Posted in NaBloPoMo, NanoPoblano

Stay Thirsty, My Friend

Once again, Gil and I find ourselves picking a prompt other than the NaBloPoMo suggested prompt for today. We wanted something we could both write to, and when I found this one, I knew it was the one.  Tonight we are writing about which of the Beatitudes is the  most meaningful us us and why?

The Beatitudes were declarations of blessedness Jesus delivered in His Sermon on the Mount. You can find all eight of them in Matthew 5:1-12. Each one begins with the phrase “Blessed are …” and these verses describe the ideal follower of Christ and his rewards, both present and future.

Although every one of them is meaningful, I think I would have to pick Matthew 5:6 as the one most special to me.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

I find myself looking up the definition for righteousness all the time. I’ll hear or read the word used and think that it is being used incorrectly.  As a child growing up in church, my only reference to this word was when it was used to describe God, and for that reason, I get a little bent out of shape when I hear it used to describe people. My childlike brain cannot process any human being capable of righteousness.  So, once again tonight, I find myself typing the word into a Google search bar. In it’s most simple form, it is defined as the quality of being morally right or justifiable. For this blog post, I’m going to use this simple definition to describe why this particular Beatitude speaks to me.

I still see this word through the eyes of that small Southern Baptist child who went to church and above all else, feared God and wanted to be a perfect child in His eyes. I remember thinking when I would do bad things that God was watching and seeing me. I remember that I was good because I didn’t want to get in trouble with God, and not just because I was seeking righteousness. It’s funny how the mind of a child works and how the mind of an adult remembers those childhood thoughts. I thirsted for His approval because I knew He was watching and I wanted Him to be pleased with me. What my childlike brain did not process was that by being good, I was actually striving for righteousness, striving to be more like God so I could spend eternity with Him.

As an adult, it’s easy to fall into this same pattern of thinking. We are taught that goodness is rewarded and bad behavior is punished. If we are good, we get a point. If we are bad, we lose a point.  We get filled up or we get emptied out. It’s that simple, right?

As humans, we are sinners. We will never be all good.  Because of this sin, we are separated from God and we will never achieve the righteousness of God. There is no good deed or kind act or religious sacrament we can perform that will bridge the gap sin has created. Our lack of righteousness will never allow us to be with The Righteous One. But, God is not scoreboarding our actions or our lack of actions.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. ~ John 3:16

God wants to welcome humankind back into His good graces, so He sent His son to wipe away our sin. If we believe Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sin, then we will have eternal life and the bridge between man and God is built.

Our desire, our thirst, for this righteousness is what God wants from us. It’s this hunger that causes us to have faith that the Good News of Jesus is true. If we didn’t desire to be like God, to be with God, then we would not need faith.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. ~ Romans 5:1-5

If being righteous means to be justifiable, then this passage in Romans clearly tells us that we are justified by our faith. If we have faith, we can achieve righteousness. If we are truly seeking righteousness, then we are promised God’s love will pour into our hearts…our hearts will be filled.  Matthew 5:12 describes the promise of the Beatitudes. It says “Rejoice and be glad,because great is your reward in heaven…”

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved ~ Romans 10:13

God makes these promises to us over and over in the scriptures. Everyone who seeks, everyone who asks, and everyone who believes that Jesus is the bridge to carry us over our sin, will one day sit next to God in all of His righteous glory. If the promise of that isn’t enough to make you thirsty, I don’t know what is.

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Posted in NaBloPoMo, NanoPoblano

Wirth a Mention

I attended a class at church today in which we learned different methods for sharing our faith. During one of the exercises we were given a worksheet  with a few questions to help guide us to write our faith story. One question had to do with identifying a person who has helped you to have a relationship with Christ.  My immediate and first answer is my husband, Gil. He is the one constant in my life who pushes me to walk out my faith every day. But, there was another who came in a close second.  It’s my pastor, Paul Wirth. I wrote about Paul back in 2011 for a website called Random Writers .  Even though I wrote this post over 5 years ago, so much of it still holds true, so I thought I would just share it with you tonight.


