Monday, December 31, 2012

Rise, Walk, Carry!

I am reading through the gospels right now and I am in Luke. I love the story of the men who bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus and lower him through the roof. Could you imagine being there and seeing that? I picture Jesus smiling up at the friends when He tells the man "your sins are forgiven you" and then "rise up and walk".

As I was reading this story again I felt like God opened my eyes to see another layer to it. It reminds me yet again how much I love our Jesus. He is such a thoughtful Savior. When He healed someone with a paralyzing illness He is recorded different times saying something about getting up and walking or take up your bed and walk. He never said you are healed now take months of rehab to learn how to walk since you have never used your muscles this way. Think about it. Some of these people were born paralyzed.

Think about a baby learning to walk. They do not get it right the first time. They certainly do not get up and carry a pallet big enough for them to sleep on. What about when someone sustains an injury that requires them to learn to walk again? They still have to strengthen muscles and train their body again to do something they were once capable of doing easily. I believe the fact that Jesus heals some one of their paralyzing disease is the first miracle but the fact that He provides the mental ability and physical strength required to immediately follow through on the first miracle is a miracle as well. I love that Jesus doesn't heal someone and then allow them to stay rolling around in the dirt and dust to figure out the next steps on their own.  They don't even seem to fall and get bruised or scraped when they follow His instructions.  No, He heals, directs and provides the capability immediately to leave the thing that has held them back in life. I think sometimes getting up and moving away from whatever it is that I have begged God to remove from me takes as much faith as believing He could remove it in the first place.  Praise the Lord that in the midst of His answering of prayers and His guidance in my life that I am not left to figure out the next steps on my own.  He provides for those as well.

What a thoughtful Savior.


"Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them.  Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him. And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus.

When He saw their faith, He said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”
And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the man who was paralyzed, I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.

Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying GodAnd they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen strange things today!'”                                                   Luke 5:17-26

Friday, December 28, 2012

Cleaning House, Cleaning Soul

Tonight I had to stay up cleaning my house.  There has been too much going on over the last few days and when you throw in a sick little one everything seems to pile up quickly.  I do love these moments.  No, not the cleaning, the time when the house is quiet and I purposefully do not put on music or the tv, a time to be alone with my thoughts and weave in and out of conversations with God.  Tonight, it felt like as I was cleaning my house, I was cleaning my soul.  The time alone allowed me to take stock of what has been going on over the last few days. 

Even though I have been getting my time with God in the morning I have had so much going on that it seemed like He was getting drowned out.  It was like my kitchen counters.  It wasn't that anything bad was going on in my kitchen, only good things that were happening.  Breakfasts, lunches and dinners were made and cupcakes were iced for my Bug’s 3rd birthday.  However, just a night or two of letting the wrappers and plates pile up from all the good things and my kitchen was a mess.  If I didn't tell you there was a counter underneath it all, I am not sure you would believe me. 

I wish I could say that it was good things that were causing the pile up in my soul. 

If I was being honest, I would have to admit that among all of the junk there was definitely some worry, some frustration with my husband, some upset over unmet expectations with God and even a little some a good bit of self righteousness sprinkled on top.  It was getting hard to see the foundation with all these other things taking up residence in my soul.  I do not want to allow the small distractions of life to creep in and make a home in me.  I do not want my soul to be dirty and unkempt with the trash of this world lying around on it.  So tonight, as I finally took the time to clean my kitchen and prepare for tomorrow, I spent time enjoying God.  I talked to Him about the things that were weighing on me and I asked Him how I was doing in what He had planned for me (Ephesians 2:10).  I asked what areas needed confessing or tweaking, where was I way off base and where I need to continue steadily on the path or even pick up speed.  In the end I was able to take a deep breath and move past all the junk, literally.  I am looking forward to waking up tomorrow to a fresh kitchen and a fresh soul ready for my next steps.

