I’m waiting, God. Where are you?

My church is currently revisiting the book of Psalms, with a different pastor preaching each Sunday. It is so refreshing! Isn’t that the beauty of God’s Word? It is alive and each time we read it, we gain new insight and a fresh perspective on how to apply it to our lives.

Recently, pastor Michael spoke on Psalm 13 – God in our waiting. He reminded us that we all are in a place of waiting at some point in our lives. What do we do when we don’t know where God is, we don’t know what God is doing, or our life looks nothing like we thought it would?

What then?

I remember years ago when I had been severely hurt by someone I thought was a friend. It was painful. It was confusing. And quite frankly, it was depressing.

What did I do?

First, in my tears I turned to the Psalms. The Psalms of lament comforted me somehow. Knowing there were others who had endured such pain and made it to the other side reassured me that I would, too. Seeing that God is okay with me asking WHY? was comforting.

Then, God asked me to pray for that former friend. I began to go on prayer walks every day. As I rounded the corner by her house I made sure to cover her in prayer. God had me do this for a full year. I don’t know the effect it had on her, but I can see now that this was the key to healing my broken heart.

Finally, I lifted up praise to God. Even if I didn’t know what would come of this break in our friendship, I knew God was still good and in praising Him, I allowed the Holy Spirit to take over my mind – renew my mind and change my heart. Do you know what? It’s impossible to feel sorry for yourself when you have abandoned yourself to worship. IMPOSSIBLE.

Without even knowing it, I was following the example that is laid out in Psalm 13 –

So, what should we do?

First, we LAMENT

1How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Then, we PETITION, or PRAY

3Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

Finally, we PRAISE

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

Yes. He has been good to me.

Even if.

Even though.

God is still good.

Amen.

(If you’d like to hear the sermon mentioned above, you can click here to find it.)

Unpack Your Baggage

We’ve just finished the first week of the new year. I love this time of year – it is filled with new promises, new beginnings, and new hope. We take great pains in promising ourselves that this year will be different. We start new diets & exercise plans, we start new projects, we clean out our closets and our cabinets and discard things that weigh us down.

I am doing these things, too – but today’s sermon at my church reminded me that Paul says the ONE THING we must be certain to do in order to move forward in life, is to forget what is behind us.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

What does that look like? In order to fully grab on to God and walk into his favor and grace in the new year, we must leave behind those things that will hold us back. If we are unhealthily still focused on your past, you cannot move forward.

So, if you are intending to really make strides in your life this year – I’d like to share with your the list my pastor, Albert Tate, gave us on Sunday of things you must unpack from 2017. As he opened a suitcase on the stage and unpacked each t-shirt with these words on it, he shared why hanging on to these things will keep you from experiencing the fullness of God in the new year…

ANGER and UNFORGIVENESS

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Louis B. Smedes

HURTS

“Other people are going to find healing in your wounds. Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts.” Rick Warren

UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS

Godly community is powerful. Find friends that want to know, “how’s your soul doing?” and ditch the friends who push you into feeding your flesh.

WORRY and FEAR

“Put away worry and fear and watch God be God. Every day, give the day to God and worship him at every step. Don’t walk in worry and fear – walk in worship and faith.” Albert Tate

BAD HABITS

Two words: STOP IT.

Unpack Your Baggage from last year. Photo: Becky White

PRIDE and SELFISHNESS

Leave behind your failures, yes – but we also must leave behind our successes. If we assume we are the source of our success, we won’t be able to let God bring us to new things in the new year.

Once you’ve unpacked and made a commitment to yourself and to God to leave behind the things that will hold you back in the coming year – you must also remember to re-pack your bag to push ahead on the journey ahead. Fill it with

CONFESSION

Confessing the broken areas of your life takes away any power it has to hold you back. You are meant to soar!

GRACE GRACE

Grace comes in a double portion – always. No one is too far from God to receive his grace, and once you have received that grace it is your duty to freely give it to others.

ACCOUNTABILITY

You cannot do this life alone. Who knows what you struggle with? Have someone you can call for prayer and positive affirmation that you can do this!

Christ’s resurrection represents the NEW thing God wants to do for you in this NEW YEAR. You will never experience the new thing God wants you to do without first letting go of the old things.

Don’t be stuck.

Don’t be stagnant.

Make the choice to unpack those bags and move forward for God’s glory!

(Author’s note: This is a brief recap of a sermon from 1/7/18 at Fellowship Monrovia. No one tells the gospel story quite like Albert Tate – to enjoy the whole sermon, you can watch on Facebook by clicking here, or on the church website here.)

 

 

 

 

Am I God’s Friend?

I was captivated by her story as she told me how God was her playmate as a child.

