Sunday, July 31, 2011

Test Me In This

Malachi 3:6-10

6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.
   “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
 8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
   “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
   “In tithes and offerings.  
9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty. 

My parents always quote this verse when they talk about tithing. They say it's one of the only places in the Bible where God says to "test him" and see how his faithfulness unfolds. Well I decided to do that very thing, and God has already shown his faithfulness.

I was headed to the AT&T booth because I saw a bunch of people with backpacks and I thought "hmm, maybe I can get something to carry my stuff." So, I headed over there and got in line, and saw they were giving away free phones to some people who won the little game they played. It was random, and people were getting backpacks. When we first walked up someone got a phone, but everyone else was getting backpacks. So, we're waiting in line patiently, laughing and joking around, when a guy comes up and starts counting people in line. Then, the people in front of us won a phone. We cheer, and then the guys says "AND EVERYONE IN LINE WINS A PHONE!!!!" All of us got a phone, and mobile projector to go with the phone.

I just sold that phone and projector for $150. Money that I never would have had if I hadn't done that race (and stuck to my commitment), if I hadn't decided to get in line, and ultimately, I believe, if I hadn't decided to"test God" and see how he would provide. Some may call it coincidence, I call it God's faithfulness and provision. God is good.

**I have to say that I just realized that the money I'm getting from ebay is exactly equal to the tithe that I'm paying this week. It blows my mind!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Finishing Strong

On my last day of my 30 for 30, I was talking with a friend about being so tired of the project, and just throwing an outfit together and not really caring what it was, just that I was finished. He said something to the effect of "way to finish weak" or maybe he sarcastically said "way to finish strong," I'm not sure, but basically he was commenting on my lack of enthusiasm for my commitment near the end, and how I didn't want to really put any real thought or effort into it. That comment really stayed with me, and it's something I think about often.

I'm definitely the kind of person who gets an idea, or a vision, or a goal, and goes for it with everything that I have. I'm the kind of person who gets excited and inspired and wants to go after things, and is always looking for ways to improve and be a better person. This is something that I like about myself, it's something that for lack of a better word, I'm proud of. I like that I'm a dreamer. The not so glamorous side of a dreamer is the disappointment, the loss of "steam," and the motivation to keep going, even when the "dream" isn't going as expected, or it's lost it's new luster.

I felt that with college, I felt that with the 30 for 30, I feel that with work sometimes, and I feel that with my 5k commitment. What I do know, is that I finish. I'm proud that I finish. I'm glad that I follow through. I'm glad that I have shown that I am committed, no matter how I feel, and even when I want to give up--I don't. I'm not sure if "finishing strong" is important to me. I mean, I want to finish strong, but if I finish tired, or depleted, or with less enthusiasm, it doesn't diminish all of the hard work and enthusiasm and energy that went into the rest of it.

It's funny how words can have such impact on people. I'm tired of people making me feel bad for not being 100% all of the time. I'm tired of LETTING myself feel bad for not being 100% all of the time. I am human, and I have weaknesses, but I am also strong, and full of life. And I am proud of who I am--weaknesses and all :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Faith is...

For me, faith is something that leaves me completely vulnerable. It's something that pushes me past the limits of where I think I can go, and who I think I can be. It strips me bare, and breathes life into me. I wouldn't say at this moment I'm scared of what's going to happen--I know God is good and faithful and will take care of me--I'm just curious. Anxious to see what will unfold in my life. Anxious to see how he will change me, and open my eyes to new things. It reminds me of that Kierkegaard quote "Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom." It's not the anxiety that encourages fear and despair, it's the anxiousness that accompanies the opening of a present, waiting for a loved one to get off the plane, or seeing a baby born into this world. It truly is "being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see." It's good.

Building My Life

Richard has been teaching on the sermon on the mount, and let me tell you that I have had the distinct pleasure of revelation, and now I have the oh so easy pretty difficult task of coming face to face with how I'm going to obey, and start changing my life.  Richard talked today (and other days) about how there's this gap between what we think is normal, and what God deems normal.

He gave this great example of how he went to the Dr., and the doctor found another problem and said "well that's not right." He then talked about how it didn't just happen at once, but bit by bit until Richard's body finally adjusted to the problem and accommodated it instead of it getting corrected. Richard points out that physically this happens, is normal, and is ok, but spiritually, we need to be on guard against this. Letting lies and things that aren't true slowly infiltrate our lives until we accept them as normal is NOT ok, and is really damaging.  Not that we can't recover from these things, but sometimes recovery takes a long time, and it's best to identify and deal with the problem when it's new rather than letting it change you for the worse.