Random Writers Week 4 Topic: What is the greatest discovery you have ever made? (In honor of Columbus Day this week)

As a child, I attended a small southern Baptist church where a Sunday with 35 people in attendance was a good day. For me, church meant Sunday School, then preaching on Sunday mornings, Sunday night services, and let’s not forget Wednesday night’s prayer meetings. Let’s just say that as a child I attended church a lot but I was never really present. And when I was there, most of the lessons I heard were sermons preached to adults. Even though I heard what the preacher was saying to us, I’m not sure I ever truly understood what it any of it meant. At some point during these sermons, I completely missed the message about having a personal relationship with God.

My greatest discovery has been the discovery of my love affair with God. Yes, I said ‘love affair’. I read a book a few years ago called The Sacred Romance and it changed my life. (I invite you to read a blog I wrote back in January that tells a little more about just how this book affected me.) I took the message from that book and applied it to everything I had learned in that small southern Baptist church. I took those previous teachings and turned them all upside down, shook ‘em up sideways and out spilled this phenomenal new view of what it means to have a relationship with God. And not just what it means but that God is and has been romancing my heart all of my life. He has been fighting for my love and I’ve been too blind to see it.

Besides the book, there are two other things that I found on my path to this incredible discovery. The first was Relevant Church. For years I said that visiting a building once a week would not bring me any closer to God, I knew him and I loved him. It wasn’t until I discovered (through a friend) Relevant that I found out just how incredibly wrong I had been. For the first time in my life, I look forward to Sunday mornings. I crave the message that our pastor, Paul Wirth, is going to deliver. He has never failed me. Maybe I should I say God has never failed to deliver His intended message to me through Paul. Every Sunday is like the biggest Oprah a-ha moment ever. I am more often than not moved to tears by witnessing Paul’s love for God. It is impossible to deny God’s love for us when you watch what He does through Paul.

The final stepping stone on my journey to discovering God’s love for me has been the music of the band Needtobreathe (discovered through Relevant and a friend). I struggle to find words to describe how their music affects me. I’ve never been a fan of Christian music and Needtobreathe doesn’t promote themselves as a Christian band but there is so much spiritual emotion in their lyrics that it’s almost impossible for me not to find God when I listen to them. Here are a few samples of lyrics from a few different songs:

I’m giving you my heart to break again, Oh I’m leaving you a way to get back in, Return to me ~ from the song Return

I want you to know, I’m leaving to let you go, And someday we’ll walk upon, The streets of gold ~ from the song Streets of Gold

If you’re lost and lonely, broken down, bring all of your troubles, and come lay ‘em down ~ from the song Lay ‘Em Down

This new discovery of the old teachings from that small, country church Sunday school classroom has changed my life in unimaginable ways. I’ve always known that God sent His Son to die for my sins but it wasn’t until I witnessed Paul Wirth standing in front of all of us, tears streaming down his face, that I felt it. I truly got it in a way that had never been clear to me before. Today, I sit in church on Sunday mornings and I am more present than I’ve ever been.

I feel that sometimes people think of making discoveries as being something grand and on the scale of a Christopher Columbus type of discovery. Sometimes, a discovery can be as simple as finding new meaning in old ideas.

 

Posted in Inspired by Music, My life in pictures, Post A Day Challenge

293/365 Twice as Nice

Due to some scheduling conflicts, I attended church all alone today, which I rarely do, which I really don’t like to do.  However, I’m really glad I didn’t just skip out because it was a super powerful message AND the band did back to back NEEDTOBREATHE songs. The first was my favorite, Something Beautiful. The second was The Reckoning. This is by far my favorite live NEEDTOBREATHE song, so I was a little nervous when I quickly recognized the first few chords from the band this morning. Our band is amazing and I had no doubt they could kill it, but….nothing in this world can compare to the live performance. Carl and the boys in the band did not disappoint one little bit. There was no drum line, but the heavy thumping of the drums on our little church stage, coupled with the incredible service Paul had just delivered,  was just powerful enough to leave me sobbing in my seat. Of course, that is nothing new as I’m regularly leaving the worship area while wiping the tears away.

