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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Prayer of the Day

"When I think upon and converse with Thee, ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up, ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed, ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart, crowding every moment of happiness."
                                - from The Valley of Vision

Friday, January 29, 2016

Quote of the Day

"Happiness is not a destination; it is a way of life."
- Unknown

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Quote of the Day

Faith is believing in a predictable God in an unpredictable world.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

This Year Is For Faith

 This year is only a few weeks old...but I see it clearly now. As with every year, there is usually a theme that runs through - a message loud that strikes deep in the soul from Heaven and says: remember this. 
 Much has happened in this year's short arrival: friends have miraculously survived horrific car accidents; I've lived through one of the biggest earthquakes in my state's history; I've seen God lead and show up in ways unpredictable and unplanned. He has spoken with clear distinction: 2016 is the year for faith. There will undoubtably be moments of uncertainty and trial, moments that are also intermingled with joy and everything prosperous and plentiful. But through it all will sound the message: this is all Mine - trust me. Believe. 
 Perhaps this is where I can sense Him the best: in those times when the road is unclear and the steps seem only marked one at a time - put your feet here...then here...and so on. Perhaps this will be the way in which He will show up the biggest: in those times when I simply say, I may not understand, but I still believe; I may not see it all now, but I still trust. I choose faith over fear. One put it well as the year was turning: no fear new year. Yes...yes...banish all distractions; toss aside the fear. This is His year. The year when He promises to do big things if only our eyes and hearts are open and we choose to believe Him...even if the way isn't clear at the time. 
 In the midst of my reflection on this, the words from Abigail Adams, one of America's finest women, who herself knew uncertainty, who spent years without her husband as he fought the political battles of the day, who witnessed the death of two of her sons before her own passing...this woman tasted suffering. This woman knew what choosing faith meant. Because she had to live it..time and time again. As a war raged on and her oldest son, a mere teenager, was with her husband in France, she wrote the following to him in the winter of 1780: 

 "It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. Would Cicero have shone so distinguished an orator, if he had not been roused, kindled, and enflamed by the tyranny of Catiline, Millo, Verres, and Mark Anthony. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. All of history will convince you of this, and that wisdom and penetration are the fruits of experience, not the lessons of retirement and leisure. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life, and form the character of the hero and statesman. "

I take this and press it deep into my heart: the image of a woman writing these words down centuries ago and it runs down the long line of history to her truth rings loud - choose faith over fear. It was applicable then during a wartime and it is applicable to me in the war of everyday...of deciding to believe God no matter the circumstances. To trust Him no matter what the future brings. In this year, I take for my theme the beautiful words spoken to the ancient prophet Jeremiah:

 "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."     (Jeremiah 33:3)

God is already proving in this year, young as it is, that He holds the whole world and all that takes place within it in His mighty and capable hands. There is nothing that is impossible for Him. He has said so Himself. And I believe He will fulfill it in full. With an eager heart, I await His many miracles, blessings, and promised wonders that He will reveal in the coming days, weeks, and months. So...with eyes and heart wide open, I say, Come new Jesus has "great and mighty things" in store that I do not know. I will rejoice in my Savior whatever comes my way because my heart can always say that everything is grace.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Scripture of the Day

"Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come;
You have given commandment to save me, for You are my rock
and my fortress."
- Psalm 71:3

Monday, January 25, 2016

Quote of the Day

"Our faith develops out of the most difficult aspects of our existence, not the easiest."
                        - Eugene Peterson

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Quote of the Day

"At the end of the day, faith means letting God be God."
                                                    - John Blanchard

Friday, January 22, 2016

Quote of the Day

"How things appear to us, and how they actually are, are rarely the same…When the heart and mind focus on things unseen - that's when there is visible change in us."
                              - Jon Bloom

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Quote of the Day

"If God hath promised to hear, He doth hear, and we must believe it, whether we feel it or not."
               - Richard Baxter

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Quote of the Day

"Limits like fears are often an illusion."
- Steven Karkenny,
 former professional baseball player

Monday, January 18, 2016

Quote of the Day

"Often, when I am in a pensive mood and the sun is for a time hidden behind some intervening cloud that unbelief has raised and I am just going to hang my harp on the willows, I with shame take it back again and begin some song of praise, and that sets all right."
                         - Sarah Hawkes 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

