Sunday, December 19, 2010

Full Circle



God is the most magnificent Healer. In the moments that bring revelation - when loose ends are tied, or long-awaited closure finally arrives - we are greeted by this supernatural peace and overwhelming reassurance that God truly is in control of our circumstances.

When we are able to survey the wearisome and trying journey from the higher ground - look down on the path that had led us through darkness, through deserts and despair and see how far we've come (or rather, how far the Lord has led us) - it is a glorious moment. In that place, enraptured by the Lord's splendor, His strength and faithfulness, all you can do is stand in awesome wonder, taking in all He revealed & refined on the journey. While the journey may have been brimming with pain and the testing of your faith, you now can say for certain, "It is worth it - any journey that leads me closer in relationship to Jesus Christ, that makes me more like Him, is worth it." No matter the intensity of the heartbreak, the sickness, the loss, the pain, the effort - knowing Him more is worth it. Yes, this is easily said in the reflecting stage, as you bask in the sweet sunshine on higher ground. However, when our faith must be our eyes and we are in the thick of the journey, the proclamation that "it is worth it" may be either the furthest thing from our lips or said through our teeth, as our jaw is clenched together in pain.

Regardless of where we are on the journey, we must remember the beauty that is Romans 8:28 - God causes ALL things to work together for our GOOD. Even every bump on the road, every callous we obtain, every time stumble or fall flat on our faces. In the words of Brennan Manning, "The wisdom of tenderness allows us to love our whole life story and know that we've been graced and made beautiful by the providence of our past history. "Even from my sins," wrote Augustine of Hippo, "God has drawn good." All the wrong turns in the past, the detours, the mistakes, the moral lapses - everything that's irrevocably ugly or painful melts and dissolves in the light of accepted tenderness" [Manning, The Wisdom of Tenderness, 32]. Right now, here, today, I can thank God for the people He placed in my life for a brief moment, and no longer question why they may not remain. As i listened to my Ipod on shuffle yesterday during quiet time, two songs played in a row that had once sent twinges of pain through my heart, as they were linked to memories and old emotions. Yesterday was different - i was able to thank God for the sweet memories, but also thank Him for the new thing He is doing. SO SO SO SO GOOD!!!!!

God will bring healing. In His perfect timing, He always does. And when we are in the most brutal battle or deepest valley, we must hold on to this promise and keep our eyes fixed on Him. When we are reveling in wholeness and redemption, we must remember all the Lord has revealed and taught us through the journey.

"It is only a faithful person who truly believes that God sovereignly controls his circumstances" [Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest]. God, give us the faith to believe that you control our circumstances. As you remain sovereign and reign with goodness and compassion, may we trust you with our future, while relishing in the moment that is today - the here and now.



Friday, December 10, 2010

Road Tripping

As Hannah and I are enjoying this crazy, spontaneous adventure, I'm learning so much. Like for instance, though I am very much an extrovert, i NEED NEED alone time to regenerate at times. I can't wait to hit the beach today and just read listening to the sound of the ocean. I have also learned you really get to know someone on a road trip. Hannah and i joke - we've been on 3 official "dates" before we headed on this road trip. So, though we seem pretty friend and travel compatible, there is so much left to learn about each other. Kind of like any other relationship, huh? Takes time. A third thing i have learned - i love the open road. Yesterday i drove for 8 hours straight. Give me some great music and someone to talk to every once in awhile, and i'm good to go. There's something therapeutic about driving.

And the final thing i've learned: road trips are about the journey. I was blessed to grow up with a dad working for the airlines and being able to fly everywhere for free - Japan, London, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Poland, Spain, Amsterdam, Guatemala, El Salvador, all over the US, you name it. Flying is mostly about arriving at your destination, getting there as fast as possible. And while i greatly appreciate the speed and the service of flying, road trips are necessary at times. Though we had an ETA for reaching Florida, we drove until we were tired, we stopped at random attractions - some, big landmarks i've only seen in pictures, others less known but just as amazing (like the giant sized Superman :D). When you enjoy the journey, the destination is just another phase. And while Florida and the condo we're privileged to stay in are awesome, the open road and random stops were sweet, as well.

Hmm...just a little of the more in depth thoughts I'm processing as we tackle some pretty silly bucket list items and dares. :) See you all in a week or so!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Caden

I am marveling at God's creation, in the form of my friend's sweet baby boy. His smiles, his gurgles, his cooing, how much he has grown in the past three months - God, you are a master artist. The end.











Friday, November 19, 2010

Align my Dreams to Yours...



"When my dreams are over
and my feet hit the floor
is my will enough to move on?
When we fight to get back
the love that we lost
will my hands be enough to push on?
Tell me, will i have enough to go on?

When there's nothing we can't afford to sacrifice, there's no way they can put out your fire
"
-Needtobreathe, Nothing Left To Lose

What happens when we allow God to heal us only so far - just enough to feel okay and somewhat whole? What happens when we allow Him to close the door on some desire outcome, but we cram something into the doorway to keep it open, even just a crack? When we only allow God to move ever so slightly or just enough to convince us we're okay, we are fooling ourselves.

I found myself in a place where I had allowed God to heal this specific wound just enough, so that it could ripped open and exposed again if this particular person reconsidered. I would allow myself to be led on by a broken past and hopes of a redeemed relationship. I would respond to this person, at the drop of a hat, when he thought it was okay to let me in; I would reach out, even though it was against my better judgement and would often result in the wound being split open again.

And then, I woke up. Or rather, I allowed God to shake me awake from this distorted dream. When we only allow God to move a little bit, or only give Him certain areas of our lives, we aren't fully surrendering to Him and His perfect will. I had been in this place where I bargained with God (oh, how we are creatures that love a good bargain), allowing Him to have His way ONLY if the future He had for me would turn out like I had envisioned and dreamt of.

But, when i actually opened my eyes, I realized that this so-called "love" I had hoped would be reawakened was merely the broken framework to a crumbling, charred structure. I realized that I had been holding on to a not-so-perfect match because I had allowed myself to assume that this one example i had experienced of intimate love between two people was love itself - and no other guy would ever be able to give me that love. But this imperfect example of love pales by comparison to God's love for us. It also kept me holding on to it, stubbornly loosening my grasp little by little.

