we are focusing on God, we will see how He works in our lives. We will be continually moved by His grace for us. 

Several people have said to me, and I've noticed myself, that when we're digging in the word and studying the Bible we feel closer to God. After all the Bible is God's word, so it seems like the first place to go when we long to feel closer to Him! 

I think that the following 2 passages really show me how to strengthen my faith. Even though these are so familiar to us, I encourage you to really thing about what they say. 

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eves on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scoring its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the thrown of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and loose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3

Did you catch that? If we want to avoid growing weary and loose our passion for God, we need to continually consider Christ and what His sacrifice meant. We also need to constantly be focusing on Jesus because if we do, He can can impact our faith, because he is the perfecter of our faith! It's like the magic words... right there! That just makes me so excited to see that!

Now.. the next verse of wisdom:

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ JesusFinally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me- put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." 
Philippians 4:4-9

We gain the peace of God by thinking about good and pure things. It's time to put away those awful magazines full of immoral tips and articles telling us how to think self-rightously. Time to toss out the music that makes our minds tolerant to filthy and suggestive lyrics. Time to cancel our DVR on the shows that fill our minds with garbage. Instead we need to be thinking about things that are holy. That is how we get the peace of God!

 I tell you all of this from my personal experience. Because when I started putting my focus on rejoicing in God, thanking him, praying to him about my troubles, and focused on pure things- I found peace and joy like I'd never experienced it before. 

THAT my sisters, is how you find God, and how you open your heart to him! 

So fix your eyes on Christ and and fill your mind with what is pure. It'll take your relationship with God to new heights! 

Monday, July 30, 2012

show me where you brought me from

Happy Monday, friends! Over the weekend, Blake and I went to Bartlesville, OK to stay with his parents. Their church, Dewey Church of Christ, was celebrating their 60th anniversary. What a neat event that was! We had 2 very good potlucks. (And NO ONE can do a potluck dinner the way DCOC can!) We heard lots of stories, met new people, sang lots of songs, and had a fun time.

On Saturday evening during the song service we sang, "Remind Me, Dear Lord". (Click HERE if you want to hear that song.) I have to be honest, that's never been one of my favorites, and I'm not sure that I had ever heard that song before we went to South Yukon. Usually when I hear it I think, "oh my, this song sounds like it should be in an old Western Movie from the 60's!"(Now there was also a group of men who performed this song for us, and I thought it was real sweet, and I enjoyed that very much... but I'm talking about actually singing the song as a congregation.)

But God allowed me to hear it differently this time. I can't say it's my favorite song or anything, but I did actually think about the words. It's mostly the chorus that I really like:

"Roll back the curtain of memory now and then.
Show me where you brought me from
And where I could have been
Remember, I'm human
And humans forget
So remind me, remind me, dear Lord"

Now, having grown up in a Christian family, and having such steady Christian roots, I can't say that I have much of a past to be "reminded of". I do however remember those rebellious teen years that many find themselves in. Even though, I never did anything just awful, I do remember those horrible feelings of insecurity and the constant need to be impressing people. It's a horrible burden to hold. It's a burden that can easily lead to sin as well. It's also a burden that many people carry into adulthood. I've watched people I know carry it into their adult lives.

But God has lifted me from that. Yes, I still feel insecure at times, and I can't say I never want to impress. But those feelings don't control me the way they used to. Of course, some of that was lifted when I met Blake, and even more of it was lifted after we were married. However, that was still a work of God. The Lord has also worked in my life to help me find peace and joy. Those two fruits of the Spirit are so important!

So when I hear those lyrics, "Remind me... show me where you brought me from", I think of that insecure girl I used to be. And I am so thankful that I've allowed God's grace to inhabit every part of me! I'm so glad that the Lord has stirred my heart in ways that have been life-altering.

It's so hard to imagine how life would be if instead of growing closer to God in the last 5 years, I grew further away. I'm so thankful that God's helped me to strengthen my faith, and really make it my own. I was telling someone the other day that I feel like I'm at a place in my life where I have all the good from the "old me" without any of the bad. It's very empowering when you are aware of God working in your life.

So hearing that song over the weekend helped me remember where I was, and realize where I am now. Glory to God for seeing me to this point! And I've got hope that He will continue to see me through my journey on Earth. Our God is an awesome God.