I don’t have a photo for you today.Instead, I would love to share an example of what I consider to be one of the greatest live onstage moments (one amateur video captured performance of this song), start watching at about 2:30. However, to get the full effect, I would strongly encourage watching the whole thing.

I know an amateur recording doesn’t completely do the song justice. For your listening pleasure, I’m including a link to the song on Spotify.

NEEDTOBREATHE – The Reckoning

Posted in Inspired by Music, My life in pictures, Post A Day Challenge

237/365 Time for Church

Day 4 of Rock by the Sea 6: I was able to wrap up the raffle and auctions with seconds to spare…literally. I claimed my saved spot by the stage (Thank you Lindsey and Tammy!!!!) just about 60 seconds before the boys walked onto the stage.

As always, NEEDTOBREATHE did not disappoint on ANY level. Even when the power went out on their microphones, Bear stepped out to the edge of the stage and gave us everything he had. And it was enough. This 90 minutes was the dose of Holy Spirit that I had been craving all weekend. There is nothing I love more than feeling music. Correction, there is nothing I love more than feeling music and God’s love washing over me.

Or maybe that was just the sweat from having danced my tushy off.

But seriously, God blessed those boys in that little band from South Carolina. He not only gave them talent to write, sing and make beautiful music, he has allowed them to share that talent with so many people. And if you are very fortunate, like me, you will hear the words and know that God is working through them. I am proof of that.

Posted in My life in pictures, Post A Day Challenge

215/365 Easter is Here

Six weeks ago I posted a picture from our very unusual church service that day. On that February Sunday, the entire worship area was directed out of the back doors and onto three awaiting tour buses. We weren’t told where we were going but watched Pastor Paul deliver his communion message via recorded video displayed on the bus’s TV monitors. He explained that we were heading to Curtis Hixon Park in Downtown Tampa. This was to be the site of our church’s Easter celebration and we were going there to pray over it. Upon arrival at the park, we were handed a Sharpie as we exited the bus and instructed to write the names of those we wanted to join us for this epic Easter celebration on pieces of pine bark mulch lining the various flower and plant beds.

I took a seat on the ground and grabbed a  few pieces of bark. I wrote my mom’s name first, then my nephew and sister. I knew that having them join us today would be a long shot but I wanted their names in that pile of mulch that so many have prayed over in the past few weeks.

Next, I sat and thought about who else I would want to join us. The list was long, but I wanted this to be special. I thought about those local friends and acquaintances who could use a serious boost of our Father’s message and honestly, no one came to mind. I’m sure if I had been given more than 10 minutes to think about it, I could have come up with a decent list but the time just wasn’t there.

Then, it hit me. I knew that my blood family would most likely not be able to be with us so I immediately thought about my other family. If I couldn’t have blood with me, I would at least want to celebrate this special Holy day with those I consider family by choice.

This is the piece of bark that I scribbled on.

Today was proof that God does hear and answer our prayers. For 12 months our church has prayed about this day and for His glory to shine in the city of Tampa. We asked for 5,000 people to show up and 5,560 did indeed. Pastor Paul asked for beautiful weather and at the start of today’s service, the thermometer registered a comfortable 73 degrees with not a cloud in the sky. We all prayed God would speak to those who needed him and at the end of the day, 30 people became new Christ followers.

One more prayer was answered today. That was my prayer said six weeks ago in a park over a piece of pine bark. I prayed that our friends Matt and Michelle (Matelle) and Jeff and Ellen (Jellen), along with their families, would join us for this special celebration. As you can see, they did just that. I am so blessed to call these people my family.