What I Hope You See

 A conversation with a friend the other day got me thinking about what I hope you, my readers, see. I am well aware that sometimes I can seem as though I'm living the perfect Christian life. Years ago, I remember looking at others and feeling inadequate because I couldn't pray like they did or didn't spend four or more hours reading my Bible everyday or didn't go on mission trips like they did. But in comparing my journey to their's, I lost my way. My walk with God...or rather at the time, my attempt at it...became more of a competition with others than a genuine desire to know Him personally. I simply wanted to look good and be good like them. Because I felt I was less of a Christian if I didn't try to model what they did and force myself into some spiritual fervor that I knew I lacked. In so doing, however, my journey was in reality their journey, and I had no idea how to take my own walk and let my own faith story be written. I just wanted to keep up. 
 Over time, I have realized that the only journey that I have any say in is my own. And that I am failing God and myself when I try to become something or someone other than what I'm meant to be. Each of us is given a certain measure of faith, a certain mission to accomplish, a certain path to walk. And we do ourselves a dis-service when we try to copy each other instead of simply letting ourselves inspire one another but leaving room for the diversity of our paths. God has created each of us uniquely and has special plans for us that only we can fulfill. While it is important, and even necessary, for us to encourage and exemplify for one another what we want to become, it is unimportant for us to then take that and try to be each other. Not all ships pass the same way into the harbor...some take a relatively easy track while others must practically be shipwrecked in order for them to reach the port safely. But in each case, the faithful Pilot guides them to the harbor and preserves them along the way in the means He deems best. 
 I must admit that in the last couple of years since I started this blog, it hasn't always been easy to share some of the aspects of my journey to grace. There are times when I would rather hide my struggles than share them publicly in this forum. Times when I want to run instead of face the adversity that happens along the way. But what has kept me pressing forward is the hope that someone who reads my feeble attempts to verbalize what I learn may be given a fresh take on life as a result. I am not the model Christian. I know that. I'm not perfect and never will be this side of Heaven. If anything, the more I go along, the more I discover parts of myself that I would be ashamed to let anyone see were my thoughts exposed to the world. Thanks be to God I have a Savior who continues to forgive and give me grace for everyday! I do not post my musings in hopes of gaining attention for myself, neither do I want this to ever become about me at all. This blog is about God and what He can do through the lives of willing and open hearts...even in the midst of great pain. 
 What I hope you see is a sinner saved by a gracious God, attempting to live her life in such a way as to honor Him in return. It is my prayer that what you take away from my posts isn't a feeling of inferiority or discouragement because you can never measure up to my level of spirituality. This isn't about being a "goody-too-shoes" and showing off how special and religious my life is. If it ever became that, I would end this blog right away. Rather, I pray that you go away feeling lifted up, encouraged, given hope to carry on another day in your own journey to grace! Because we're all in this together and there is a unique power that comes from being vulnerable and letting our scars and brokenness be God's conduit to touch a world in need of His love. My need for God to heal me, love me, convict me, teach me is the same as yours. I'm here to point you to the One who is my everything because He will and can be yours if you are open to grace. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Quote of the Day

"None murmur so much at sufferings as they who have suffered least; whereas on the contrary, we see many times that they who have the heaviest burden upon their backs are most patient…When people cry out, 'Oh, never such sufferings as mine!' it is an argument they are strangers to afflictions."
                                - Thomas Case

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Quote of the Day

" You can do this hard thing - because you were made to do hard and holy things.
 You are always enough - because you have Jesus and He is always enough. 
  You don't have to get it perfect - you just have to get back up and keep going."
                                        - Ann Voskamp

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

My Deliverer...The One Who Carries Me

"I was on trial for everything I did,
And there's no way I could make a stand and win;
When you realize the verdict is already in,
You let go of the brokenness within."
- Matt Maher, songwriter

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Prayer of the Day

"Thou hast struck a heavy blow at my pride, at the false god of self, and I lie in pieces before Thee…
Grant me grace to bear Thy will without repining, and delight to be not only chiseled, squared, or fashioned, but separated from the old rock where I have been embedded so long, and lifted from the quarry to the upper air, where I may be built in Christ forever."
                                   - from The Valley of Vision

Monday, January 11, 2016

The End of Me

 Recently, I stumbled on this beautiful song that reminded of a truth I need to hear often. So many times I think I can rule my own destiny, take charge of my own future, and proclaim my own goodness. But then, I am cruelly brought back to the reality my failures frequently betray my hopeful ambitions. My weaknesses draw me further into the need I was born with for a Savior higher than myself. I will never become who I want to be or ought to be if I try to run my own life. Him, there is hope for a struggling soul like me. As the song rightly points out at the end, "in You there's life at the end of myself." 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

And Then There's This...