I've also got some thought on how to strengthen our faith and get closer to God. I'm going to save that for my next post though! For now, I want to focus on how thankful I am for new ground God has brought me to!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Chore Organization

This is a post that will more than likely make you laugh at me. You may even think I'm crazy. Or you might think I'm a little too overly optimistic. You might  think I'm a control freak and feel very sorry my husband. Either way I'm sharing this with you!

So, back in the day, you know.... a very long time ago... a whole TWO YEARS ago Blake and I got married. I worked full time that summer as a nanny when Blake worked full time as an IT guy at Sonic Headquarters. I was so optimistic at my ability to be "Sally Homemaker" that I willingly attempted to do all the chores. Let me say that I wasn't very good at it.... but never-the-less I tried. Then classes started and as Blake continued to work and do classes, I only worked a couple of hours and so I tried to more of the chores. Then last summer happened.

Yuck. I shutter thinking about last summer. I worked full time at the YMCA day care where it was SO HOT that we were stuck in a little room all day! (So glad I don't do that anymore!) Anyways, chores just didn't happen that summer. It was always a mess, plus we moved during that summer.

Then I got a wonderful part time job at an amazing Christian school just 5 minutes from home. So I attempted to do as many chores as possible.

This year will be different. I have a different position at the amazing Christian school and I will be working full time. Realizing that having a clean and well kept apartment makes me a more happy person, Blake wanted to help me out more. Blake has always been willing to help more, but I sorta felt bad when he was working more than I was. So anyways, we set out to sort the responsibilities and make a schedule. So let me introduce you to command central!

This is my life. It's were my calendar, menu planner, and now our chore chart can be seen at a glance. (Did you catch that? Chore chart. Yup... I'm that girl. I make chore charts. Call me a daughter after her own mother's heart. I make charts. I suppose I should have been a kindergarden teacher.)

So here you can see our regular, daily chores. The laundry responsibilities have been sorted. Blake perfers to do laundry on weekends- I hate doing it on weekends. So he'll do his then, I've put mine on week days. I also gave him Thursday and Friday to be responsible for dinner. I don't care what we eat on those days- I just don't want to be responsible for it! But I will clean up on those days. (KCP is kitchen clean up). He's taking the bed making, I'm taking the clutter control. Also, he's doing trash, but I'm doing grocery shopping. 

We also have A week and B week chores. So every other week is A week.. you get where I'm going right? This was something that the man I used to clean for did, and I liked the idea. Notice the bathroom does get cleaned every week, we jut take turns doing it. I really think we did a great job of organizing the responsibilities. It really is pretty evenly distributed. 

Yes, I have high hopes for our new schedule. We start next week. Sure, there might have to be some adjustments, but I'm excited! 

And just for kicks, here is my weekly menu sheet. (Not a lot of cooking going on this week as you can see!) I get it online- and I LOVE it! Click HERE to get it yourself! And because I'm even more crazy I do my actual grocery list in a Excel spread but this helps me write out my needs as I'm writing my menu. Click HERE if you want to see that template. It's pretty great!
Anyways... has your opinion of me changed after reading this? Have you laughed at me at said, "Oh you crazy girl, you're obviously a new-be at this stuff!"? 

I'm just doing what I can to make the best out my "charming life"!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

i will win this in the end

How many times have you ended your prayers, "... and forgive me for all my sins, in Jesus name, amen"? I don't think I'm the only one to often end my prayers in this way, considering I've heard this countless times at church!

A couple of weeks ago my Beth Moore bible study opened my eyes to another truth. When we don't experience sorrow for a sin, we have not fully turned from that sin.

"Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. "- 2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV

She talked about how we can't really repent of something thats vague and unspecified. This really opened my eyes. I started to pray for God to open my eyes to my sins so that I could truly repent of them.

I'm reminded of James chapter 1:4. Through that verse I see that every person is tempted by their own evil desire.

"But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed." NIV

It didn't take long for me to experience God's mighty hand opening my eyes to what holds me back the most from God- negativity.