Back row: Ellen, Jeff, Tanner, Gil, Kurt, Michelle, Matt. Front row: Abby, Emma holding Olivia, Lee, Natalie, Chloe.
Posted in Random Writers

That Was Some Crazy Ass Thinking

Random Writers Week 5 Topic: What is one thing you felt strongly about but changed your mind?)

When I first started my blog I only knew that I wanted to use it as a way to discover my authentic self and simply to get more real with my internal thoughts and feelings. I wasn’t at all sure of where I was going to go with it and I have to tell you, I’ve really surprised myself with some of the things I’ve written. There have been times I sat down to write one thing with a clearly defined conclusion in mind and ended up somewhere completely different, a thousand miles from where I started. For this reason, I feel that I’m a long way from completing this journey but I know I’m on the exact path I was meant to take.

Herein lies my problem. When I started this blog I had in no way intended for it to be a blog about God or faith or religion. I know there were a few posts back in January and a couple sprinkled in since, but for the most part, I would intentionally leave God out of my writing if I could. I had this very strong belief that if I wrote too much about my faith, that it would turn people away. I felt that way because of some of my own ideas toward others who openly and loudly proclaimed their love for Christ.

Let me explain a little bit. There have been times in my life when I’ve been surrounded by ‘in your face’ Christians. I’ve had family members, coworkers and acquaintances who only spoke in a language where every other word was God or Jesus or Heaven or hell. I found myself in situations and conversations with these people that left me feeling angry and this would typically result in an eye roll and quick exit. I think it was these situations early on in my adult life that turned my faith inward and I became much more reserved in what I shared about my beliefs. I know that God wants us to share His word but I was too busy hiding from it to make it known it to anyone else.

There was also a big part of me that was scared to share my beliefs with others.  I always felt that I wasn’t a very educated Christian so, rather than find myself in situations where I had to back up my beliefs, I just remained quiet. Even though I grew up in church, I don’t feel like I retained much of the knowledge that was shared with me by teachers and preachers. I didn’t grow up reading and studying the bible in a way that I should have and by early adulthood, I very rarely ever stepped foot inside a church except for weddings, funerals and Easter services. I just couldn’t explain why I believed and refused to put myself in a circumstance that required it. I found if they were challenging me, they wanted definitive proof and most people just didn’t accept “because the Bible says so” as proof of God.

It’s so sad but these feelings have followed me into my Forty’s and I didn’t even realize it until recently. I never talked about how I felt and that I was intentionally excluding my faith from my blog and my journey to find my authentic self. Well, that’s not true. Back in May I wrote a post about addiction. Near the end of the post I mentioned ways someone might help another who is struggling. When Gil read this post he actually called me out on how I didn’t mention prayer. I had typed it, then deleted it. I told him I had done that and how I didn’t want my blog to become one of those ‘crazy Christian’ blogs. I explained that I was concerned about turning people off with an overtly religious sentiment. I’m sure I spewed out some other lame rationales for not including the suggestion of prayer but I can’t remember them all now.

What it boils down to is that I felt very strongly about not turning my blog into something that might turn a so-so Christian or a non-believer away.

WTH?!?

What kind of crazy-ass thinking was that? THAT is exactly who I should be sharing my faith with. Can you believe how much I allowed the devil to creep into my thoughts and hold me back from sharing a message as powerful as the love of God? So, here’s the thing. I’ve come to realize that I was writing for who I was before. Now, I’m writing for who I want to become. And that person is someone who is proud to say that I love Christ and I’m trying to live a life that would make Him proud. I’m not always successful but that’s the beauty of God’s grace. He will forgive me when I mess up.