 The latest in the saga of my friend Hunter and his girlfriend Arika following their horrific car accident just a week ago. I still marvel at the miraculous chain of events involved in this incident. This is what happens when God shows up...

To The Old Me

Sweet girl...
 As I look back, I see you now: sitting in your room staring out the window, questions racing through your mind. You wonder if you are loved; you ask yourself if you are good enough. Angry, you tell the Almighty that He has gone wrong. Somehow, in your disillusionment with the faith you have been taught, you fight His plan and think that He is not enough. That He does not care for you...that, if He did, He wouldn't have allowed you to walk this valley. You count your losses, mourning that you seem to have nothing left. I feel your darkness of the soul as you stare at ceiling at night, trying to resign yourself to the fact that life might never be happy again. In the depths of the heart, you feel as though the hardships of life have left you dead. Ruins are all that are left. Oh sweet girl - if only you knew what God truly had in store...
 When I think of where the last 7 years have led you, I see the Grand Weaver spinning a glorious plan that you cluelessly tried to reason away. You asked God to explain Himself when all He really asked for was faith. What He was after was trust. But for the longest time you thought you knew better. Oh what cause now for regret! And yet...into the midst of your doubt He stepped anyway. Through the example of one whose life was open to Grace, you saw a vision of hope. You tasted what you could become. If only you would let Him do His work. If only you would invite Him into your shame, your darkness, and let Him shine His light. You asked yourself if it was worth the risk - if opening your life to the possibility of a new beginning was worth it. After all, there was an odd sense of security in the dark the point that the light felt strange. But what if it was the way out of the pain? What if there was meaning behind such a leap of faith?
 Over time, God would walk you into paths that you did not wish to take. Paths that caused you to rethink all you knew: about yourself, about Him, about life. Paths that you were quite uncomfortable traveling at first...because they were unknown...because the truth hurt. The stripping went on. The cutting of the Word ran deep. Tears were your friend as you took on the challenge of finally facing what you had long ran from. You had to learn to forgive; you had to accept what you could not change; you had to embrace what led to hope. 
 But somehow...even in those times when the process seemed to hard and the pain of letting go was too much...the allure of His love wasn't enough for you to resist anymore. You somehow couldn't leave. There was this grace being offered that kept drawing you in and telling you that nothing about you was too shameful for Him to turn you away. He loved you anyway. Because He chose to before the foundation of the world. It blew your mind. And you kept walking toward Him. Until one finally all made sense. And you surrender fully. You told Him, "No more half-heartedness. I am ready to follow You."
 Girl...there is so much I wish I could tell you back on January 9th, 2009. Hope wasn't even a dream to you. All you wanted was for the pain to end. To go away and leave you alone. But wanted God to leave you alone...because you thought you knew best. If I could tell you what I know now, how I would try to spare you from your wanderings! What things I would share with you about life and how joy can come from suffering! How I would let you know that thankfulness is the key to having a spirit of hope in the midst of the worst that happens! So much living had yet to unfold before you...and once you understood that His chastening were for your benefit, you began to open to all He had in store. 
 Today finds you still on a journey toward grace. You still continue to press toward the things that lend healing, the people that speak life, the places that bring you back to Him. This world is full of beautiful reminders of His love if only you will continue to notice and appreciate them. This life is overflowing with His blessings if you will just keep taking the time to see them and thank Him. You are entering another year of walking with Him. Sweet girl...stay strong! Pray more. Wait patiently for His timing in everything. And most importantly, live in grace everyday. For that is where the old you found hope. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Prayer of the Day

"Teach me that Christ cannot be the way if I am the end, that He cannot be redeemer if I am my own savior; that there can be no true union with Him while the creature has my heart, that faith accepts Him as redeemer and Lord, or not at all."
                             - from The Valley of Vision

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Quote of the Day

"A comforting thought in a world gone bad, gone wild, gone mad: 'whatever happens, His goodness is always present.'"
                - Liz Cutis Higgs