An only child, my friend Karen says, ” I didn’t have an imaginary friend as a little girl. I just talked to God all day long.” She smiled joyfully as she recounted days in the back yard of her family home, playing by herself. Only she wasn’t by herself. She was talking to God, her constant companion, about anything and everything.

Photo: AdobeStock - Used with Permission

Photo: AdobeStock – Used with Permission

I was amazed. You see, Karen didn’t have the benefit of attending Sunday school or church with her parents like I did.  She was left to her own devices in the spiritual realm at that young age. And yet, she KNEW God was close. He had called her by name. And she had listened. Her childlike faith allowed her to converse with the God of the universe like he was her best friend.

Because he was.

It makes me wonder – how many times had God called my name, even as a young girl, and I didn’t have ears to hear? My friend’s life-long ability to speak directly to God like he’s right there in the room with her is something I didn’t learn until much later in life, in spite of growing up in a pastor’s home.

Have you tried it? If you listen, he is calling your name. He wants you to know him. He wants you to talk to him. Like he’s right there in the room.

Because He is.

 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 18:3

Just Keep Swimming

I think most of us have seen the movie “Finding Nemo” when the character Dori sings “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” In the movie “Finding Dori” we learn why she sings that song. She is a small young fish and sings the song with her parents when she is learning how to swim and she continues to sing the song when she is facing her fears.

We all have fears that we must face. Whether we are a small fish, a child, or an adult, we all have fears. “If you don’t look at fear as your enemy it will one day defeat you” (Havilah Cunningham). You are either driven by fear, or overtaken by fear. What will it be for you? If you let fear defeat you, you will not grow or become the person God made you to be. You can either step forward into growth or step back into safety. What will it be for you?

There is a spirit of fear that wants to dominate everything in you. It is Satan’s way of stopping you from doing the powerful things God created you to do. Will you let him stop you? Will you let him win? What happens when you face fear? What if? What would you become? You will not know unless you do it, unless you take action. It will not be easy. Facing what you are afraid of is NOT easy, but you will never know who you could be or what life has for you if you don’t.

I was asked why I go on so many trips, and do so many activities and adventures. And my answer is this, there is so much on this earth to experience and so many places to go, why not try to do as much as possible?! I said yes to an 11 month Christian mission trip to 11 different countries. I was scared. I was afraid. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I did it anyway and I am here to tell you I do not regret going one bit! I am so happy I was obedient to God. I grew in ways I would have never if I didn’t step out of my comfort zone and face my fears.

Our job is to be obedient and say yes to the opportunity in front of us even if it scares us. There is anointing that comes when you obey God. And when we obey the supernatural will happen. And I experienced just that. God gave me an anointing over my life and I experienced miracles, and went on many adventures.

I have run and finished a half marathon, completed a triathlon, hiked Half Dome in Yosemite, training now to hike Mount Whitney (the tallest peak in the continental America), went shark cage diving, laid with tigers, rode an elephant, went on a safari. I’m not saying this to brag of all the things I’ve done. This is a result of saying yes to an opportunity, facing fears and going for it. I accepted the challenge of training, of leaving the country for a year and in return I was able to do all this and more! 

Are you going to “just keep swimming” or are you going to let fear defeat you? It’s up to you.

finding-dori

You Can’t Earn It

“But the father said to his servants, Quick! Bring the best robe and put in on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet…” Luke 15:22

You may have heard this story of the prodigal son who squandered his inheritance and was living in obscure poverty when he finally came to his senses and returned to his father to ask if he could work as his hired help. The father was so overjoyed his son had returned home, that he restored him to his previous status, including giving him the family ring that would forever give him all the rights to something he did not earn.

That ring, though.

Photo: Jostens

Photo: Jostens

Troy Murphy, a Wisconsin pastor who also happens to be the chaplain for the Green Bay Packers football team, tells a story about when they won the Super Bowl in 2010. A few weeks after that big game, he was running on the treadmill when he answered a phone call that went something like, “How soon can you come here to be fitted for your Super Bowl ring?” You better believe he stopped that treadmill and rushed to the stadium as soon as he could. As he flashed the ring to us and we all ooohed and ahhhhed at its bling & beauty, he said, “I don’t know if you remember, but I didn’t catch a pass during that game. I didn’t go out and make any tackles. I never ran a ball into the end zone.” And yet, here he was, the recipient of a ring that makes him part of something he did not earn.

What a gift we’ve been given!

God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be

~Brennan Manning~

 

Walking in Freedom

I just got back from a weekend in Mexico with my church. We turned off our phones and the outside world in order to be fully engaged with the people around us and with Jesus. When you become fully present with Jesus, the supernatural happens.

We would start our day with one on one time with Jesus. Sitting in the quiet of his presence and creating a space for him to speak and for us to listen. In this space your relationship with him grows. He wants to spend one on one time with you just like you would a friend.