After a much needed wake up call and after allowing the Lord to crush this broken image i had of love and throw everything out the window, I can finally say: MOVE, GOD. Take it all, have Your will and replace misconceptions with your divine and perfect love. Do not let me deceive myself, thinking I've got it all together, that i'm strong enough to deal with this on my own - i don't and i'm not. But i pray this acknowledgement of my weakness keeps me leaning on Your strength, for You are love and You bring new life. Give me patience, as You align my life and dreams to Your will. Fuel a fiery passion to live for You alone. Do not let past hurts cause me to build up airtight walls around my heart; rather, soften it, break it, refine it and do with it what YOU will.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Life Lately

Life is sweet. God is faithful. I am now 22 years old and marveling at how much has been crammed into this past year! On my run this afternoon, my mind was racing and my heart was overwhelmed with joy upon reflecting on what this past year has held. Here is just a summary:

This past year - I have traveled!!!! Since last year i've been to Hawaii (twice ;P), to Jamaica, to Puerto Rico, to New York, to El Salvador and Guatemala. Seeing the world is one of my most favorite things to do, and i've been blessed to be able to see sites around the world with people i love so very much.







I have also seen two of my best friends marry their best friends :) What a joyous occasion it is when two people step into the next season of life as one body, united and rooted on Christ, the solid rock on which we stand? Chana and Jodi and their spouses are such wonderful friends, and it warms my heart to see the Lord's love and goodness overflowing from their marriages :).




I GRADUATED with my BA from the U of M. Only by God's grace, I was able to cram in 20+ credits/semester and graduate with a major and spanish minor in three years. Let me tell you, the graduation ceremony certainly marked a victory for me! My three years at the U of M were full of hard work, joys, rough patches, blossoming friendships and further awakening to this diverse world. I was blessed to have sweet roommates that are a few of my best friends to this day, and meet a group of fellow Elementary Education majors that became some of my good friends.





Other highlights: getting involved with middle school and senior high students at my church in Lakeville, being a part of the Miss Lakeville Scholarship Pageant (a challenge and something totally NEW that led to meeting amazing women), growing closer to my sweet spiritual mentor, finding a church community that believes church should continue outside the walls - one that challenges and encourages me and is such a perfect fit (here's the place where i give a shout out to Substance Church - check it out sometime!)






This past month: My so-called "Season of Rest". The night before i was supposed to start the teaching license program at the U of M (where i would start student teaching and taking classes working towards my teaching license and masters degree), I felt the Lord calling me to take a semester off. So, holding fast to the promise of His faithfulness and provisions, I obediently followed, thinking this time was merely time to rest before finishing up my teaching license. But boy oh boy, did God have a different plan. As of a couple weeks ago, I let the U of M know i will not be returning to finish up the program whatsoever. This season of rest gave me time to seek the Lord and truly wait in my watchtower (so to speak, check out Habakkuk 2:1) for His response. Long story short, in this time, the Lord has affirmed that His call on my life is still teaching - but not necessarily in the classroom. While i've been so focused on finding an identity in a career of being an Elementary School teacher, He's been bringing an even bigger passion into my life - youth ministry and missions - and revealing my identity comes from Him alone. God's plan for my life far exceeds anything i could've ever dreamed! His works are astounding - after touring Bethel Seminary and talking to a couple professors there, I had this overwhelming excitement that this is the place He's calling me to. It just...fits, you know? So, in the next couple weeks i'll be applying for the Master of Arts in Christian Education with an emphasis in youth ministry.



And, come January, I'll also be starting an internship with Hosanna! working with the youth ministry staff and checking out what goes on behind the scenes. I'm so PUMPED about it - I get to work with the church i grew up in and even some of staff that were a part of my own faith walk. God opens doors, let me tell you. He is good, He is good, He is good.

I'm still working at Applebees and love my coworkers. Plus i get a few photo gigs here and there too, which is rockin.

And I'm loving Substance church and the wonderful community of brothers and sisters in Christ. My dear friend Megan (who is so sweet and such an answer to prayers for more Godly women in my life) and I turned an unofficial group of people that go out to Flame after Tuesday's Deeper service into an official subgroup. I'm also hoping to get involved with worship at Deeper services, and am currently taking a Shift class and really enjoying the fellowship and friendships of so many amazing and passionate people!

Goals and Weaknesses: In this, my 22nd year of life, I want to accomplish a few things: 1) Get my photography site up and running. 2) Run a half marathon. I am not disciplined in the area of working out whatsoever. It's so sporadic and depends on my mood. While running is such an act of worship and is becoming my time to seek the Lord in prayer while marveling at His creations, it's also challenging. Meaning, I have to man up and discipline myself. God give me strength - HAHA 3) Learn how to say no and tell it how it is... In certain situations, I don't express how i truly feel. I've realized i resort to using humor to keep things lighthearted or to avoid talking about specific issues. I avoid certain situations. I also HATE letting people down or hurting people's feelings - i guess the term for that is people pleaser, huh? While God has revealed this area of weakness, He is now stretching me! I know conquering this weakness will require relying on Him and speaking truths in places i tend to avoid. I'm laughing right now, i think out of nervousness, knowing my prayer and goal to conquer this area of people pleasing will lead to God bringing situations and people into my life that will require me to tell it how it is...oh gosh. :)

Life is so sweet. Towards the end of my run today, I took a shortcut through a field that had recently been harvested. It brought back a memory of last Thanksgiving: I remember walking through a harvested field and being so burdened and full of sorrow by the lack of life and fruition in the trampled, stripped field. That field resembled the season of life i was in at the time - so broken and bleak. But today, a glimpse of this field brought me so much JOY!! God is God, in and out of season. He brought me through that painful season into a life where i strive to seek His heart in all i do. There will be seasons where God will break us down strip us of certain things, or allow us to walk through a season of sorrow. But, it is merely a season, meant to bring us closer to Him. Like the plowed field, He will bring new life from death. He will plant us, water us, grow us and mature us, so that we will be fruitful once again - even more than before. I pray that all things in this life will pale in comparison to seeking the Lord with every fiber of my being - Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. -Philippians 3:8 This is my prayer. Oh Lord, that You are my passion, that You reign over all things, that i may be someone You can use - for Your glory alone. Thank You, for the abundance of life and blessings You have given me. Thank You for being the only constant in this world. Thank You for the sweetness of life and for Your love, which is even GREATER than life itself.




Monday, November 1, 2010

Relationships: Do NOT Settle

My heart breaks for the women in my life who have grown complacent in their relationships and have chosen to settle. Much too often do i hear a woman doubting that they really deserve more or falling further and further into the pit of despair, hopelessness and so called "love" with a guy that doesn't treat them right. Or won't fully commit. This ANGERS me, to be honest. Young women and women alike begin to lose hope in love or lose sight of true love as they convince themselves that the rut of a relationship they're in are as good as it gets. So, I am blogging about it. My voice is but one weak whisper, but paired with my passion for truth and justice to reign, I pray that it will reach the ears of those it was meant to. Bottom line, women, do NOT settle. Couple points:

1) Will he commit? And remain through better and worse?
What is the point of relationships if you do not see a potential future spouse in that person? Upon entering a relationship, if that man is not willing to commit to you FULLY, wavers when the going gets rough, cheats on you, takes advantage of you, talks down to you, abuses you, pushes your boundaries further and further back, is controlling, etc. it is not worth it. If a relationship is preparation for marriage, and the guy will not commit now, then any future together is bleak and unlikely. Do not allow your heart to develop so many ties to this person, so that you are left making up excuses for him treating you wrong or for his non-commital attitude. You are worth so much more. Which brings me to another point...