I’m not planning to change the way I write my blog but I’m certainly not going to censor myself when I feel God speaking through me. Gone are the thoughts that I need to justify my faith in God by spitting out scripture and passages from the bible to back it up. I’m not teaching Sunday School. I’m sharing my story and my story doesn’t exist without God’s grace. I’m writing this blog for me and I cherish those of you who continue to read each post and those who pop in and out when you can. The last thing I want to do is turn someone away from me or from God because I write too much about my faith journey. But, what if the last thing I do is turn someone toward God because I shared my story?

To read about how my fellow Random Writers’ changed their minds, please check out thier blogs (Gil, Jeff, Lindsey) or read them all at the Random Writers website.

Posted in Random Writers

My Greatest Discovery

Random Writers Week 4 Topic: What is the greatest discovery you have ever made? (In honor of Columbus Day this week)

As a child, I attended a small southern Baptist church where a Sunday with 35 people in attendance was a good day. For me, church meant Sunday School, then preaching on Sunday mornings, Sunday night services, and let’s not forget Wednesday night’s prayer meetings. Let’s just say that as a child I attended church a lot but I was never really present. And when I was there, most of the lessons I heard were sermons preached to adults. Even though I heard what the preacher was saying to us, I’m not sure I ever truly understood what it any of it meant. At some point during these sermons, I completely missed the message about having a personal relationship with God.

My greatest discovery has been the discovery of my love affair with God. Yes, I said ‘love affair’. I read a book a few years ago called The Sacred Romance and it changed my life. (I invite you to read a blog I wrote back in January that tells a little more about just how this book affected me.) I took the message from that book and applied it to everything I had learned in that small southern Baptist church. I took those previous teachings and turned them all upside down, shook ‘em up sideways and out spilled this phenomenal new view of what it means to have a relationship with God. And not just what it means but that God is and has been romancing my heart all of my life. He has been fighting for my love and I’ve been too blind to see it.

Besides the book, there are two other things that I found on my path to this incredible discovery. The first was Relevant Church. For years I said that visiting a building once a week would not bring me any closer to God, I knew him and I loved him. It wasn’t until I discovered (through a friend) Relevant that I found out just how incredibly wrong I had been. For the first time in my life, I look forward to Sunday mornings. I crave the message that our pastor, Paul Wirth, is going to deliver. He has never failed me. Maybe I should I say God has never failed to deliver His intended message to me through Paul. Every Sunday is like the biggest Oprah a-ha moment ever. I am more often than not moved to tears by witnessing Paul’s love for God. It is impossible to deny God’s love for us when you watch what He does through Paul.

The final stepping stone on my journey to discovering God’s love for me has been the music of the band Needtobreathe (discovered through Relevant and a friend). I struggle to find words to describe how their music affects me. I’ve never been a fan of Christian music and Needtobreathe doesn’t promote themselves as a Christian band but there is so much spiritual emotion in their lyrics that it’s almost impossible for me not to find God when I listen to them. Here are a few samples of lyrics from a few different songs:

I’m giving you my heart to break again, Oh I’m leaving you a way to get back in, Return to me ~ from the song Return

I want you to know, I’m leaving to let you go, And someday we’ll walk upon, The streets of gold ~ from the song Streets of Gold

If you’re lost and lonely, broken down, bring all of your troubles, and come lay ‘em down ~ from the song Lay ‘Em Down

This new discovery of the old teachings from that small, country church Sunday school classroom has changed my life in unimaginable ways. I’ve always known that God sent His Son to die for my sins but it wasn’t until I witnessed Paul Wirth standing in front of all of us, tears streaming down his face, that I felt it. I truly got it in a way that had never been clear to me before. Today, I sit in church on Sunday mornings and I am more present than I’ve ever been.

I feel that sometimes people think of making discoveries as being something grand and on the scale of a Christopher Columbus type of discovery. Sometimes, a discovery can be as simple as finding new meaning in old ideas.

To read about my fellow Random Writers’ discoveries, please check out thier blogs (Gil, Jeff, Lindsey) or read them all at the Random Writers website.