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 NaBloPoMo, NanoPoblano

Gifted

The NaBloPoMo prompt for today wasn’t one I could really respond to as it was about new fall TV.  I honestly haven’t seen but a couple of the new fall shows so it would have been really hard to write to. Instead, I’m going to write about a topic I’ve been wanting to dig into a little more.

A few years ago our church provided everyone with an opportunity to take a spiritual gifts assessment.  I found the results fascinating, and somewhat baffling.  What I thought God had gifted me with, barely even registered as a blip.  But, the more I thought about what the test told me, the more I realized how accurate it was.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of Spiritual Gifts, don’t think you are alone.  Until our church did this, I had never even heard the term.  I found this phrase that I felt provides a great summary.

“…spiritual gifts are God-given graces (special abilities, offices, or manifestations) meant for works of service, to benefit and build up the body of Christ as a whole.”

The subject of spiritual gifts recently came up in our growth group at church and I found that many of the women had never taken a test.  I wanted to encourage them to do it and started looking online for a free test I could point them to.  I found the website GiftsTest.com.  I didn’t want to blindly point them to a test I didn’t try first, so I took the test myself.  Below is a graphical representation of my results.

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My first gift is mercy and it’s described like this: The gift of mercy is the divine strength or ability to feel empathy and to care for those who are hurting in any way.

Here’s how another website describes this gift: “Those with the motivational gift of mercy are the “heart” of the body. They easily sense the joy or distress in other people and are sensitive to feelings and needs. They are attracted to and patient with people in need, motivated by a desire to see people healed of hurts. They are truly meek in nature and avoid firmness.”

I wrote yesterday about how I had been feeling all the hurt and anger someone I don’t even know personally might be feeling.  I am an overly emotional person when MY emotions are the only ones I have to deal with.  Throw in my ability to feel others’ emotions and you have a recipe for huge bouts of depression.  Throughout my life I’ve always believed this character trait was more of a flaw than a gift.  I’ve heard news stories about tragedies and spent days crying for people I have never met. A friend can share an injustice that was done to them and I feel their pain as if it was happening to me. I’ve been known to cry in my bed for days for people I love if I know they are hurting.

Before I knew this was a gift, I’ve actually begged God to take this away from me. For years I had no idea what would happen to me in those times, or why I felt like I did.  I assumed for so long that something was wrong with me.  I really had no idea.

I’ve noticed over the years how I seem to have a knack for drawing truth and honesty from people.  People I love, random people, and people I barely know.  I’ve thought it was odd, but have always tried to give my attention and offer up advice when I can.  However, one of my biggest struggles is that I often cannot find the words I feel I need to say in order to make the confessing person feel better.  What I’m learning as I read more about this gift of mercy is that in most cases, my gift to give is just my presence and attention.  My gift is not to resolve or rectify the hurt of others, but to simply share in their pain, to provide compassion to them, and to just let them know they are not alone.

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I can’t even begin to express my joy when I found out this is not only a gift God has given to me, but it’s a gift I can use to help others. There are multiple places in the bible where the gift of mercy is discussed.  In Galatians 6:2, Paul wrote “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  I can see now that my ability to help a friend carry a hurt is so much more than I ever thought. As a recipient of this gift, it is my responsibility to come alongside those who are hurting and help them carry the cross they bear. As daunting as that seems, I find comfort and strength in knowing that God is always beside me, lifting me up as I use my gift to lift others.


Posted in NaBloPoMo, NanoPoblano

Bravery Blessings

When was the last time you did something brave? What happened?

The past few months have seen me do more brave things than I’ve done in a really long time. I’m not sure why this surge of bravery, but it has without a doubt breathed new life back into my tired mind and body. For very long periods of my life, coming up with a single brave act would be challenging at best, but I find myself with the unnatural dilemma of picking just one.  WHAT?!?  I don’t even know who I am right now.  

And, since this is MY blog, I can make up the rules as I go and will therefore provide a list (in the most humble way I can) of the brave things I’ve done recently.