2) Do you know your self worth?
This may sound like a cliche question to some, but honestly i don't think many of us really do know how much we are worth. Women in relationships - Do you have an unsettling fear that you can't do any better? Do you find yourself trying so hard to make it work because you don't want to end up alone? Do you feel like you're not good enough - for anyone? That you're not pretty enough or too weak to be on your own? These are all lies. All heartwrenching, wicked LIES. You are worth so much more. You deserve true, whole, unconditional love. Even in your lowest of lows, at your worst - you deserve the greatest of Love. No matter your past mistakes, the guilt you hold on to - God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) God sent His only son to cancel the weight of sin and grant us eternal life, because He LOVES us. So so so so deeply, that no one can comprehend. Lovely women in my life, there is NOTHING that separates us from God's love - neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor death, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us...(Romans 8:38) You are deeply loved, right where you're at, by a Savior so full of mercies, so faithful and so loving. He looks at us with unfathomable joy and calls us His own! "You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you" are the words that fall from His lips (Song of Songs 4:7). Cling to these truths - you are worth everything - someone that will lay their life down for you. You are worth so much more than abuse, than a non-commital guy, than someone who does not put you before himself DAILY, than someone who does not take up his own cross, who doesn't love God above anything else. "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces" (Matt 7:6) So the question is, have you settle for a dog or a pig that tramples you and convinces you you are worth nothing? If so, run. Run into the arms of someone who will never leave you or forsake you, who loves you and wants your absolute best. You are worth so much more. Don't ever question that.

3) Have you confused soul ties with love?
Sometimes, we mistake soul ties with true love. Souls ties often form when we cross lines with that person - be it physical intimacy, abuse, time poured into the relationship, spiritual/mental ties, etc. These soul ties restrain us and are so often confused with true love. I heard someone once say that "REAL LOVE will do WHATEVER it takes to lead you into life" (Luke Allison). Take a step back and examine your relationship. Is that relationship life-giving or life-sucking? Do you feel stuck? Do you feel like you are nothing without that person? Does that person take advantage of you, tell you what to think, push you, control you, thwart your biggest hopes and dreams? Does this person commit to you physically but refuse to do so relationally? Is this "love" leading you into life? If not, it's not love.

So here comes the hard part. If you've opened your eyes and realized your relationship is not life giving or that you've settled, it next step is difficult. But i beg you, do not remain in the complacency and familiarity because it's easier. Take that leap of faith and stand up for who you are and what you deserve. End that relationship, and stick with your decision. It's going to be a fight, sorting through those soul ties that may have formed or allowing your heart to truly heal and recognize you deserve more. It's going to take time, and you may take three steps foward and slip back a couple countless times. But take that step - out of death, out of a damaging relationship and into LIFE, into Him. Find WOMEN that will encourage you and support you and uphold you and stand by you. Do not try to fill that void with another relationship or other transient things. You may protest and say i don't understand or that this relationship is different. Women, we were created to be helpmates - encouragers, uplifters. But do not be convinced that it is your job to fix or change someone. This will get you nowhere. Please take that step into LIFE and away from the 'man', the lies, the life that enslaves you. I promise you, if you trust that God has a better future and a better LOVE in store for you, He will not leave you hanging. He is faithful and will show you your self worth - if You let Him. He will provide - if you let Him. He will heal your brokenness, sever any soul ties, in His timing - if You are patient in the time of waiting and let Him. I beg you - LET HIM.



Books to Check out:
Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard
Crazy Love by Francis Chan


Brothers and Sisters in Christ: Check out this website: http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/trial/marriage-and-men

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Transformations





After hours spent tossing and turning, trying to fall asleep last night, I stopped fighting it and spent time reflecting on this thought - Our whole journey in faith is one giant transformation. Check it: And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. - 2 Corinthians 3:18 We are being transformed. From one degree of glory to the next. So, when the veil is initially removed and our eyes are opened to the wonders and works of God, this is one degree of glory. When we have a desire to seek God through anything, this is one degree of glory. When we are learning what it means to leave our old ways behind and follow after the Lord, another still. As we walk through trials and tribulations, in and out of season, we experience further transformation as we learn to cling to God and turn to Him no matter what lies before us. So often, we do not turn to the Lord for guidance or refuse to let Him enter in to certain areas of our lives. Still, in these moments we are being transformed. When the Bible calls us to "be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48) this is the final degree of our transformation. There is no way to attain this degree of perfection on our own - it requires sanctification with our Lord, so that He may lead us into perfection. While this final degree may not happen until He returns, we are called to work towards perfection in Him. Sometimes, we may take the matter of our own transformations into our own hands. This is when we fail to acknowledge the Lord as THE crucial part in our transformations, begin to think we can do it without Him. When we take transformation into our own hands, we often adopt the minds of the Pharisees and find refuge in our religious ways and preconceived ideas of who the Lord is. We begin to revel in our self righteousness and lose sight of how much we need the Lord. If and when we arrive at this point, we are at the mercy of the Lord and experience transformation as He tears down our preconceived notions and throws them out the window, reminding us of His power and how truly weak we are without Him.

Transformation. I have experienced more transformation in this past year and a half than in my entire life combined. Thanks be to God for the trials, the people, the situations, the losses He placed in my life so that the transformation process could continue. Truly. Though i am far from perfect, He has become this fiery passion within me - greater than life itself. And this is something i crave to share, as others enter into or continue to walk through their own transformation processes. As we draw close to God, He draws close to us. It takes us stepping out first, opening ourselves up to the One who brings transformation.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Forgiveness and Reconciliation



For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you -Matthew 6:14

Is it just me, or is forgiveness is one of the hardest things we are called to do? ESPECIALLY when we have been cut deeply, hurt over and over again and/or are the ones that have been wronged. While God has forgiven us for our sinful nature - cancelled all of our sins through the death of Jesus, the spotless lamb and most perfect sacrifice - He calls us to forgive just the same. Forgiveness is a choice: at times, the person who has wronged you isn't going to ask you to forgive them. The act of forgiving, though difficult, brings so much freedom. When you release the anger, hard feelings, grudges, etc. toward that person and place it in the Lord's hands, freedom comes to both parties. Forgiving someone doesn't always mean letting them back in to your life in the same magnitude as they were before, or even at all. But it does mean that any feelings of resentment or anger have been released, through the act of forgiveness. In forgiving someone, you may be left with anger, frustration, and/or hurt, and that is okay. Sometimes, this is part of releasing and the healing process. But in the act of forgiving, you are no longer ruled by anger towards that person, your life is no longer run by your frustrations and hard feelings for that person. Basically, in forgiving someone you release them to the Lord and drop any charges you have against them.