I highly recommend taking the time to get quiet with God and letting Him sweep away the junk that can pile up when we aren't paying attention.  Praying for you tonight. 

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

“The Christian faith is meant to be lived moment by moment. It isn't some broad, general outline--it's a long walk with a real Person. Details count: passing thoughts, small sacrifices, a few encouraging words, little acts of kindness, brief victories over nagging sins.”  - Joni Eareckson Tada             

Monday, December 24, 2012

Lessons from a Fuzzy Blue Crayon


I went grocery shopping with my Bug yesterday.  I had my list and, like usual, we were in a hurry.  I was afraid if I didn't mark off my list as I rushed through the store that I would miss something important for our Christmas meal.  After digging in my bottomless pit purse I found one lonely blue crayon from a pack of crayons that I recently bought the Bug that I could use to mark off my list.  As soon as she saw the crayon her 3 year old little mouth quickly shared “that’s my crayon”.  I told her I knew it was her crayon but that I needed to borrow it for just a few minutes while we hurried through the store.  She didn't have anything to draw on anyway and I would even give her my list in the car and let her color once I was done.  Apparently this did not appease her. She began to pitch a fit about me using her crayon.  Her voice kept raising and the fit continued to grow.  I was shocked.  She is usually very giving and willing to share.  Apparently this blue crayon was an important part of her identity (for those 5 minutes) so being the excellent mother I am I looked at her in frustration and said “who do you think bought the crayon anyway?  I did” and I shoved the crayon back in my purse and finally found a pen I could use.  I was about to be really petty and tell her that really, the crayon belonged to me since I bought it and I gave it to her to use when I felt like God stopped me in my tracks.  I just stood there as this very real example of how I tend to live washed over me. 

If you have been on my blog before you are probably beginning to think that I sound like a broken record.  I am okay with that.  I think that God keeps me in a place in life until I get what He is trying to teach me and the lesson has taken root enough to continue to grow as He moves to the next area to prune.  God is absolutely working on me about stuff/gifts/money/lifestyle.  In my little tiff with the Bug over a crayon in the middle of a grocery store I heard God say “Amy, sometimes this is the way you are with what I have given you.  So often you hold onto something that doesn't even matter in the big picture.  It is all Mine.  I give you things for you to use for My Glory, not so you can be selfish and not share with someone in need.”  Think about it.  My daughter was flipping out over a single blue crayon that had purse fuzz and cracker dust on it.  I have a seemingly endless supply of crayons at home for her (including at least 5 other blue crayons).  Why was this one blue crayon so important when I could provide her with so much more?  I started thinking, how often do I hold onto something that God wanted to use for the good of someone else when He has so many better things for me available? 

Then, the realization got worse. 

Just as I gave up trying to rationalize the blue crayon with my child and I put it away and got out a pen, I pictured God giving up trying to argue with me and repeatedly asking me to return something to Him that is His.  I saw Him stop trying and He found another tool to complete His mission.  It really upset me.  I do not want to miss God.  I do not want Him to have plans to give through me and, in my blindness, I get in the way to the point that He stops trying to use me all together. 

I know that Jesus has been calling me (shamefully for much longer than I have recently been answering) to a deeper, radical walk with Him.  I am still nervous and excited about all that He is doing and I certainly do not know fully what it looks like but I do know this.  It involves my hands opening completely and letting go of everything I have in my life; people, expectations, comforts, things and even myself.  I have joined a group called The Yes Club to help me along the way in this journey.  You can see my post about it here.  When I shared with a loved one about what God has called me to say no to so that I could walk in His will and provide clean drinking water for others I was told I was being ridiculous.  Oh, when did we become so blind?  May I always heed His call to give the things that He has put in my life back into His hands so they can be given to those in greater need.  May I always be willing do what He asks, even if it looks like foolishness to those around me.  May I always be willing to give Him back all that He has given me.  As my Pastor said just a month ago in his teaching “God gives to us, to give through us”.  He also said that "when we give to God, we aren't deciding how much of our money to give to Him, we are deciding how much of His money we give back to Him."  

