Monday, November 24, 2014

Gratitude - the never changing vs the ever changing

In the month of November, I did the popular Facebook thing of posting something each day (or in my case some days) of something that I am grateful for. Like most of us, I am thankful for these things in months other than November but it got me thinking about gratitude in general.

I see gratitude in my life being divided into two different categories - 1) the never changing and 2) the ever changing

1)  The never changing  


Along with Jesus there is God the Father, the Spirit, the promise of salvation for those that believe, His Word and His many promises.   These things will NEVER CHANGE.  No matter my circumstances in my life and no matter the Enemy, nothing can take these things away from me. And for that I am grateful in a way that words can not even begin to express. My heart overflows.  When the Bible commands us to "in everything give thanks".. this is it people.. this is everything.  It defines my purpose for living and I give the Lord thanks for it.  Psalm 107:1  Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. 

2) Ever changing   

I am thankful for my husband, my kids, my extended family, my friends, my church, homeschooling, employment, a roof over my head, good health, food..the list goes on and on.  I don't want to be non-thankful for these things because I am extremely thankful. But I want to recognize that these things are on a revolving door in this crazy thing called life. They are going to ebb and flow. Sometimes we are going to have them and sometimes we are going to not have them. Our list is going to look different from year to year as our circumstances change. But nothing on this list is going to change God or the character of God or the promises that He has given us as you can see..nothing I listed is promised from God. 

We will always have things to be thankful for because list #1 is never changing.  Pastor Saeed Abedini who is an American pastor imprisoned in Iran wrote a beautiful letter to his daughter on her 8th birthday and one of the very first lines says "I praise God for His faithfulness to me every day." Even in an Iranian prison, you can see expressions of gratitude.  

So I encourage all of us in this season of gratitude to never give up hope in our circumstances, look to the cross and find Jesus and be thankful. Be thankful for the Lord Jesus Christ and His faithfulness whether you are in a cozy East Cobb home or an Iranian prison.. both of us can look to Jesus and live our lives with an expression of gratitude for his never changing love for us.  

Pastor Saeed's letter to his daughter -     I highly encourage you to take the time to read this.  His faith is an amazing example to us. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The amazing power of prayer

When it comes to prayer, I have two favorite verses..

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. " I love this verse because it doesn't say.. "He will hear us", it says "there am I among them".   Wow.

Romans 8:26 "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."   And I like this verse because it pretty much sums up my prayer life right now. One of these days I am going to get farther in my prayer than "Dear Lord"..yesterday was not that day.

I love to pray for other people and get the chance often as people are frequently sick, out of work, lost a loved one. I am not happy those things happened, of course, but I am happy to be able to pray for them. And when one of those things happens, there are FB posts, email blasts, etc etc. People aren't usually shy when they are hurt or sick to ask people to pray for them.

I am not physically sick but I am sick. I am not physically hurt but I am deeply hurt. And I am shy. For shyness comes when people have sickness that runs deep inside them that can't be explained in an email blast.   I love Matthew 18:20 also because of the words "where two or three".. I don't need a whole multitude of people praying for me right now. I have exactly 3 people who know what's going on with me right now and they are praying for me and I can feel the Lord's presence.  Yesterday, my CC director prayed over me and a peace washed over me in the middle of a prayer. Tears that had not been dried up for days were gone and I was at peace and I was able to teach my class that day. Satan would not have the best of me..not yesterday. I had a class to teach and I needed peace and I had no idea what to do and how to get that peace and it seemed so very hopeless.  If you have never felt hopeless, boy are you missing out.  You are missing out on seeing a healing that only the Lord can provide.  There was no greater joy than in the middle of the prayer feeling the Peace that passes all understanding.  I don't understand. I may never understand but I am so grateful that we can come to the Father through Jesus Christ and have the Holy Spirit intercede for us when we don't even have the words.  Because even though my director was able to express more words than my "Dear Lord" that I had already tried, I don't think it would be mattered. If she had been completely silent, the Lord still would have heard us.  Yesterday turned out to be a wonderful day filled with joy and peace and gratitude.

I am still sick though. In a way that I can't explain to you and won't explain to you because well sorry but you are a just a blog. And even though we have become pretty buddy buddy lately, we aren't that close.  Sorry blog..