As you may know (and/or have read), this past year and a half of my life has been full of many changes, painful pruning and new direction. About a year ago, i feel into a period of grieving, darkness and loss. Now, standing on the other side of that darkness in the marvelous light, and being able to be a witness to the Lord's faithfulness in that time, I have deeper understanding of that season. The Lord is my rock, my refuge, my savior, my beloved, my healer...and His mercies and faithfulness never cease. My relationship with Him is my first priority and i can now claim Him as my everything. It took walking through that season of darkness and loss to come to this place of intimate relationship with my Savior and King. How does this relate to forgiveness? During this time, God allowed the two people i was closest to to fade out of my life. One seemed to be ripped out of my life while the other sort of faded away as I was consumed by darkness and she felt abandoned and hurt.

While the two relationships and the aftermath have looked entirely different, it took forgiving them both and waiting for their forgiveness for reconciliation to come. And that reconciliation has happened with BOTH relationships in the past two weeks. God is faithful, right? In one relationship, I had forgiven him straight from the get go. But it took releasing him, waiting on the Lord and allowing healing and forgiveness to come on God's timing. Yes, i had fought and fought and carried a burden for the longest time, feeling like i needed to show and guide this brother in Christ, out of the love i had for him, into that place where he was able to forgive and receive healing. But the BIGGEST thing i've come to realize, in this relationship, is the humbling fact that the Lord doesn't need me to work. AMEN. And in forgiving and waiting for forgiveness in return, I have learned that forgiveness and reconciliation often requires WAITING on the Lord and trusting Him through it all.
The second relationship, the one that sort of faded away, was different. In this situation, my dear friend felt wronged and abandoned as i was enveloped in my season of darkness. This, too, took WAITING on the Lord. I know i had hurt her, but i couldn't jump back into the relationship for fear of hurting her again. In this situation, it took time for HER to forgive me and feel ready to put herself out there again. In this situation, I was called to step out and initiate something. And let me tell you, before meeting with this dear friend last night (for the first time in literally 6 months or more) i was sweating profusely...and kind of felt like i was going on a first date ;).

During this past week, in spending time with these two people that had once been key people in my life, I've realized that while the three of our lives have changed - we've grown, we've matured, journeyed further into our careers and passions (or different ones), experienced changes in our family, life, etc. - the relationship and deep care i have for both of these people still remain. With my dear friend, it felt like she and i picked up where we had left off - which was SUCH a blessing. And so, first and foremost, thanks be to GOD for bringing forgiveness and reconciliation in His time.

My prayerful advice to all of you, brothers and sisters, is that you do NOT delay in forgiving those that have hurt you or ASKING for forgiveness. Forgive them, in this very moment. Do not hesitate, do not protest, just forgive. It says in Matthew 5:23, "if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. FIRST be reconciled to your brother..." Do not delay in forgiving, for it will bring you true freedom. Then, the next step involves WAITING on the Lord. Be patient and wait for Him to act, as the Psalms so often remind us. Give it to God and let Him handle it. For surely, His ways are mightier than ours, His plans are more beautiful.

Friends, find true freedom in forgiveness. I pray we crave reconciliation with each other and allow our relationships to mirror the astounding act of forgiveness that God revealed in sending us His only son.

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.-Colossians 3:13

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You Are My Passion



Check out the lyrics and the song below: You are My Passion by Jesus Culture :)

"I'm alive to bring glory to YOU, King
God of VICTORY, You are my PASSION.
It's in the way You are, You don't change at all,
Great and humble God, You are my PASSION.

My strength in life is I am YOURS
My soul delights, because i am YOURS...
"

The Lord gives us victory. Freedom. He fuels our passions - shapes them, uses them for HIS glory!!!! Find hope in that, dear friends!

"Your WILL on EARTH is ALL i'm living for

Jesus, I glorify; Jesus, my love is YOURS
You are my heart's desire; I live to KNOW YOU more
"

Lord, we show our trust in you by obeying your laws; our heart’s desire is to glorify your name. -Isaiah 26:8

"Light that breaks the darkness, showing what true love is
Always full of GOODNESS, You are my passion.
You never do me wrong, the meekest Man, but strong
The most perfect song, You are my passion
."

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can NEVER extinguish it - John 1:5

God is good. He is good, He is good, He is good. May you find strength in Him, passion FOR Him.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Psalms :)

My prayer, my worship, my plea, my thanksgiving to the Lord, through a conglomeration of some Psalms




Come and listen, all you who fear God, and i will tell you what he did for me (66:16):

Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how i praise you! (63:3) O Lord, your UNFAILING LOVE fills the earth;teach me your decrees (119:64) Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Let your mercy come to me, that i may live; for your law is my delight (119:76-77) Let your unfailing love rest upon us (33:22) Take DELIGHT in the Lord, and He will give you your hearts desire (37:4) Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions (119:18) Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me LIFE in your ways (119:37) Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path (119:105) You are good and do only good; teach me your decrees(119:68) Your laws are my treasure; they are my heart's delight (119:111)My suffering was good to me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees (119:71) Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning (30:5) The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right (84:11) Let all that i am wait quietly before God, for my HOPE is in him (62:5) Be still and know that HE IS GOD (46:10) Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait PATIENTLY for him to act (37:7)Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me (119:133) He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as i walked along (40:2) The Lord says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life" (32:8) You are my hiding place and my shield; I HOPE in your word (119:114) How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! (139:17) Seek His presence continually (105:4) You have turned my mourning into JOYFUL dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with JOY (30:11) My soul makes its boast in the Lord (34:2) Let all that i am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise is holy name (103:1)

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Tunnel


This image and analogy came to mind yesterday, as I headed up to St Joseph to visit my cousin and some friends. As i drove through this tunnel, I realized the past year and a half can be summed up by this momentary time in the tunnel.

As I approached the figurative tunnel over a year ago, I refrained and fought with all my strength to avoid going through it. After losing my strength to fight, I reluctantly stepped into the darkness. I spent the first steps into the tunnel looking backwards, focusing on the light evading me. Darkness enveloped me, and i began to walk through the tunnel. I wasn't sure how long the tunnel spanned, so i continued to walk. The light behind me was a mere dot on the horizon. I craved to see the light, but kept walking through the tunnel. Soon, my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I accepted the very journey i ventured on. Before I knew it, light flooded into the dark tunnel and i had reached the end. Though the light was the same light on the previous side, it seemed much brighter, to eyes that had adjusted to the darkness. I was in awe of the Light, so taken by it's majesty and magnitude... i wanted to follow after it more than ever.