We then would head to the church where we would have corporate worship praising and singing songs to our Lord and Savior. One of the pastors would speak what God had placed on their heart and it always ended with a response to God.

One of the responses was thinking of a time that left us in a place of shame, guilt, discomfort, anger, whatever it may be and going back to that time in our life and picturing Jesus there with you. It’s powerful! Try it. You will begin to feel freedom. Chains will start to break off because you have allowed yourself to go back to that time of hurt and pain, but you also allowed Jesus to show you where he was during that time. He was with you.

He wants to heal you from that place of hurt. Whatever it may be he wants you to walk in freedom with him, but he is not going to force you. He is waiting.

Jesus has already set us free by dying in our place on the cross. Now is our time to fully walk in the freedom he has given to us. We don’t deserve it but he gave it to us anyway because that is how much we are loved by the Father in heaven.

“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” Romans 6:6-8

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

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(I have so many amazing stories from this weekend but I feel this is what God wanted me to share with you first. Wait until the end of the month and I will share more!)

When Heaven and Earth Collide

On Thursday I was worshipping during a corporate worship service and I felt as if heaven and earth were colliding. It was the feeling as if things of heaven were coming down to earth and all the saints were in one room together along with angels. The presence of God was so overwhelming in the room that I was flat on my face lying on my stomach on the floor.

While I was lying on the floor worshipping there was a presence of someone else worshipping with me. Yes, there were many other people physically in the room, but I felt as if someone was with me spiritually. It felt as though someone I dearly love who went home to Jesus about 6 years ago was with me. That presence was my dear Grandma! It was beautiful. I felt as though my grandma and I were worshipping our God together! I had tears of joy streaming down my face. She and I were laughing together and singing praises to our Savior. The moment was wonderful and I didn’t want it to end.

I know for a fact my grandma is in heaven and I believe God gives us gifts from heaven like visits from the ones we love who have gone before us.

This is not the first time my grandma has visited me. Almost exactly a year ago I had a dream that was so vivid I felt as though my grandma was in the room with me. She told me she was sent from God to bring me reassurance and hope.

Before my grandma’s visit last week, I was missing her and wishing she was with me. I want to talk with her so badly about all the things God is doing in my life. I want to sit down over a cup of coffee and have a conversation about Jesus. Even though I cannot physically see her or give her a hug, I was reminded on Thursday that she is with me. She is seeing all that God is doing in my life, and we shared a special moment together in the presence of God. What an incredible gift!

DSC07508

Hillsong has a song called “Heaven and Earth.” The chorus is

Heaven and earth collide
The Savior for everyone has come
Bringing the dead to life
All for the glory of Your name

This is so true! The savior for everyone has come. He came to this earth and is alive in heaven. He brings the dead to life, which is true in many ways, but in this case, my grandma “died” on earth, but is alive in heaven with Jesus! And I was able to experience her being alive to bring glory to the name of Jesus. He is the only reason why I was able to worship with my grandma and see her in a dream.

I hope this is an encouragement to you! That you will experience heaven and earth colliding. Worship God, give thanks to him, praise his holy name, ask for an encounter with him, and you will experience the greatness and glory of the Lord on earth as it is in heaven.

 

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1: 18-19

 

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.” Matthew 6:9-10

There’s That Word Again

I don’t know about you, but at the beginning of the year I take inventory of my life. Last year was good, but I had little focus and follow through. It seemed the success I had was haphazard, at best. Lucky me, I did fairly well in spite of myself, but there was something missing.

I’ve been thinking and praying a lot lately about having a theme word for 2016. I did this in 2014 and the word was DEEPER. That year, I went deeper in all areas of my life – my walk with the Lord became more resolute and He brought me to new places because of my commitment to going deeper.

Have you ever asked God for a word to set the tone for your year? It’s quite eye-opening. I chuckle at the fact that God has such different ideas about what needs to be accomplished than I do. I was inspired by Nikki’s choice of the word SIMPLICITY, because who DOESN’T need to pare down and remove all the distractions? Kristin’s choice of CONSISTENCY spoke volumes to me as well – I could use some consistency in my life, for sure.

I filled 3 pages with words I was hoping might inspire me to move beyond my sluggish vision for myself. They were all great words. Any one of them would have been appropriate. Perfect, even. Words like

MOMENTUM * FORWARD * EMPOWER * GROWTH * RESOLVE * ACTION * INTENTIONAL * CONSISTENT * SAVOR * IGNITE * COMMIT * FOCUS * DILIGENCE * SOAR * PERSISTENCE * YES * DISCIPLINE* BALANCE

You get the idea.

But God doesn’t see what I see. So I asked Him to show me a word to adopt as my theme for 2016. On those 3 pages, I first highlighted all the words that jumped out at me, or “spoke” to me. Now I’m left with about 25 words. Funny thing, I had written the word Intentional about 4 times and highlighted it each time. But I still wasn’t convinced.