Thank you readers for all your kind words and messages lately. I get extremely self conscious when people tell me that they read my blog but you are all very kind and not a single one of you has called me crazy to my face  and I thank you for that. :)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Moving forward with a smile

So I didn't want to end the weekend with THAT depressing sob story blog post. I also want to clear up some things I didn't say well

1) I did not mean to imply that my non-Christian friends judge me. Far from it, they are the least judgmental people in my life. More of what I meant to say is that if I was going to go up in battle about a blog post about my faith, you think that it would be against the world and not against other Christians. If I have to fight a battle with a non-Christian about my faith, I haven't met that person yet. The non-Christians in my life are amazing. As long as I respect them and don't judge them, they treat me the same.

2) I didn't mean to imply that I don't already have real life friends . I have AMAZING real life friends that I know would support me in a second but sometimes I need to speak up when I need help. And there lies the problem.. I am not good about speaking up...being real with real live people.. not one of my greatest strong points.  But this is something for ME to work on.  You amazing friends just keep on being amazing and THANK YOU for all your encouraging posts and emails and blog posts. You overwhelm me!

One of the best things that came out of yesterday's blog post is that it opened dialogue with Chris about how 1) I am not the best at communicating. (my take away..not his actual words) and 2) Because he knows me so well and because I was able to explain in more detail than I could give you, he was able to help me through the situation I got myself in and how easy it was for the enemy to attack me while I was vulnerable in a situation that I should have run from. So that's all cleared up now.

And I am back to normal... ahhh.  Where normal is defined as happy, joyous, and filled with gratitude. It's my new normal. And I love it!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I am not giving up

Open..honest.. transparent.. judgment..discouragement...alone..

The first three words describe the beginning of my week and the last three describe the end of my week.  You see, when I start blogging, I forgot about one thing.. I was going to be judged.  And judgment doesn't come from my non-Christian friends.. it comes from my Christian friends. No, not EVERYONE.. I have had some AMAZING encouraging friends who have messaged me about my journey and I appreciate you so much!!  But apparently in my life of la la land, I forgot that not all were going to be as receptive for what I had to say.

And while we are throwing out adjectives or nouns or whatever.. let's throw in apathy.. there are just some people that just don't care that I am on this journey..

I am alone.. oh wait no I am not.  Christ is with me. And no matter what happens. that won't change. And no matter what happens, He is the only thing that I need.  Psalm 118:6-7 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?

In the interest of honesty, I still feel alone.  I hide behind a computer screen. I have not yet had a single conversation with a real human about this amazing month I have had. The month where I discovered that Jesus is the most awesome thing in the whole universe. I am scared and for good reason.. people judge me.  It would have been a lot easier if I just kept pretending...pretending that I knew Jesus like everyone else...pretending like I didn't just NOW discover Jesus ...

Yes, something happened this week. Something that made me feel like I had just been thrown in front of a mac truck.  Something that washed waves of disappointment over me. Something I should have seen coming but didn't. And now I sit behind this computer.. I don't really know what to do next.

Pray.. I am going to keep on praying.  I am not giving up.  I am not giving up on you, dear reader. I brought you on this journey and as long as you keep clicking, I am going to drag you along with me.

But I will honest (aren't I always.. ha ha!), I need some real life friends. I know many of you I don't even see in real life and that's fine but if I do see you in real life, please talk to me, give me a hug, share a Bible verse, pray over me.. I don't care ...whatever the Lord places on your heart.  Cause it's been a rough week and I wouldn't mind the encouragement that I have some Christian friends that are going to walk this journey with me.

I am not giving up..

Monday, November 10, 2014

Tackling the sin problem in my life.. oof!