***

When God allows us to walk through the darkness, may we never doubt His plans for us. Though we may not see beyond the darkness, He can. In times of Light and joy and fruitfulness, may we stand in awe of Him. In times of darkness, despair, loss, and the unknown, may we accept the 'tunnel' we're in and be encouraged, knowing the light will be SO much brighter on the other side :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wordless Thanksgiving III



Find rest, O my soul, in God ALONE;
my HOPE comes from Him.
-Psalm 62:5



















Thursday, September 30, 2010

Our God REIGNS

The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice...!
-Psalm 97:1

Listen to this:


Simple lyrics, right? Our God reigns; forever Your kingdom reigns!

The definition of reign as a verb: 1) to posses or exercise sovereign power or authority 2) to have control, rule, or influence of any kind 3) to predominate, be prevalent

So when we sing Our God reigns, we are claiming that He is sovereign and in control. We are CLAIMING that He will prevail - His kingdom, His power and His glory. Jesus Christ is not only our Lord and Savior, but the Supreme Ruler. No matter what we are dealing with, no matter what darkness we are going through - He REIGNS!!!!!!! Seriously, can we even fathom that? If we could, and if we really trusted that God reigned over EVERY ONE of our situations, there would be so much more peace and joy, even in the midst of our trials.

You guys, our God reigns! Listen to the song again. Only this time, let that truth sink in to your heart.

If we truly trust that our God reigns, how do we respond? As i've been praying for specific situations friends are dealing with, this is what i feel is the answer that encompasses several of them: Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:14)

Now, waiting on the Lord may look different in each situation. But as we wait in the Lord, we trust His sovereignty is at work - meaning, He is reigning over all our situations! Sometime in our waiting, we are called to act, make a decision, reach out to someone, say something we've been scared to say. Sometimes, we'll be called to not say anything and completely remove ourself from the situation, pray without ceasing, etc.

I am in a season where i am learning to further trust in our God's sovereignty. I believe He has called me into this new season and new career, for it was only after acting - taking a semester off and waiting on Him, that i received new direction. In this season of rest, i've sought Him more than i ever have, but i have also waited on Him (and still am). While His calling on my life becomes stronger, so do the enemy's attacks. And THAT is hard to deal with - the doubt, the apathy, etc. i'm currently confronting. SO, i must wait and trust that my God REIGNS and the enemy is crushed beneath His feet!

Sweet friends, you three who are learning to let go of love lost, trust in His sovereignty. He reigns! You who are in the midst of this beautiful season of being engaged, trust He is preparing you for your role as wife (even the submission part ;P) - He reigns! You all who are in a season of mourning or learning to comfort friends who mourn, He reigns! He reigns, He reigns, He reigns. Trust this, and find true freedom knowing He is taking care of our situations and asking us to WAIT on Him. Give the situations to our Sovereign Lord, be obedient, and see what He does with it. Trust me, the outcomes will be far greater than we can imagine.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Search Me, O God...

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
-Psalm 139:23-24

At my church's worship service tonight (Deeper at Substance - check it out!), this Psalm became my prayer. The Lord has led me to the verge of something NEW, something HUGE. What's ironic about this psalm is that God already knows us, inside and out - our thoughts, our hearts, etc. But when we invite Him in, in fact when we command that He enters, as in this Psalm, He is able to move and bring things that are not pleasing to Him to our attention. Sometimes He uproots things, sifts through our hearts and makes us aware of footholds or areas in our life we were not even aware of before!

Minutes after praying this, i felt a need to reach out to someone - someone who i felt i deserved justice from, and have a strong desire to be reconciled with. However, after reaching out countless times in the past, i know this desire for reconciliation is out of my control. I have put myself out there, but now is my time to give this person space and allow them all the time he needs. SO, point is, this very thought and need to contact that person was a FOOTHOLD, a grievous way the Lord brought to my attention! At first, i did not connect my praying of Psalm 139 to this thought. This thought caused me to hit a wall, as i became frustrated and stopped worshipping. After finally forcing myself to seek council in the prayer chapel, the walls of confusion came down.

It's crazy how that works, huh? When we reach out, when we allow others to pray over a burden or foothold, when we let people in to the things we've kept in the dark....there is true freedom. As it says in the Psalms, for when i kept silent my bones wasted away... (Psalm 32:3) The Lord has created community and given us brothers and sisters in Christ so that we may be uplifted in prayer and encouragement. After seeking refuge in the prayer chapel, both for affirmation in the calling i feel the Lord has placed on my life and in further releasing this foothold, i broke down. Gosh, there is so much freedom in breakdowns sometime. I love it. The Lord affirmed a couple things that i would so love to share with you all:

1) Sometimes, there are deep-rooted lies we've come to believe as truths. When we ask the Lord to test our hearts and examine our thoughts, He may bring these lies to the surface. I had come to believe a lie a few years ago - i was not cut out for ministry or potentially being a pastor's wife. Though the Lord has absolutely crushed this lie and replaced it with His calling, there seems to be remnants that have remained hidden beneath the surface. I can say now, with full assurance, the Lord is calling me into ministry. For now, I am hesitant to share what exactly that entails, regarding my future career and mission field, for the Lord's call and direction could change once again!

2) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me - even conquering footholds, though i am impatient and still a little frustrated. As i turn to Him and admit my weakness, man oh man does He MOVE!!

3) I suck at being pursued. I am such an excitable, outgoing, go-getter. While i can attribute this to my personality, i will also willingly admit it's a fault and shows a lack of trust in the Lord. Praise Jesus, He's working in me. And gosh darn, i don't have time to pursue a relationship right now! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Haha...i guess that could be my excuse in any season, but i'm so turned off to pursuing and slightly open to being pursued, given the right man.

4) In praying for my future hubby/ministry partner tonight with two amazing women (that's weird to type...and think about haha), besides it being completely necessary that he is a man after the Lord's own heart, i also realized there is a need for him to be ready and willing for our mission field to change. While my mission field is currently in Lakeville and the Twin Cities, who knows where the Lord will lead (and to what different state? country? CONTINENT?!?!?) So exciting, right?!

:) God is good. Allow Him to search you. If you invite Him in with an open heart, He has room to move - even if that means correcting, sifting, disciplining (for surely a loving Father disciplines those He loves). I also strongly strongly encourage people in all sorts of faith walks to not hesitate in seeking council and being prayed over. It is freeing to allow others in, to gain prayer warriors who will uphold you in prayer!

I am blessed beyond BELIEF to have such an amazing community of brothers and sisters!! THANK YOU LORD!