Let me encourage you to follow through on what God is calling you to.  It could be something as amazing and radical as being obedient in donating your most treasured possession, your wedding ring, to help bring clean water to those in India and Africa that are in need.  If that is your heart, click here to go to With This Ring, an amazing ministry.  Maybe it is God calling you to give up fast food for year or Starbucks coffees for a year.  You can pledge to do whatever He has put on your heart at The Yes Club and step into the life that God has for you and, as a bonus, you get to be a blessing to those that have very little hope for life. 

No matter what, do not miss Him.  Join me if this is the prayer of your heart too, "please God, do not let me miss You".     

Friday, December 14, 2012

Not My Home...



This week it has felt like the darkness is winning.  I am not sure why but I have felt like I am trying to walk through dense fog in deep mud.    You cannot turn on the television without seeing some horrifying murder or shooting.  Then today, TODAY, a man opens fire in a Kindergarten classroom.  I am physically sick and completely heartbroken for those families.  I can barely see through the tears to type this.  Oh Lord, please come back and end this.

What is the thing you are supposed to do?  What is it that God has put on your heart?  Who do you need to forgive or apologize to?  We are not promised tomorrow.  We are not promised tomorrow for ourselves and we are not promised tomorrow with our loved ones.  I am praying that I may be able to minimize all the things that are unimportant so that I can focus on the things that are eternal. 

In the end this is yet another reminder that this place is not my home.  My prayers are with those that have lost their dearest children today.  Oh Jesus please help…

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Put In Courage


Encourage. To put in courage. It is what we are supposed to do for each other. As Christians we are called to encourage one another as seen throughout the New Testament. So, what happens when those that are supposed to be your encouragers become your dis-couragers?

If you read my blog at all you will know that over the last few months I have entered into a new season of life where I can no longer hide from the voice of God when it comes to my stuff or giving to those in need. I believe I hear very clearly what Jesus is asking of me. I have begun to take small steps, baby steps really, towards living a life abandoned to Him. So far it hasn't even been that difficult. There isn't anything that I have given up that greatly affects my well-being or that of my family. I am not having to meet in secret under the threat of death to study God's Word. I am not having to do without food or water in order to provide for those around me that are in need. I am not putting my husband or child in danger with my actions. Yet I am experiencing resistance, discouragement and a little ridicule.

All I did was give up gifts for a year (www.theyesclub.org) so that the money normally spent on these gifts can now be given to fund wells where people are drinking dirty water.  This is not radical.  This is not sacrificial.  Did you know that water related diseases cause 2.2 million deaths a year; every day diarrhea takes the lives of 2,000 children in Africa - more than any other single cause of death. Safe water, a toilet, and clean hands could prevent 90% of these deaths.  This. Is. Not. Okay.

Today I was told that I was being ridiculous and actually had someone special in my life become frustrated with me. I'll be honest, it stung and I let my feelings get hurt, but then this came to mind. "’But He answered and said to them, 'My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.'" (Luke 8:21).  It may be disappointing for some of my earthly relationships but when I choose to follow the will of God and not man then Jesus is literally my family supporting me.

We are promised that when we follow God that we will experience difficulty, even persecution (Matthew 10:22-23).  Now, I would never call what I experienced persecution.  There are Christians around the world today actually experiencing persecution.  But having this little experience gives me a tiny, minuscule taste of difficulty. I am thankful to have yet another reminder to be praying for my brothers and sisters across the world that have their safety, their family, and their lives threatened.  