Now in the sermon, Richard talked about many things, many great points, and I don't want to focus on one part while leaving others out. But, well, I am. If you want to listen and you can find all of his sermons plus little discussion questions afterwards :) I, myself, was really hit hard when Richard was talking about giving.

Money is something that I have struggled with all my life. I remember when I was in fifth grade, myself and a couple of classmates started making bracelets, and selling them to friends and other kids. We made probably about $10, and to make a long story short, I made off with the money. I took it. I don't know why, maybe I thought I deserved it for coming up with the idea, but I did. In college, I was roped in to the awesome terrible idea of getting a credit card. One grew into two, which grew into many more. My parents paid off ALL of my credit card debt, and what did I do after college? Wracked up a bunch more. Over the years I've developed a shopping addiction--bargain shopping mostly, but if you don't NEED it, it's not much of a deal right?

The thing is, is that I've always been great about knowing what to do with money. I can whip up a fantastic budget for you. I've done it for myself. I know all the right things to say, and many great tips for how to handle your money. All this time I've thought that I've had a handle on money, and I'm realizing now that all of these years, it's had a handle on me. And it stops today.

For the longest time I've struggled with giving my money, not with the idea of giving, but with actually being consistent with my giving. I sponsor a bunch of kids through World Vision. It automatically goes out of my paycheck, I don't think of it. For the longest time, I counted that as part of my tithe, and in my budget, I took that out, and said, the rest goes to my church. What do you know, but the stuff that doesn't automatically come out of my paycheck conveniently ends up being spent on food, or nights out, or clothes, or books, or basically just things that I don't need. And the rest of my money? All of my other well laid plans...aren't going exactly how I want them to either. Surprise surprise huh?

Richard said this today: "First, you give. And give sacrificially. Then, you build your life around the rest. Unless you order your life to put God first, you leave yourself enslaved." That "seek first his kingdom" goes for the whole money issue too. I've sought first what I wanted, what I thought I needed, what I said was important, instead of putting the kingdom first, instead of honoring God, instead of REALLY trusting him to take care of me and provide all that I need. I've been living enslaved to money for all these years, instead of living in the freedom of generosity.

I have a tattoo that says, "freely you receive, so freely give." It's something that I felt like God spoke to me very clearly, and it's a lifestyle that I've always wanted to adopt. So I'm doing it. I'm catching hold of this whole kingdom thing. I'm choosing to live a life of freedom, and I'm turning over my finances and plans to Christ. He doesn't get what's leftover after I've had all my fun. He gets the firstfruits, he gets my best, and he's the FIRST that I think of when it comes to my money. It's so funny, I'm giving my money away, but I feel free, finally free of financial burden and what to do next. Because I know, God is faithful. I know he is good. I know he is generous in every way.

Over the years my body has slowly been twisted by the love of money, it's caused me to take what I've learned and partially adapt it to what I do, and to limp along in life, accepting that "this was the way it is supposed to be." Today, I've finally accepted that this limp is not normal, that I don't need a crutch, that I need to be (and can be) completely whole. It's just about taking those steps to recovery. Behold, and be changed.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Life In Every Word

I've been burdened by thoughts of how I should act--how I should love, how I should serve the poor, how I should not react in anger, lust, envy. I've been very aware of my shortcomings, and increasingly aware of my lack of willpower in certain areas. Everything that I can't and couldn't be has been brought before me, and I have felt pretty helpless, seeking ways to make myself feel better, to feel SOMETHING, to rid myself of this need for change. When the only change that was needed, was in my heart.

I am hopelessly flawed, and ever so aware of how I come short, but with Jesus, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that I come to him unable to love completely, to rid myself of jealousy, lust, selfishness, and bitterness. It doesn't matter that I fall short in the areas of serving the poor, and helping those less fortunate than me. What matters is that I believe God. What matter is that I have faith in Christ, and that I come to him, and let him forgive me and change me for the better. I'm right, I can't do these things that I long and know to do, because I haven't put my faith in him. I've put my faith in myself. I've put my faith in my job, my friends, my lifestyle, my family and other things.