Monday, September 27, 2010

One Foot In Front of the Other


I am a sporadic, undisciplined runner. I'll go through waves of really feeling motivated to run mile after mile, only to be discouraged weeks later that i can only run a couple miles. Its SUCH a mental thing, you know? I have the confidence that i am fully capable of running a half marathon and great distances, but there are times when i simply cannot because i mentally talk myself out of it.

The mind is a powerful thing. Today on my run, I ran two miles straight, then walked some. I was ready to tackle this long hill i always pysch myself out about. When i arrived at the bottom of the hill, I looked down at my feet and focused on each step. Rather than looking at the crazy intimidating hill that lay ahead, I focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I cranked up the worship music, meditated on Philippians 4:13 (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me), listening to worship, and kept my mind focused on the Lord. It worked - for awhile, but my undisciplined mind and curiosity got the best of me, and i realized i still had so much more hill to climb. So i walked the rest of the way, feeling discouraged.

How applicable is this idea of "putting one foot in front of the other" in a life sought after the Lord, huh? While we are called to run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith.. (Hebrews 12:1-2) it is also important that we take it a step at a time. For me, conquering that hill was similar to confronting other areas in life. If we focus on what lies ahead, or the difficult journey the Lord is calling us to embark on; if we were able to see a desert season lying straight ahead of us, or see situations that would bring us pain and hurt, we would be SO discouraged and so...unwilling to continue running this race, wouldn't we? Gosh, if i could avoid pain or a trying season, i think i would. And that is why the Lord's ways are so mysterious. That is why we catch glimpses of His plan in His timing, and He reveals things to us as He sees fit. This race we are running will be difficult at times. We will be left heaving and tending to running cramps. We may even have to sit it out on the side line, crippled by excruciating pain. We may have to run for lengths of time, in the heat of a desert and feel all that is within us running dry.

But let me affirm and encourage, the end result is worth it. Reaching the finish line after a trying journey, will be the best feeling EVER! God has placed us in this very journey - do you believe it? Instead of asking for Him to reveal more about the journey you're on, instead of asking Him why, let our whys be silenced with prayers asking God to be our strength and all we need on the journey. His plan is greater than ours. His plans are for our good.

And as for the mental discipline? We all must learn to take our thoughts captive before the Lord. When we catch ourselves falling into an oppressive cycle that bring feelings of unworthiness, that reveal generational curses we have come to believe, that discourage us and keep us from valiantly running the race that lies ahead, may we bring them before the Lord and allow Him to shatter the lies. May we turn to His truth, the Living Word to build us up and keep us hoping in Him. This journey? It starts by putting one foot in front of the other, knowing that whatever lies ahead, Jesus is who we look to, He is who we turn to, He is the source of strength we need to keep running, and the one who will shatter the lies we've come to know and replace them with His glorious truths. So take the next step.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Getting Towed


It seems like when we're at a place where we're pursuing the Lord with all we've got, when we've laid down our will, the enemy attacks us even more and boosts up his defense. He hates when we are drawing closer to the Lord and allowing Him to work in our lives. So, since my last post about Letting Go, i've definitely faced some challenges. That same day, Friday, I went on a last minute road trip to visit one of my dearest friends in Mankato. Ally's been going through a lot of major changes and challenges of life, so i was really looking forward to just catching up and lounging together. Upon arriving at her apartment, the guest parking was completely full. Being the "responsible" women we are (haha), we wrote a note that said "visitor parking full", stuck it in my windshield and parked two spaces away from guest parking. The next morning, I headed to my car bright and early since i had to go to work. When i got to where i had parked my car, it was gone. I couldn't believe it at first! MY CAR HAD BEEN TOWED! Three things immediately came to my head: 1) I HAVE TO GET TO WORK! THIS ISN"T FAIR! 2) Really?! My car gets towed in Mankato?! Of the three years i've lived in Minneapolis, my car was never ONCE towed, and now HERE?! DUMMMMMBBB. and 3) Shoot! I do not have the money to get my car from the impound lot.
After calling Ally and convincing her this was not a joke (hahaha), she and her sweet roommate rolled out of bed, found the number for the impound lot and tow service and brought me there. It cost $80 to get it out, and i had little time to get to work and shower. THANKFULLY, i made it home in the nick of time, got ready, and booked it to work with three minutes to spare.
The funny things are, which are also the God things:

1) I had just read a chapter in Elizabeth George's book, A Woman After God's Own Heart about prayer - praying about EVERYTHING! As Proverbs says, in ALL your ways, acknowledge Him... so the whole time, I was praying. For patience dealing with the towing company and the lady who answered the apartment phone line. I prayed that God would reign in this situation, that i would trust Him and be slow to anger. I prayed prayed prayed, up until i arrived at work, i would get there on time. I prayed that God would provide, for He knows my money stresses.

2) I made it to work on time - with three minutes to spare.

3) The shift i was working? I had picked up the shift from a coworker who asked me to cover it. Guess how much i walked out with in tips? You're going to be in awe. $80!!!! The EXACT amount of money it cost to get my car out of the impound lot. I think it is safe to say, God was really reigning over this situation. HALLELUJAH!

We are faced with situations that will try us - every day of our lives. It is so important that we learn to act NOT on our emotions and anger, but to trust that the Lord has it all under control. As Hannah Hurnard states in her book Hinds Feet On High Places, "Every circumstance in life, no matter how crooked and distorted and ugly it appears to be, if it is reacted to in LOVE and forgiveness and obedience to Your will can be transformed". I pray that we learn this. No, the towing example is NOT an example of how i've mastered this technique - i'm not even CLOSE. It is a testimony, however, of God's power, His hand on the situation, and how comforted, looked after, and at peace we can be in the midst of trying times if we turn to Him and trust in Him with all we have.

Today (Sunday) I opened a book (so to speak) i thought had closed long ago - full of insecurities and not letting go of certain things. While my friends offered their outside perspective and advice, they kept insisting that I was, in fact, NOT over it as i claim to be. And while i know they're right, I felt discouraged. I thought i had begun this journey of giving it to God - that my decision not to act but to trust Him with it - were sure signs of me letting go. And, after a long nap full of many weird dreams, I felt even more discouraged. But that's just it - i have BEGUN this journey of giving it to God. BEGUN. It's going to take time. I'm not where i was a month ago or a year ago - praise JESUS! And this journey has gotten sweeter and produced more fruit as i learn more about what it looks like to release things into His hands! It is also important to acknowledge the inner workings of Christ - sometimes, God is doing some crazy heart/life changes that take time to cultivate. And while we may be aware that He is working, we may not know where His workings are leading and others may not see them right away. So, i'm filled with encouragement knowing i've sensed His workings and cannot wait to see the results!!