So funny story.. I am often called a transparent, honest open book person. People often think I am crazy (for that and other reasons) and my close friends and family laugh at me because this transparent and honest thing is accompanied with being easily completely mortified. So when my last blog post reached over a hundred people, I kinda wanted to die. And Chris laughs and says "When are you going to learn that is how social media works. You post stuff. People read it"   I responded with that I live in this la la land that you people have better things to do than to read my FB posts and certainly my long rambling blog posts. And my only explanation of why I continue is that insomnia is 1) boring and 2) makes me a crazy oblivious to reality person

So I titled this blog post something boring and am going to continue to think that maybe no one but a handful of people will read it.. ha ha!  Because seriously.. who wants to talk about sin?  Last I checked that was a topic that was avoided in most of my social circles unless of course, you wanted to spout off your beliefs about other people's sin by re-posting an article on FB.. that's okay. But a blog post about your own sin.. yeah I am a little quirky I admit.

In my new journey to draw closer to Christ, it quickly became apparent that I have a sin problem and in my new journey, I have a desire to not sin. Soo where does this leave me? It only leaves me with one choice.. doing something about my sin.  Hmm that is way harder than it sounds.. you see..I am old and I have been doing some of these sins for a longgg time.. I have had a long time to have these sins deeply ingrained in my being. So here is what I have discovered in my time with God.. He is willing to help me with my sin problem but I don't think it's as easy as saying a prayer in the morning "Lord help me" and thinking I am good to go.  I actually tried that and it didn't work.

Here is what I do know.. or at least pretend to know.. or at least at 3 AM in the morning am typing that I know.  1) Pray continually.. not just in the morning  2) Set your minds on things is harder to sin if I am reading my Bible and memorizing it  3) Tell other people about my sins.

So that leaves me with #3... now if you are NOT crazy then you do #3 with your spouse and a close group of friends. And I AM going to do that because I am going to ask my close friends and family to keep me accountable but then I decided to go the crazy route and just tell everyone.. ha ha.. told you I was crazy.

I discovered that sin problems usually have a root problem. My root problem is that I have a lack of self control.  A multitude of sins falls in this category.  And through it, I decided that I don't love people enough... More self control will lead to showing those that I love that I love them. The sins I have don't have consequences that hit hard a lot.  No, my sins consequences are much more subtle.. so subtle that they are super easy to ignore when I am not walking with the Lord. And Lord help me that I don't ever see my sins as "lesser sins"..sin is sin..period.

So here we go.. I know you are waiting with baited breath for my deep dark secrets...I am laughing right now because I again assume that none of you are still reading this.. seriously people.. go find a good book!

1.  Laziness -  I really owe an apology to my family for this one. It's true.. I am lazy. I shy away from responsibilities. I don't use my time wisely. My homeschool is a big hot mess right now. I overcommit to things that keep me from doing the things I really need to be doing. There are five million chores that need to be done. I am not a good steward of my time. Ephesians 5;15- 16 Look carefully, then how you walk,, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

2. Addiction  -  I have an addiction to food. I won't get into the past but this is certainly not my first time around with addiction.  You know what is not easy about addictions.. breaking them.  I am addicted to sugar. This is a BAD thing to be addicted to when you are facing a diabetes diagnosis.
And I will be honest.. I am not really open to talking about this one.. because I feel like people are always trying to sell me on something.  It's not that I don't know HOW to lose weight and eat right.. it's that I choose not to do the things that I know I am supposed to do.  1 Corinthians 6:12  "Everything is permissible for me" but not everything is beneficial  "Everything is permissible for me" but I will not be mastered by anything

3.  Gossip - ouch.. Dear friends, I don't love you enough to not talk about you.  Isn't that what we are saying when we talk about other people?  And this is the one that I will ask my close friends to keep me accountable to because well, they are sometimes helping me out with this (sorry to throw you under the bus, friends, but it's true).  I remember in my younger days thinking that gossip is defined as saying things that you would not say if they were in the room or saying things that you don't want to get back to them. And also defined as "Is what I am saying about this person going to make the other person think more highly of the person or less highly?"  And what does God think about what I am saying.. it is easy to forget that God is right there with every conversation.. forget being embarrassed because the person you are talking about walked into the room, I should be embarrassed because God is already in the room and is not very pleased with my lack of tongue control..   Ephesians 4:29  Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to to them that hear.