In the end let me ENcourage you.  Do the thing that God is leading you to do, no matter how silly or against the grain it is.  His plans are for His Glory and our good.  Read the Bible for yourself and do the things Jesus asks us to do.  This will take a lifetime of learning but the first step can begin today.  If you have a discourager in your life, pray for that person.  It could be that your choice of following Christ is shining a light into the dark places in their life.  If God has called you to do something whether it is a baby step like me or a radical move please post it in the comments so I can join in praying for you (you can even write “private” and I won’t post on the site).  Know this, I support you in listening to God and acting with determination.    

With a Thankful Heart,
Amy

If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.              John 15:19-21

Friday, December 07, 2012

Free Club Membership Available Now!


God is up to something.  I really think it is something big.  He is hearing the cries of those that are desperate and He is hearing the cries of those that have a heart for Him and a desire to reach out to the needy.  He sees the marginalized, the abused, the hungry and the thirsty.  His eyes are scanning the world to see who will go.  Who will help.  Lord Jesus, I am here.  I will go, I will do, I will do without. 

Through a new found friendship, that has already become a precious gift, I was introduced to The Yes Club (www.theyesclub.org).  The idea of The Yes Club isn't new but it is fresh (does that makes sense?).  The idea of asking yourself to go without something in order to give to others isn't a new concept but asking to do it for a period of time (in this case 1 year) is.  I can do without something I enjoy (let’s not forget this isn't about basic necessities that are the needs of most of the world – it is 1st world wants) for a week or a month but ask me to give it up for a year, really?  Isn't that a bit extreme?  Yes!  As a Christian God calls us to die to ourselves, take up our cross, lose our life and love our neighbor as our self, but somehow in America that translates into Sunday morning church attendance and if you are really dedicated Sunday nights and Wednesday nights too.  It means fitting God in between work, sports practice/Kindermusik and friendships and having all the stuff we want, even while others are dying without food and water.  How do I know that?  It is because that is how I LIVE.  I am not pointing my finger anywhere but back at myself. 

So, as I was reading the Yes Club website I knew pretty clearly what I was supposed to give up.  And let me tell you, I did not want to!  I will share with you only because I want you to understand how very materialistic I am, not to get a pat on the back.  Only God gets the glory for this!  I LOVE gifts.  I really do.  I love being thought about.  Heck, I love getting stuff.  New stuff, pretty stuff to wear, L O V E it.  So, when I heard the whisper in my heart to give up gifts for a whole year I ignored it.  I decided I would “pray” about what God wanted me to give… ever done that?  Pray in hopes that maybe you didn't hear correctly?  It sounds so spiritual doesn't it? “I am going to pray about it.”  Really, THIS TIME, my prayer was just an act of disobedience.  Yeouch!  By this morning I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was supposed to give up gifts.  That means no Christmas (was already doing it), no Valentine’s, no 10 year anniversary, no 33 birthday, no Mother’s day.  No gifts.  Nada.  This will be a sacrifice.  Not in a “daily need” kind of way but in a “break down my selfish heart” kind of way.  Do you know what is amazing?  In the midst of giving this up and committing in my heart (and on the website) God is already overflowing my cup.  Seriously.  I am blessed beyond measure every single day but I am so blinded by wants and stuff that I cannot see it. 

So, will you join me?  Will you commit to giving something up and using that money to provide life saving water for another? 

Head over to The Yes Club and check it out. 

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”                Matthew 22:36-40

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Ready to be Ringless?

"for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me."  Matthew 25:35-36

After hearing Francis Chan share about his wife giving her engagement ring away to a ministry that uses the donated rings to help others with life saving water, I knew I had to learn more.  After wading through a number of ring selling sites (apparently selling engagement rings is big business... who knew?) I found it!  Here is the site:  www.withthisring.org/

Ya'll this is amazing.  At this website you can donate your engagement ring and they will auction it off in order to raise money to put wells in places where people do not have any clean drinking water.  This season they are focusing on India (I know! You know how much I love India!).

Read this from their website:

For girls, radical giving is about reclaiming a stolen identity.