To wrap up...we're going to face trials. The death of a loved one, not being able to be reconciled with a friend or individual, not having enough money to pay the bills, etc. There's SO MANY trials. God did not promise us a smooth road. He did, however, give us His strength - and get this. It works BEST in our weakness. (2 Corin 12:9). He DID say our trials and tribulations will develop character and help us learn to persevere (Romans 5:3). And while we can not do it on our own, we can rest assured the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26). So, let God in to trying situations. Acknowledge His presence, His power, and your need. And you will be amazed at what He can and will do as He reigns over your situation. Give Him time and room to work.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Letting Go

Why do we have such a hard time letting go? Releasing control, loosening our grip, casting our anxieties and worries and burdens on the Lord? There is so much freedom when we acknowledge that what we've been holding on to was never really ours to begin with. In the past, I've had a hard time letting go of relationships and admitting that God doesn't need me to work in their lives. I've had a hard time letting go of situations and truly accepting things i cannot change. Letting go is a struggle for many of us - letting go of someone we've lost, letting go of wanting to "help" people with areas in their life (which also results in attempting to live their life for them), letting go of the past, letting go of stress and present circumstances, letting go of wanting to plan the future, and the hardest of all - letting go of our own lives.

While i have been so fearful of a future unknown and unplanned, i have found sincere beauty in letting go of those plans. By loosening my grip and letting God work it all out, I feel...different. Renewed. I, Katy Gunderson, someone who had her whole future figured out, am finding pure joy knowing the Lord is guiding me into bigger and better things i never could've planned for myself. Even if i'm being kept in the dark and am uncertain of what/when they will be revealed. As i give Him more - my career path, my identity, etc. and acknowledge His faithfulness as He guides me, I am free.

Think about it. If God is in control of everything, if He has known us from the beginning of time and "all the days ordained for me were written in [His] book" (Psalm 139), these temporary afflictions, circumstances, losses, confusion, hurt, pain, etc. will pass. He has a brilliant future for those he has called (Ephesians 1:18). All we have to do is choose Him, with our free will, and entrust our lives - every aspect of it - into His hands.

As my man Oswald Chambers says, "Get to the end of yourself where you can do nothing, but where He does everything."

So, no matter where we are in this journey, what is it God is calling us to let go of and trust Him with? For me, it's the career choice i've had planned for years and years. It takes a giant leap of faith, but it is worth it. I pray that we all get to the end of ourselves and allow the Lord to take over and show us what He has in store.



Thursday, September 23, 2010

Jars of Clay

Last night, i spent my quiet time reading 2 Corinthians. I am so blown away by the amount of verses that really spoke to me in this time. For you women out there, of any age or any walk of life, I wholeheartedly recommend A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George. I'm only two chapters in and so impressed with her teachings and encouragement to get rooted in the word. Seriously, check it out! She's inspired me to start memorizing a verse a week, so that I may store up truths in times of drought, and so i am ready and willing to speak them into existence!

Okay, so the connection. After reading the second chapter of George's book, I turned to 2 Corinthians for my first verse to memorize: 2 Corinthians 3:17-18. I'll get into that verse in a later post. I really want to focus on a verse later on in 2 Corinthians:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us -2 Corinthians 4:7

We = jars of clay: Plain, simple, average vessels used to carry water or other...things. We were created to contain what is poured into us. The power of God in us - His existence, His love, His workings in us, His call = the treasure within us. We, average and ordinary jars, have the opportunity to receive this magnificent treasure that is greater than gold! As we grow in relationship with the Lord, as we turn to Him to fill us, we are given Him - our treasure! Think about it - without God pouring into us, we are but empty vessels.

So, may we boast in our nothingness. May we accept that we are but jars of clay, so that the Lord's workings in our lives and His POWER are what people notice, what people see, and what they crave. It is by His hand alone and His power within us that we are: "afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed..." - 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 As we encounter trials, despair, confusion,persecution, etc. it is the Lord's power that is poured into us that gives us the power to move forward and live a life set firm in Him.

As mere jars of clay containing the greatest treasure, Jesus Christ, may our prayer be that the power and presence of the Lord will overflow from us (John 7:38). Take heart, friends. Rest assuredly on the Lord's promise and workings in your life:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. -2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Monday, September 20, 2010

Savoring His Presence

Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for Him to act.

-Psalm 37:6

Let your ROOTS grow down into him, and let
your lives be built on him. Then your faith
will grow strong in the truth you were taught,
and you will overflow with thankfulness.

-Colossians 2:7

A dear friend recommended the book, A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George. Only pages into the first chapter about being a woman fully devoted to God, George emphasizes the importance of spending time in His Presence. She includes the story of Mary and Martha, and how Jesus commended Mary for sitting in His presence, enjoying His company and dropping the need to busy herself in preparation for His visit.

What makes it so hard to BE STILL and simply dwell in the Lord? How have we grown accustom to always going, going, going, constantly on the move - even if it's on to the next church event or the next service project or youth group or getting coffee with a person you mentor, etc. The list goes on. Yes, faith without actions is dead. Yes, serving and being actively involved in bringing His kingdom to earth is beautiful. But why is simply sitting at His feet - meditating with scripture, worshipping, simply beholding God so hard?

Spending time with Him is what He asks. Putting down the business of life, letting our minds be consumed by Him and stray away from the thoughts of all we have to do is His plea. If only for a few moments each day. As cliche and overused as this line is, we are in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Relationships involve spending time with that person, giving them your undivided attention and just...taking them in. And if our relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important one of all, i pray we all get to a place where we are OVERJOYED to just sit and bask in His presence.

When we give Him our undivided attention, when we allow Him to move as we remain STILL before Him, this is the very place where the Lord will reveal more of Himself. This time with Him is where He gives us visions, instruction, reveals His abounding love and affections towards us.

My prayer for all of us is that we find time to truly savor His presence. That we realize our need for Him, and feel an emptiness without taking the time each day to meet with Him. Stay in His presence, just a little longer. Spend time in prayer, focus on one verse or one quality of the Lord, or simply sit. Whatever time with Him looks like, God may we crave it. May we feel an insatiable desire for more of You.

Be STILL and know that i am God!
-Psalm 46:10

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you
-James 4:8

Check it: A Little Longer...

Monday, September 13, 2010

LEANING on the Lord (Song of Songs 8:5)

I want to share with you yesterday's devotional from Streams in the Desert. It's based on one of my life verses and is such a beautiful reminder of what it means to lean on the Lord:

Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her lover? - Song of Songs 8:5

"I once learned a great lesson at a prayer meeting at a southern church. As one man prayed, he asked the Lord for various blessings, just as you or i would, and he thanked the Lord for many blessings already received, just as you or i would. But he closed his prayer with this unusual petition: "And, O Lord, support us! Yes, support us on every leaning side!"
Do you have any "leaning sides"? This humble man's prayer pictured them in a new way and illustrated the Great Supporter in a new light, as well. He saw God as always walking alongside the Christian, ready to extend His mighty arm to steady the weak on "every leaning side".