I usually cover this little nasty part of me by saying, "we'll I'm just critical", or, "well I know what I like". But the truth of the matter is that I'm being negative, and when I'm negative, I can't be honoring God! I can't be praising God! I can't be experiencing the JOY that comes from being in His presence.

No doubt my greatest burden in that I'm in touch with my negative emotions.

(However, my greatest joy is that I'm in touch with my positive emotions!)

I found myself very discouraged, because I felt like I was in a pit. Even though I realized my sin, and wanted to change... I kept messing up. I kept engaging in these negative thoughts and they were consuming me.

Finally it hit me!

I just need to get back up. Instead of dwelling in the negative thought that I can't overcome my negative thoughts... I need get back up and try again. 

James 1:12 says:
"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trials because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him." NIV

That is something to be happy about! It's something to be JOYFUL about! You know, I think the devil bringing me negative thoughts is an intentional way of distracting me of my efforts to focus on JOY this year!

Our God is awesome though! And he works in our lives through His spirit. I'm so thankful for that gift!

I get discouraged when I want to make a change but find myself falling back into old habits. It doesn't mean I shouldn't keep trying though! I must persevere!

Don't give up on trying to be better for the Lord!

I want to end with a song that's been playing in my mind all day long! It's a cheesy early millennium style of music that isn't my favorite... but I love the message of the song... and I also love the beginning of the song. My favorite words in the song are:

"I'm not afraid to fall.  It means I climbed up high. To fall is not to fail. You fail when you don't try. I'm not afraid to fall, I might just learn to fly, and I will spread these wings of mine."


"I'm not afraid to fall. I know I'll fall again. But I will win this in the end".

It's powerful words! It reminds me of something my daddy has told me many times. And something I've seen and continue to see him live out.

So listen to the song! It'll start your day off positive I promise! :-)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

why I'm happy to live in 2012

I'm about to get opinionated. I'm giving the warning now!

I absolutely love my country. The United States of America is without a doubt one of the greatest places on this Earth to grow up- I'd even say THE greatest! I love this wonderful land!

It was great is 1776, it was great in 1900, it was great in 1950... and guess what... it's STILL great!

In bible class today I was really offended when our teacher put the 1930's and 1940's up on a pedestal, and condemned our society today. The thing is... I hear this talk a lot. So much that I just about can't take it anymore. Actually, I can't stand it no more!

Yes, I understand that half the country wants to support principles that go against the God's law, but that is nothing new. So let's put the negative thoughts aside, and focus on a couple of positive things. (Now, I know the negative things are STILL very important. I just get so sad when people don't see the accomplishments that have been made in the past few decades!)

- Back in those so called, "good-old-days", women and children were abused, and molested and there was no one to defend them. There were no awareness and protection programs. These things were hidden. That sounds horrible! I'm SO glad I don't live in a word like that!

- Back in those so called, "good-old-days", abortions still happened. It was such a shame for a teenager to get pregnant that lots of babies were aborted. Plus it happened against the will of the girl many times.

- Back in those so called, "good-old-days", there was horrible racism! People literally thought that people of different races should be of different societal classes. If you were not white, you were treated like a criminal. I cannot imagine living in a world like that. To think that sort of thought was so heavily distributed around my country- even in the churches- makes me shutter. When I look on our history, I'm so ashamed to read about that. It still exists today, even in some of our churches, but SO much of that has gone away. Our laws have been adjusted so that we have equal rights with our neighbors of different colors. This is a HUGE improvement from those "good-ol-days"!

- Our world view has broadened thanks to the world-wide-web! We can assist other countries who are in awful conditions. What a blessing! We can hear about issues such as human trafficking, child soldiers, and malaria.... and we can do something about it. We can do something about it in an extent that we've never been able to do before. How great is that!

-Women's rights! I'm no activist or anything, but when I think about the lack of rights women used to have, I'm so thankful to live in 2012! That's all I will say on that issue.

- Technology! Not only can we have instant (and often FREE) connections to other sides of the world, but we can talk with people on "face time" and skype... we can communicate with family and friends like never before! Yet another advantage to 2012!

-There is help for people that need it. Say what you will about social services. At the end of the day, if there is a child who has irresponsible parents, or maybe they are immigrants trying there best to make a better life for their kids... I want that child to have something to eat. I don't want children to starve. The fact that we have programs (both federally funded, and charity based) makes me feel a little bit better. It's something to be proud of.