I could list many more probably but those are the ones that the Lord has laid upon my heart at this time.  And the ones that I will be asking my friends to help keep me accountable.  You will never see me pretending like I have it altogether.. I will be the first to admit that my life is crazy out of control. But I recognize that and I truly believe that the Lord is going to help me put this crazy thing called life together. I will never be perfect and thank goodness there is grace for that. But I do recognize that my life is not as honoring to Christ as it should be. One day at a time, one prayer at a time, one foot in the front of the other.. Holy Spirit helping me every step of the way..God's got this

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

My new faith journey

My new faith journey

God has spoken to me recently and I have discovered this.. I need three things to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.. 1) Jesus Christ because He is the Son of God that came to Earth to die for our sins and it is only through Him that we can be cleansed from our sins and be right with God  2) The Bible which will is the only truth source that can show me how to trust in Christ as my Lord and Savior and 3) Prayer by which I can communicate to Christ and God the Father

Everything else is a tool that can be a help or a hindrance in the relationship with Christ and it is through Christ, the Bible and prayer that I need to recognize what is what.  

The past:  In the past 37 years, I have let my experiences, the church and people be both a help and a hindrance. In the end though, the hindering overpowered and I unconsciously walked away from Jesus about 5 years ago. I didn’t realize I was doing it and I didn’t really care until recently

Recent events:  Desperate to get back to the relationship that I once had with the Lord or what I thought I had with the Lord or what I saw other people have with the Lord, I decided I needed to leave the church that I grew up. I had 30 years of baggage and felt like I was in the middle of spiritual warfare when trying to deal with it all. And with both my husband and I, we had some differences with the church that even if we had met with church leaders to gain clarity on their position, we felt confident that we would still leave for what I can only describe as “irreconcilable differences”.  I still hold the church in high esteem. It is an amazing church but it was no longer right for our family.

Past 3 months:  In August of 2014, we began attending Grace Community Church in Marietta. I had visited several times. Already knew a couple of people that attended. And I immediately fell in love with the Biblical teaching and the people there. We started attending the Connections class and we decided that we would like to be members. I can’t see us attending any other church at this point.

Membership application.. page one.. all going great. Got to page 2 and it said something like If you died and went to Heaven would Jesus let you in? My immediate thought.. I have no idea.. And then it had a huge blank section for me to talk about my faith in Christ.  I shut the application feeling overwhelmed and knowing that I was in trouble if I couldn’t answer those questions.  I decided to hold off on the whole membership thing.

About 2 weeks ago, I was walking in the church on my way to meet the church secretary. (Note: that was my ONLY plan for walking down the hallway)... The senior pastor, John Harris, stops and asks me if he can help me with anything. Now I come from a mega church.. 1) you don’t just run into the senior pastor in the hallway and 2) if you did, you wouldn’t stop and talk to him.  So this is a little surreal and even more surreal if you know me and know that I am TERRIFIED of pastors.  So I later joked with my friends that it must have been the Spirit of God talking through me because the next thing out of my mouth was me not only speaking to the senior pastor but requesting a meeting with him to talk about the membership application and my relationship with Jesus..  Wait? What?  We decided I could meet with him and the discipleship pastor, Randy.  Okay deep breaths.. I can do this. I NEED to do this because I have no idea what Christianity is all about. And I am determined to not be in a church for the next 30 years with a stamp on my membership application and feeling like a complete fraud.

Then something happened.. I discovered that I don’t need a meeting with pastors to tell me how to have a relationship with Jesus. It’s all right in front in me. It’s all right there in this book..the Bible.  I discovered that I needed Jesus and I needed him right then and I needed to read the Bible.  So I have started.. I have started my new faith journey.  I don’t have it all figured it out and I still plan on meeting with the pastors. But I have left the baggage on the side of the road. And man, there was a lot of it. And I am looking forward to the future. The future that is filled with Christ’s love for me and my love for Him and a lifetime of learning daily how to trust and follow Him in all that I do.  I am excited. I am beyond excited. And a little scared.. so maybe I do have a little baggage left.. the baggage of “I don’t want to screw this up again”  but maybe that’s not baggage.. maybe that is me wanting to make a commitment to not walk away again. To not let things or people or the church take my focus away from Christ.  Cause if there is one thing that I have learned from all of this, it is DO NOT TAKE YOUR EYES OFF JESUS.. not for a second.

Hebrews 2: 1-2  Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.