Child of My love, lean hard,
And let Me feel the pressure of your care;
I know your burden, child. I shaped it;
Balanced it in Mine Own hand; made no proportion
In its weight to your unaided strength,
For even as I laid it on, I said,
"I will be near, and while she leans on Me,
this burden will be Mine, not hers;
So will i keep My child within the circling arms
Of my Own love." Here lay it down, nor fear
To impose it on a shoulder that upholds
The government of worlds. Yet closer come:
You are not near enough. I would embrace your care;
So i might feel My child reclining on My breast.
You love Me, I know. So then do not doubt;
But loving Me, lean hard.

-Streams in the Desert (September 12), L.B. Cowman

Beautiful image and devotion, yes? The Lord has crafted our burdens, He has allowed certain things to enter into our lives, SO THAT we may LEAN on Him. These hard times? These joys, these celebrations, these times of weakness and sorrow? They are all meant to bring us closer to the Lord. May we learn to truly, TRULY LEAN on Him. We were not meant to take on the world and our burdens on our own - He never planned it to be this way.

The first time this verse really sunk in, really become a life verse for me, was just under a year ago. I was bruised and hurting, I felt the darkness consuming me. And this sweet, sweet verse from Song of Songs, spoke wonders to me. I came across it in a book, an allegory of the Song of Songs (Hinds' Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard...check it out, seriously). And after spending time just meditating on it, i got this image of myself: beat up, limping, tear streaked and dirty cheeks, blisters on my feet, so weary and worn from the journey, being supported and held by Jesus, as He carefully walked beside me and led me and allowed me to lean on Him. Mmm, this vision still brings tears to my eyes. Life is a journey. We will have seasons of life where we are bruised up and limping and can do nothing but lean on the Lord. There are also times where the season is fruitful and beautiful and joyful, and we forget our desperate need to lean on Him.

So, where are you? Do you acknowledge your need to lean on the Lord? Do you realize our desperate need for Him to be by our side? Do you long for Him to pick you up, for fear that you have fallen and can't pick yourself up? No matter where you are, this truth is real: We need to lean on the Lord. Through any and all things. We need to depend on Him, admit our need for Him, and allow Him to carry our burdens and carry us through.

Friday, September 10, 2010

ACTS: A Call To Serve - ministry Proposal

God has really been placing a burden on my heart - there is SO much need in this world, even in the community around us. I think, as Christians, we all need to be aware of that need and God's call for us to serve, to reach out, to go lower and be servants. This has been something that i've been praying about for a few months now. After being blessed to receive First Runner Up in the Miss Lakeville Pageant and now serving as an ambassador to Lakeville, i felt God beckoning me further - past the pretty dresses, the sparkly crown, the parades and events. God has placed the importance of service and the need for more opportunities on my heart - the need to equip others, to get them plugged in and provide people with places where they can put their faith into ACTION. God's ways are so wonderful, and I'm not the only one whose felt a tug on my heart. Miss Lakeville 2010 and my dear friend Jenna Diercks has also felt God calling her to serve. God had placed this dream and calling in our lives a couple months ago and continues to grow it.

On a mission trip to El Salvador and Guatemala (mid July), God laid a name for this ministry: ACTS. A Call To Serve. I wrote it in my journal and tucked the idea in the back of my head somewhere. Now, a couple months later, God has stirred again and brought this idea to mind. After listening to the song Turn Down the Music by Shane & Shane (listen below) in the car yesterday, the Lord provided further instruction: serve my people. Serve these people. The song outlines Matthew 25:34-40:

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'


Jesus has clearly instructed us to serve those in need, those who are hurting, those who feel isolated, and those who simply need His unending love. My vision for ACTS is to work with already existing ministries, charities and organizations, meet their specific needs, provide ministry, and provide college (highschool? middle school? adults?) students/people with opportunities to serve. God has given us all unique passions, for a specific group of people, etc. He has given us gifts, talents to serve Him, by serving others. He has given us ALL we need to serve others. It just takes the next step. Do you feel convicted?

For now, my vision for this potential ministry involves focusing on specific groups outlined in Matthew 25:
1) Homeless/People in Need
2) Strangers/Immigrants
3) Sick
4) Prison

It would be AMAZING to partner, work with and meet the needs of homeless shelters, food shelthers, clothing drives, English language classes, Children's hospitals, nursing homes, Alcoholics Anonymous, and doing ministry - in prisons, on the street, in spending time with those who are hurting/sick/in need. There is so much need, yet we have been blessed abundantly - we are not helpless. By following specific passions and giving the Lord a chunk of our time to SERVE others, in one ministry or another, we are following the call of James 2:17 and 2:22:

17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. - James 2:17

22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. - James 2:22

We are called to put our faith into action. We are called to minister and serve those in need. For whatever we do for the least of these, we did for Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Isaiah 58:10-11 promises THIS:
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.


John Piper comments about this verse:
"...if we pour ourselves out for others, God promises to make us like "a watered garden" - that is, we will receive the water we need for refreshment and joy. But even more, we will thus be a "spring of water" that does NOT fail - for others, for the demanding, exhausting, draining ministry of urban self-giving...God has made us to flourish by being spent for others. " - When the Darkness Will Not Lift, Piper 63

That is a promise. God is calling us to spend ourselves, to literally WASTE ourselves, exhaust ourselves, pour ourselves out for OTHERS and their needs. But, we will not be left with nothing. Rather, we will NEVER see an end to God's glorious riches. He will continue to fill us up. We WILL have the time and the energy to continue to serve and continue to waste our lives for others, thanks be to God.

John 7:38 - Whoever believes in me, as[a] the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."

So, the next step? I need help. I need resources. I need others who feel a passion for one or more of these areas who feel convicted to step up and serve. I want ACTS to be the bridge and outlet for students to serve organizations, charities and people in NEED. Do you feel convicted and/or passionate about helping? God has yet to reveal how this will look, but i'm entrusting it all to Him. And it's time to get others on board, so this vision is not limited by my own tiny brain. Will you help? If so, comment on this note and include an email address. :) Keep pressing in.

A final word: In the past few months, the Lord has also placed the word "revival" on my heart. This world needs revival. The church needs revival. And in what better way to see a newness of life, a resurrected church, a fiery passion than to reach out, beyond church walls into places of need? This whole world needs revival. If you feel called to international missions, know that your mission field, your place to serve is wherever you are. Right now. In your very city.

"Turn down the music,
Turn down the noise,
Turn up Your voice, O God,
Let us hear the sound

of people broken,
Willing to love,
Give us Your heart, O God,
a new song rising up

Let it be our worship,
Let it be our true religion,
In this world, but not of it,
Holding on to our confession..."

-Shane & Shane