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Quote of the Day

"...I have been favored with an interval of ease. I never had so long and general an exemption from sharp trials. When I consider, and feel what I am, I am amazed at His forbearance. Surely, I deserve to be visited with breach upon breach. But His compassions are infinite. Yet, I must not expect to have always fair weather in a changeable world. I would desire neither to presume that my mountain stands strong, not yet to afflict myself with needless apprehension of what a day may bring forth. Oh! that I could improve the present, and cheerfully commit the future to Him who does all things wisely and well, and has promised that all shall work together for good."
                                - John Newton

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Quote of the Day

"The object of a New Year is not that we should have 
a new year. It is that we should have a new soul."
- G. K. Chesterton

Monday, January 4, 2016

One Second Away

 I stare at the picture and marvel at the outcome. A truck, hardly recognizable and crunched to a pile of junk. Inside, two young people had been driving back to college - my friend Hunter and his girlfriend Arika.  When the truck rolled over several times and hit a concrete pillar at 85 mph in the wee hours of the morning this last Friday, two lives should've ended that night. But they didn't. Because God intervened. 
 I reflect on the simple yet profound truth that any of us are only one second away from meeting our eternal destiny. In a moment, the lives we live can be altered forever. How often we fritter away our time and act as if we shall go on as immortals in this world forever! How often do we take the people and experiences in our lives for granted, only to realize in a moment like this that it can all be taken away! How often do we make idols of things that don't really matter anyway!
 Hunter posted on social media that, while he doesn't remember much from the accident, he does recall thinking quickly that this was most likely the end for one or both of them and he hoped it was him instead of Arika. And he also remembers wondering if he had told his family how much he loved them prior to their leaving. In that instant, so much mattered...the important things...and the rest didn't. 
 This life is too short to spend on temporary things that don't affect our preparation for eternity. This life is too short to get our "rags in a knot," as the old saying says, about situations out of our control. This life is too short not to love and appreciate the people we care about! Most importantly, this life is too short to not ensure that our life is right with the God of the Universe because we could be standing before Him sooner than we imagine. Hunter and Arika never thought or dreamed that they might be ushered into God's presence on that drive back to college. None of us know our time or our place when God will call us to give an account of our lives for eternity. But if we have the peace of knowing that our souls have been given eternal life through Jesus, we can live each day fully and await our final hour with joy and expectation...because that last second on earth is only the beginning.
 As we head into the new year, I want to challenge us all to make the most of our time this year. Only God knows what is ahead for us in 2016. Whether it turns out to be a year of great happiness or great trial, I hope our goal is to find our hearts living in grace more everyday and to carry in hope, knowing that our lives are in the hands of God. All I pray is that we spend our short time on this earth well. It doesn't really matter in the end how hard you worked but how much you trusted. It doesn't matter how much you did but who you became along the way. What God is after in this new year, I believe, isn't simply another twelve months to fill up as we please but another 365 days to experience Him more fully, to surrender to Him more willingly, to love others more truly. If, at the end of 2016, we can say that we've died to our own desires and selfish ways more, rested in the will of Jesus more, cared about the well-being of others more...then this year can be counted a success. By God's grace, let's make this a year of ridding our lives of the idols that keep us from Him and that stand in the way of His work being accomplished in us. Let's make this a year of casting away fear...of making each moment one of significance...knowing well that we're possibly only one second away.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Year's Blessing

" May God make your year a happy one!
Not by shielding you from all sorrows and pain,
But by giving you strength to bear it, as it comes;
Not by making your path easy,
But by making you sturdy to travel any path;
Not by taking hardships from you, 
But by taking fear from your heart;
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows;
Not by making your life always pleasant,
But by showing you when people and their causes need
you most, and making you anxious to be there to help.
God's love, peace, hope, and joy to you for the year ahead."
- Unknown

Friday, January 1, 2016

Prayer for the New Year

Just One Request

Dear Master, for this coming year
Just one request I bring:
I do not pray for happiness,
Or any earthly thing -
 I do not ask to understand 
The way Thou leadest me,
But this I ask: teach me to do
The thing that pleaseth Thee.

I want to know Thy guiding voice,
To walk with Thee each day.
Dear Master, make me swift to hear
And ready to obey.
And thus the year I now begin
A happy year will be -
If I am seeking just to do
The thing that pleaseth Thee."