Now, instead of SEEING the word “intentional” periodically, I began HEARING it. I’m not kidding. A couple weeks ago on a Saturday I attended a business training class where the speaker emphasized the need to be INTENTIONAL in our business. Emphasized is not even a strong enough word – she must have said it at least 20 times. The very next day, my pastor preached about beginning again in the new year. As he spoke about not settling for being comfortable, about how God has called us move out of our comfort so he can speak to us and through us. This requires being INTENTIONAL about how we use our time and resources. He added, “Don’t you dare set your agenda for the year. Give God the pen and let HIM write your plan.”

Okay, got it. My foray into being intentional needs to include hearing from God for each step.

In 2015  I neglected to choose a word and I was floundering. Busy without being productive. I felt a sense of disconnect between my calling and my reality. Nothing seemed to move forward. It was okay, but certainly not good, and most certainly not great. And not even close to being spectacular or even fabulous. I believe God has placed spectacular gifts inside of us, and it is up to us to use those gifts.

I want the best God has for me. So this year I know the word I need to focus on is INTENTIONAL. I know beyond a doubt that God has called me to great things, as I believe He has called each one of us. The key is, will we answer that call? Will we look toward intentional living so that we are effective for the gospel? Daily that word is before me, and daily I am taking steps to live a life of INTENTION.

I want the best God has for me. So this year I know the word I need to focus on is INTENTIONAL.

The Maze Runner

I had a vision a couple weeks ago of myself running through a dark maze. I was frightened because I didn’t know what would jump out from around each corner. I was sprinting through this maze and there was no end in sight.

I have prayed and seeked counsel about this vision and this is what I think it means… I have a lot of unknowns in my life at the moment and I don’t know which way to turn. Life is a mystery and we never know what we will face.

When I told this vision to a mentor of mine, he told me I need to pray God shines His light on the maze so I will be able to see where I am going. I love the advice he gave me because it’s true! When we shine a light in a dark place we are able to see. And when we seek God with unknown situations he will guide us in the direction he wants us to go.

I still feel as though I am in that maze, but I don’t feel as though I am sprinting, it’s more of a jog. And the maze is not as dark. I am still in the midst of a lot of unknowns but I serve and love a God who has all the answers. I can trust him with my life. I can trust him to guide me in the right direction. The direction he leads me may not be the direction I would have expected, but God’s plan is way better than anything I could have ever dreamed or imagined!

It’s funny because when I worry about things it puts more stress on me and it usually doesn’t work out the way I want it to. BUT whenever I surrender and let God take control, those things I was once worried about are taken care of. We make things a lot more complicated than they need to be.

If you feel you are facing a lot of unknowns let me encourage you to lay those unknowns at the feet of Jesus and allow him to take control. He loves you and will provide and take care of you!

 

Allow God to lead you through the maze of life. He will lead you to heaven.

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(Every morning while living at an orphanage in Swaziland we exercised by running several miles with some of the children – World Race November 2014)

One-Liners and Fun!

(My Grandma thought she’d type out some “one-liners” to share with me on March 3, 2006. I wanted to share them with you today! She still uplifts me with her words, and she’s been gone from this earth for years! The photos are of her in my dorm room in college being her awesome, fun self, and of me putting my hair on her head for a laugh on her 90th birthday! She was SO FUN! I love you Grandma! Thank you for a heritage of faith, joy, humor and love! – Kristin)

Basketball Grandma 1996

Basketball Grandma 1996

GMA

Don’t let your worries get the best of you; remember, Moses started out as a basket case.

Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisors.

It is easier to preach ten sermons than it is to live one.

The good Lord didn’t create anything without a purpose, but mosquitoes come close.

People are funny; they want the front of the bus, the middle of the road, and the back of the church.

Opportunity may knock once, but temptation bangs on your front door forever.

Quit griping about your church; if it was perfect, you wouldn’t belong.

God Himself does not propose to judge a man until he is dead. So, why should you?

Some minds are like concrete. Thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.

Peace starts with a smile.

I don’t know why some people change churches; what difference does it make which one you stay home from?

We were called to be witnesses, not lawyers or judges.

Be ye fishers of men. You catch them – He’ll clean them.

Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.

Don’t put a question mark where God put a period.

Forbidden fruits create many jams.

God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

God grades on the cross, not the curve.

God loves everyone, but probably prefers “fruits of the spirit” over “religious nuts!”

God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.

He who angers you, controls you!

If God is your Co-pilot, SWAP SEATS!

You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage him.

The best mathematical equation I have ever seen:
1 cross + 3 nails = 4 given

(And at the very end of this email she wrote……)

I may not be perfect in this lifetime, nor do I expect to be, but that does not stop me from trying!