  • I flew without the aid of prescription sedatives (alcohol does NOT count here), for not one trip, but two. Actually, I’ve travelled by plane 3 different times since mid September alone. For most of you, this is a very regular occurrence.  It is not for me and trust me when I say this took courage….and a lot of it.
  • I poured out my heart to my church for five passionate, heartfelt minutes about a little town in Alabama that so desperately needs us to show them what it means to be children of a King. I issued a challenge and I’ll do the work to see it through, but I know that God will make it happen. We must reflect God’s love and show others how to do the same, even in the places where fear controls us.
  • I sat in a room with eight women I did not know (and one I did) and told my personal story of and through racism. The words that poured from my heart were not my own, but God’s gentle spirit telling a story of shame and ignorance. Our stories matter, even if they are not easy to tell.
  • I spoke (through recorded video) to a group of 125 women at a retreat I helped to organize and plan. God put me in a place to tell my truth so that others could tell theirs. And truth telling is how we take away shame’s hold on us.

The second part of the today’s prompt asks a simple question.  “What happened?” Had I selected a single act of bravery as the prompt suggest, this would probably be the point where I would wrap up the story with some valuable life lesson, and tie it up with a pretty bow. Instead, I’m going to tell you what didn’t happen.  

  • I didn’t let my irrational fear of flying stop me from traveling with two incredibly godly men to follow God’s call to help the people of a small town in Alabama. I didn’t let my inexperience and childlike faith stop me from speaking up in a room where every other person was so much smarter and wiser than myself. I didn’t let fear clip my wings.
  • I didn’t let my inner voice say no when the pastor asked me to speak to the church on Sunday morning following 2 weeks of mission trips. I didn’t stress when the talking points I prepared were preempted by a request to talk about just one portion of those trips. I didn’t let my knees knocking keep me from climbing the steps to the stage, or my trembling hands from taking the microphone. I didn’t let the 100’s of faces in front of me intimidate what my heart needed to say. I didn’t stop the words God told me to speak, even if I had no idea what words would come next. I didn’t let fear silence me.
  • I didn’t let myself be intimidated in a room of women who are so much further on their faith journey than me. I didn’t let the colors in the room stop me from telling a story that had never been spoken out loud. I didn’t let my own self loathing stop me from revealing a past I need to reconcile. I didn’t miss an opportunity to learn so much about unity and how our stories can help to heal a broken and damaged world. I didn’t miss making new friends and feeling accepted and loved even when I didn’t feel I deserved it. I didn’t miss an opportunity to hear the words “that was so brave” and realize how important it is to say that to others. I didn’t let fear give me a place to hide.
  • I didn’t let the fact that I had never attended a women’s retreat stop me from helping to plan one. I didn’t stop the words “I think I have a story to tell” flow from my mouth to the exact person who knew what to do with that. I didn’t let not knowing if my story would matter keep me from telling it. I didn’t allow fears of judgement and condemnation to stop me from sharing. I didn’t miss a faith filled weekend with my best friend. I didn’t hold back tears and hugs and prayers when it was their time. I didn’t miss opportunities to hear other women confess and release pain they had held far too long. I didn’t miss finding a love for my sisters in Christ that I had no idea I even wanted. I didn’t miss chances to make mistakes and to struggle to find words when there were none. I didn’t miss hearing “your story is my story” countless times. I didn’t let fear tell me my story didn’t matter.

What blessings are you missing out on today because fear is holding you back? Scripture tells us over and over to be courageous.  Let’s do that. God will use you when you least expect it.  

Be brave, Sisters.

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Thank you for reading.  Please also scoot over to my husband’s blog and check out his latest act of bravery.  Hint: it happened tonight!

Posted in Write 31 Days

Back to the Beginning

I sat down to write tonight and had an overwhelming urging to look back at some of my older posts. I decided to start at the beginning and chuckled at myself at the first paragraph of my first ever blog post.

When I was a little girl living in a small Alabama town, I dreamed of someday leaving that existence to become a missionary doctor. I wanted to go to Africa to heal and save people. It was such a grand yet simple childhood dream, but it’s all I ever wanted and it’s all I ever talked about. It was my destiny and I knew this because God told me this was His plan for me. I had the grades and I had the faith. Why would I have ever thought this would not be my future?

I love that this was the item I chose to share with the world as I started what would become my blogging mission.

As Gil and I plan and raise funds for our first ever mission trip abroad, I can’t help but think back to the innocence and naivete in that dream.  I never had any doubt that God was telling me to do His work and spread His message. Life got in the way, as it tends to do, and I forgot He placed a mission in my heart. I’m so grateful to have found Him again and that for a few years now, He’s been recharging and refilling my heart with an unquenchable desire to tell anyone who will listen about His love, mercy, and grace.