Look at your purse. What comes to mind when you look at it? What does it say about you? Would anything change if it had a different label like Coach, Gucci or Prada?
Materialism is bred in our bones. The more things we have and the more expensive they are, the more valuable and important we think we are.
It can be surprising to find out that God doesn't share our affinity for materialism- driven status. Far from it, actually. He wants to set us free from it so we can find our identity in Him. And when we do, we find a freedom and confidence we didn't know was possible.
Radical giving is a means to that end. It is one way that we can refuse to be identified by our possessions. By holding even our most prized possessions loosely, we can learn to lean into who we are in Christ and join him in his mission.
Pretty awesome, right?  Now, before you ask, do I still have a diamond on my finger?  Yes.  I believe that until both my hubs and I are fully on the same page with this it wouldn't be right to give it.  This ring I wear is as much his as it is mine.  He chose it with me in mind, paid for it, and planned a very romantic way to present it.  It is very precious to us both.  However, I am praying that one day soon we can both be on the same page.  I am almost giddy with excitement at the idea of giving this ring for those who are thirsting for physical water and Living Water.  
What if Christian wives started to be known for their "Ringlessness"?  Wouldn't it be amazing if we all banded together and gave those things that are most precious to us for our Savior to use?  Do you think that it would make an impact on our world?  I do not mean the part of the world that would receive the water because it is obvious that it would make an impact there.  Lives would be saved both from the potential of a looming physical death but also from a spiritual death.  I mean, wouldn't it make an impact on the world around us?  On our every day world?  Would it be an opportunity to share with those that are dear to us?  Would it give us a chance to open conversations with those that are far from Him?  
After reading this are you considering it?  I wish we could chat over coffee.  I don't think Jesus has an issue with us having an engagement ring, but I do think Jesus might have a problem with an engagement ring having us.  Maybe they are called "possessions" for a reason.  
So, what do you think?  Do you agree or disagree?  Have you ever considered this? Comment away, I really want to hear what you have to say! 
"And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me"  Matthew 25:40


Saturday, December 01, 2012

Buckled in His Protection

Yesterday, as I was driving my Bug down to her grandparents house I had one of those moments.  The kind where God reaches into the mundane everyday living and gives me a glimpse of something more.  My sweet girl was safely buckled in her car seat in the back.  We have the kind with all the bells and whistles.  She was "reading" a book and singing songs.  What she didn't realize is that I was on a major highway, driving at a high speed with others around me driving just as fast or faster and not doing the best job of it.  She had no idea.  She was carefully and purposefully protected.  I put her in the car seat because I want the best for her in life.  Yes, she would rather have the freedom to move around the car at will and jump on the seats and reach for her drink and not have to stay in one position.  However, she cannot do those things because my protection of her limits her.  It also keeps her from pulling open a door or leaning out a window while I am driving on a highway.  Yes, there are times when she cries because she has to be buckled.  There are times when she fights me over it and there are times when it is even uncomfortable.  But in all of those times, it is still the best for her.

I point all of that out to say this.  I felt like God touched my heart and I understood a little more about how He works.  I looked at my daughter.  Blissfully unaware of the danger to her right and left and behind her and in front of her.  In this moment she was protected by my care, my decision for her and my presence.  My Heavenly Father feels the same way about me. Yes, there are times when He puts me someplace I would rather not be and it may be uncomfortable, but it is for a purpose.  He is bringing me to the next place in my journey.  There are times when the place God puts me actually limits me.  Could it be that it is for my protection and growth?  How many things do I not encounter because of His love and protection of me?

I had to stop and just thank God.  Yes, in this world we will have trouble, but I can truly take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33).  His love never fails (1 Cor 13:8).  The more I learn about how the rest of this world lives, the more I realize the blessing, protection and responsibility I have in my life.

Let today be the day that you stop and take the time to say Thank You to God.  Even in the midst of the discomfort and difficulty, there is a purpose and it is for His Glory and your good.  Amen.