Look, I know our nation isn't perfect. I know the the leadership (from all parties sometimes!) seems grim, dishonest, and unconstitutional. I know we've gone far away from the morals our country was formed on. But there is still good. Our nation is not "in the sink hole"... or "going down the drain"!

We have had so much good progression, and I really am sad for people that can't see that. Yes, there is lots of room for improvement. I desperately want to see our country go back to it's fundamental roots, but I don't want to forget about the positive improvements that have been made!

You see, I just had to share this. I just had to share some positive perspective. I can't live in an ocean of negative- that just brings everything down!

Sin has always been around. There is nothing new. It happened in those olden days too... people just didn't talk about it. Doesn't mean it was better. This world is not our home! We're just passing through! Heaven is our home!

So please, I'm begging you! In the midst of election season, where things always seem to get negative... please recognize some of the good change. Be thankful for it! And pray for the ways we can get better.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

life on God's terms

This is a long one, so please forgive me!

It used to drive me mad when someone would talk about praying that the right choice is made, that the choice that pleases God is made. That the Lord's will be done. It made me even more upset when I was told,  "Praying you make the right decision." I'm not talking about choosing to do sin or not to do sin, or even determining if something is sin. I'm talking about choices in life's cross roads. The ones where you can see good no matter the path you take, where you can honor God in both directions. I thought- There is no right decision!!!

Now before you start thinking of arguments to what I just said, let me remind you that I said, "It USED to drive me mad."I want to share with you my transformation of thought and how it came to change.

It was hard to me to wrap my head around the idea that God had a right way for me to go when He was supposed to be the God who gives His people choice. And besides, isn't his will always done? I mean everything that happens... He allows it to happen right? As you can see, I had such a dignified philosophy... just kidding. But really, that was I thought. What I most couldn't understand was how can there be a right path when I can honor God in both directions. Why do I need to seek His counsel? It just sounded crazy to me. Maybe if I was praying to make the best choice for the impact it would have on my life.... but I couldn't see why I needed to pray that I would make the choice that would please God. He gave me the right to choose after all. That was how I thought.

Recently I was having a conversation with one of my sisters-in-Christ, someone who I think is very good as seeking to do God's will in all the choices she makes. I wanted to understand why she felt like she needed to do that. And more so, I needed to be convinced of why I needed to do it.

She so sweetly reminded me that evil doesn't come from God, and that she didn't think that it was God's will that evil be done. Evil makes God sad. (Oh ya... didn't I learn that!) So God's will wasn't always done.

Then we went on to talk about how God gave us choice so that we could choose Him. God wanted us to choose Him because we WANT to choose Him. (Sort of like how I want Blake to play Life with me because he wants to spend time with me, not because I make Him.)

She told me that she believes that there is a right decision to be made. That God does have a path He wants us to take. He wants us to choose to take that path though.  This is why we pray, and study, and listen for the Holy Spirit!

At this point I was on board 100%! I get it! But I was still confused. Say you can see opportunities to serve and honor God on both paths... how do you know which one God wants you to take? (I had a specific situation on my heart, one not yet ready for a blog about, but is never-the-less, on my heart quite often. ) I told her that I knew which direction I wanted to take if the opportunity arose, I just can't see how it wouldn't be a good thing! How do you know your not going against God's will?

She gave me some very powerful advise.

She said that I needed to tell God what I really wanted to do. But I needed to request to God, "Please shut this door, if it's not in your will."

This was powerful to me. How strong I'd have to be to request that God shut a door that I want to go through.

Just like I have to pray for the Lord to shield me from temptation, I have to pray that He'll shut a window of opportunity if it isn't for me.

Now I know, I can't just always go about doing things my way and expecting God to stop me if I'm wrong. I think there is power though in asking for His mighty hand.

There is always a way to seek God's way. I'm just so glad I learned that.

I want to end with this passage taken from The Message's interpretation of Romans 8: 5-10

"Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God's action in them find that God's Spirit is in them- living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing And God isn't pleased at being ignored. 
But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won't know what we're talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells- even though you still experience the limitations of sin- you yourself experience life of God's terms."