Aspects of my younger self’s dreams have changed, but the overall picture is the same. I’ve learned my mission work does not have to be limited to some far away land to be meaningful and and impactful. I can simply show others in my everyday, ordinary life. If I can demonstrate love and mercy in the same way God grants it, I will have fulfilled that youthful dream in the smallest of ways.

Posted in Uncategorized, Write 31 Days

Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

If the title of this post seems confusing, I apologize. I’m just practicing my next mission.  Let me explain.

I’ve taken a few days off from writing in order to spend time with very dear friends and attend the Women of Faith Conference in Orlando. It was the second year I’ve attended and once again it did not disappoint. For three hours on Friday night and 8 hours on Saturday, we laughed, we cried, we worshiped, we prayed, we questioned, and we praised. There were special moments that shook my soul to the core and lifted my heart toward God.  I loved being there and I loved listening to these beautiful women (and Matthew West) bring their personal stories to life so that we could all find ways to relate to them on what felt like an intimate setting surrounded by thousands of other women. My heart and my reading list were very full when we left there.

I would highly recommend checking out every one of this year’s speaker and artists. Here’s a quick run-down for you. There was some wonderful content and messages that came from each of these and I hope to incorporate something from each speaker into this month of missions I’m on.

There was one message that really stood out for me during the weekend.  Lysa TerKeurst spoke about how we should say yes to God’s assignment each morning.  One of her quotes really jolted my heart because I will be the first to admit that prayer time and conversations with God are not first on my mind when I wake up. Lysa says we should “exchange whispers with God before shouts with the world.”  WHOA!  Talk about a Godsmack statement! b36cbaec6e103d0ba2fcba3c9f67be6a

Patsy Clairmont says that saying yes to God daily keeps you open and supple to things like gratitude and mercy. Mercy is an area in which I struggle daily. Between my commute and what can only be described as an extremely frustrating work environment, I completely ignore God’s opportunities to extend mercy. I have to more consciously acknowledge these moments and say yes to Him, yes to his assignment to invest mercy in other people.

I’m now on a mission to begin each day with “Yes, God, I’ll do whatever you want me to do”. Whatever the assignment He has for me, I will say yes to it.  I know in my heart the words in this image are true and I hope that by succeeding in this mission, I will experience joy in more areas of my life.

Posted in Write 31 Days

This Is My Mission Field

For the Write 31 Days Blogging Challenge, I selected the topic On a Mission for many reasons. Of course, the fact that I’m going to fulfill a childhood dream of doing mission work in January is very much in my thoughts and on my heart these days. But, even more than that, I’ve had a phrase that I’ve tried to focus on for the past few years. For full disclosure, I got the idea from a Steven Furtick sermon I listened to a few years ago. The sermon made me realize that as much as I have a desire to do foreign mission work, my mission field is actually any place I am. My office at work is my mission field. My car in the middle of rush hour traffic is my mission field. The grocery store, the soccer field, the gym, these are all my mission fields. I realized that no matter where I am, I can always minister to those around me without ever saying a word. If I’m living my life as a reflection of Christ, then my actions should  reflect Him. I can show grace, forgiveness, love in every situation I’m in.

Now, do I? Do I shine a light where  ever I am? No, not even close.  Am I able to do it more than I could 10 years ago, 5 years ago, 5 hours ago? You bet I am. When I find myself in a stressful situation, and I can catch my thoughts before anger and rage take over, I’m able to recite five simple words to bring me back to where God wants me.

This is my mission field.

THIS is my mission field.

This is MY mission field.

Whatever the situation I’m in, this phrase serves as a reminder that I don’t have to be in a village in Africa or an orphanage in Central America to show others what it means to love and be loved by God.  My everyday provides me with golden opportunities to do this.

I struggle so much with allowing my emotions to take my thoughts in directions I know my Father would not be proud of. I beat myself up about this fairly often. Each time my mouth explodes with a slew of profanities over a frustration at work, or I find myself gossiping about a coworker, I know I am failing God. But, the beauty is, God knows my heart. He forgives me when I struggle and fall. He also provides beautiful reminders that He’s there in those situations. He makes sure I remember.  And when I remember He’s there,  it’s my job to let others know He’s there, and  it all turns around. My thoughts come back to a more peaceful place and my emotions become less explosive.

I have the following bible verse in two different places in my office.

Philippians 4:8  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

This verse helps me to refocus my thoughts so that my actions better align with my dream of being a missionary for Christ. Even if that mission field is a small office on Kennedy in South Tampa.

31days