It's so simple: "We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." Gal 2:15-16

"Consider Abraham: 'He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Gal 3:6

It is belief, that saves us. It is truly believing, that saves us, and living in that belief that gives us a full life. How can I ever think to love and be all that he wants me to be without coming to him first, by believing, and letting him change me? I can't do this on my own. I can't follow all the steps and then viola! step into this new phase of enlightenedness. No, it is him moving through me, him living in me, him breathing life and truth. What a wonderful, freeing, breathtaking truth. My next step is easy, coming to him daily, knowing that he is the way to this "Life In Every Word" that I've been wanting so desperately.

God Speaks

Today, was most unproductive for me. I was extremely tired at work, went out for an early dinner and dessert with a friend, came home and read for a bit, then passed out. Five and a half hours later, around 10:30pm, I wake up, finish reading the book, and here I am around 1:30 in the morning blogging. It doesn't seem like the most productive day, but I know it's going to lead to productiveness in a way that is good for me.

I was laying in bed, thinking all of the thoughts I've been thinking for the past couple of months or so--what am I to do next? What do I need? Where am I supposed to go? What am I supposed to do? When all of the sudden, I found myself praying. Thanking God because he has brought me here with everything that I could need, and mostly what I want. He has given me everything, provided for me, and still, here I am, worried in my bed about my future. Why, when he has taken care of me SO WELL so far, would I ever doubt that he has a plan, and that everything will be ok? Because I'm human, yes. Because I'm arrogant, yes. Because I have forgotten what it's like to trust, yes.

All of these things are true, but one thing is even more apparent to me, and that's that I need Jesus. In my humanness, arrogance, and mistrust, I need him. I've tried so hard to figure out how I could be close and garner the comfort that I need without actually doing what I need to do, and I've come to this point, realizing that the simple answer is this--I need to spend time with Him. I need to read my Bible. I need to sit in silence. I need to pray. And I need to be disciplined in these things.

What do you know, I decided to pop up on Richard's blog to see what he's written, and it was exactly what I needed to hear, and confirmed what I knew as I was lying in bed, praying for guidance. As Richard states, I need to 1)Turn and behold, and 2)Listen, and respond. I need to take time every day, to put away my facebook, my novel, my movie or tv show, and just spend time with God. "I need to see that I’m changed into a better person by spending time with Christ." And I am, fully and completely I am. When I've taken that time, God will show himself to me. He will teach me, and guide me, and give me the answers that I need. He will show me my shortcomings, and the love and grace he has.

"As I develop habits of beholding (through coffee with God, or walking with God, or Verse of the Day as an e-mail, or whatever), God begins to speak to us.  He reminds of relationships that need repairing.  He invites us to confess our failures and move off the ground of shame and fear, onto the ground of boldness and confidence.  He invites us to change our financial priorities, or our time use, or he speaks to us about vocational matters, or marriage, singleness, parenting matters.  God, in other words, REVEALS!  It’s not as clear on some days as others, but I promise you this:  keep showing up, and God will bring guidance to your life."

From there, it's just obedience. "Just" ha. I know that it can be hard to take those steps. But knowing what I know about God, and what he has for me, it's really the only step that I can take. Right? It's funny how God speaks to us, and confirms to us what he wants through other people. I'm thankful that I'm up at 2am in the morning, even though I know I may be groggy at work tomorrow. God speaks, and it took this most inconvenient time for me to hear, but I'm glad he seeks me out whenever he can. God is good.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lowered Expectations

There used to be a show on Mad TV called "Lowered Expectations." If I remember it right, it was a dating show, and it was basically for people who had given up on the "tall, dark, and handsome" route and were like "give me whatever." So of course they have a myriad of crazy, delusional, unattractive people to pick from and people laugh, and onto the next skit.

This weekend Richard talked about how we lower our expectations when it comes to holiness--specifically this week, rage, lust, and unfaithfulness. We were in Matthew talking about how Jesus says "it was said" not to kill people or commit adultery, but Jesus turns around and says anger, and lust are just as bad. He talked about how we draw lines in the sand saying "oh, I didn't sleep with that person" when in reality, Jesus is trying to get to the root issue--what is leading up the sin. What are the patterns of our heart? If we're constantly letting anger take root in our heart, would murder be possible? If we're constantly lusting after that sexy man with the beard, would adultery suddenly be an option?

'Failure is not the problem--making peace with failure is the problem. Don't lower the bar. Jesus raises the bar to show us our brokenness.'  Jesus is showing us these things to show us "gap" between his ideal and where we are. He's showing us that there is a better way, that our hearts need to be transformed by not just doing "the act" but understanding and going to the root of the problem. When we say "oh, that's just how it's going to be, I can't be any better," or "well this is who I am here, but I'm totally different here" it's lowering the bar of who we can be.

I am a girl who definitely has some struggles with lust in my life. I can't even count the times when I've appraised a man with lust in my heart, or given into lustful desires or thinking. If I say, that's just the way I am, at least I'm not a whore who sleeps with anyone, it's lowering the bar, and basically being at peace with the road that I'm taking. Yea, I'm not like the slutty girl down the street...yet. If I'm living a life filled with lustful thoughts and occassionally lustful actions, what's keeping me from becoming someone who just erases that line? God is calling me to something better, and I'm cool with that. I like the fact that I can fail. I like the fact that there's grace and mercy when I do. But I love the fact that Jesus has called me to be more, and says I can be more. I want life, and life to the full--everything good and wonderful that my life can be with him.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


I went on my first HOT SUNNY DAY RUN yesterday and let me tell you, I was woefully unprepared. I had my new workout gear, a little headband to hold back my chopped hair, and I even popped ate a luna bar an hour or so before with those little gel energy bites. I mistakenly only drank 40 oz of water before the run. Plus, I was out running playing tag with the kids beforehand. I was tired, hot, and exhausted. I forgot how much the sun can and will drain you of all of the energy you have if you aren't properly hydrated--heck even if you are properly hydrated it'll kick your ass.

Every part of my body is sore--even my throat--but it's that good sore. You know the kind where you know you did something good? Yea that kind of sore. I remember feeling it last summer when I started running, and it's a good feeling. Now I just have to keep going, stay on track, and I'm pretty sure I'll be running a 10k in September. Woohoo :)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day

Today, was such a relaxing day. It was actually a very relaxing weekend. I was able to take some time, reflect, hang out with friends, and REST. Rest was really what I needed. Rest, and time to restart. I've been really contemplating on how blessed I am--I have a great family, good job, wonderful friends, my health, a more than adequate roof over my head, and much much more. I am able to go and do anything I want, and I feel so free.

I'm so thankful for all that I have, and it's days like these that remind me that I need to live life to fullest. That I need to KNOW who and what I'm created to be, and to take hold of that and be that person. I'm so excited for the future--heck I'm excited for the present and what I have before me. I feel my life coming together--and it's not like anything has changed drastically, just my outlook I guess.

Today I started my 10k training. I'm so excited. I've filled out my calendar so I know what I'm going to be doing, have my 5ks scheduled, and am super stoked for the IronGirl 10k on Sept 11th! I think that my goal for this upcoming year is to run one 10k every 3 months, and to run a half marathon next year around this time. This time last year, I had never even run a lap around a track, and now I'm planning on running a half marathon. I feel amazing. Life is good, God is good. Ok, time to go to bed. Gotta start going to be closer to 10pm so I can get a full 8 hours :-/

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Heaven Meets Earth

There are days like these, dreary, overcast days, that I feel most at peace. Maybe it's the fact that I'm sitting in my newly cleaned and curtained living room, having eaten breakfast, listened to some worship songs, and woken up in my own bed. Or maybe it's the knowledge that I have a God is who very real, who hears all of my whisperings (and shouts), and who loves me wholly and completely. It's times like these, times of peace and comfort and rest, that I'm reminded of how good God is.

I've been given some opportunities to widen my horizons, and really take on some responsibility and get involved at the church I'm at. It's what I've wanted--to be involved with a community of people who share the same values as I do, as well as share my life with those people. But I'm nervous.Afraid is the more telling word--afraid that I might not be liked, afraid that I won't be good enough, afraid of rejection. Sigh. Fear can have such a hold on me. It prevents me from putting myself out there, and it causes me to miss out on opportunities that could be great. It's done that all my life.

But the thing about me today, that's different from me 5 years ago, is that I'm not going to let fear win. The difference is, is that I'm stronger, smarter, and understand the backing--the love--that has always gotten me through and will always be there for me.  I'm still scared shitless to put myself out there, to walk into a room full of people I don't know, to possibly open my home, to be vulnerable and open to rejection. But fear isn't going to hold me back. Because what's on the other side, the possibilities, the richness of relationship and community, is too good for me to pass up.

It's days like these, when everything fits together and becomes clear, that I feel like heaven has met earth, and my heart is at peace.