Sweet summertime

photoThe house is quiet, the coffee is hot and filling the air with a “comfortable” aroma. The date at the top the page reads July 24th. Summer is speeding by…moments like these will be packed away soon for another season. Bible study has become my favorite part of each day – but especially int he summer, when I’m not really on a schedule. On a summer day I can dig into the word and get lost in my study time – not having to worry about getting ready for work, for being on time, the day that lies ahead. I can let the word lead me from one subject to the next, as prompted by the Spirit. To me it has become beautiful time of discovery. About my God, and about myself. I am so grateful for these quiet moments in the morning spent with my creator.

The Widow of Zarephath

widowDisclaimer: I am not a Bible scholar! I love reading God’s word and learning and studying it – but I do not claim to be a deep theological thinker or teacher. You’ve been warned. This is the first of this type of blog – a type of small group study – to share ideas and thoughts and answer some questions. So here goes.

The text for this story is I Kings 17:8-16

The story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath is found in the 17th chapter of I Kings. When I first heard/read this story, I thought it was mostly a story about the great prophet Elijah. And it is…but there is a lot to be learned from the obedient widow in the story as well. First of all, she was living in the land that was associated with the worship of Baal – a god thought to be responsible for nature – rain, crops, etc. She did not worship the one true God. This is evident in verse 12 when she says to Elijah, “I swear by the Lord your God…” (emphasis mine). She and her son are in the middle of a famine. They are both facing starvation. Along comes Elijah and asks her for the very little bit of food that she has left. She doesn’t know this guy. All she knew was that she had very little food left…so little that she told the great prophet that she was going to “cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.” verse 12. But you know what she did…she gave it to him. She was obedient to Elijah and to God. She gave it to him knowing that it would leave her with nothing. She gave it to him not knowing that God would provide. But Elijah told her “Don’t be afraid.” So she was obedient, trusted him, and stepped in faith to do what he said. She was such a shining example of faithfulness. True faithfulness means that we must place the kingdom of God above any personal concerns. Matthew 6:33 tells us, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

So here is why I love this story…my lessons and takeaways. First, God used this dying widow (whom we assume worshipped a false god) to take care of and sustain one of his greatest prophets. God knew her situation, he knew her needs and he knew her heart. He used her as an instrument to demonstrate amazing faith. If God knew her like this, this says to me that he knows each of His daughters – including me! He is aware of my needs! She had so much faith. She did not know how the situation would turn out. She did not know that God would truly provide enough to sustain her and her son…but she walked blindly – by faith – into the unknown. She sacrificed what very little she had to be obedient. God wants us to be willing to sacrifice everything for him. Even when it looks like there is nothing left in our “barrel” we should be willing to be obedient to him. And here is the part I really take a strong lesson from. God gave the widow enough flour and oil in her jar to make that day’s meal. And each day she was faithful to know that it would be there. He didn’t give her an endless supply all at once. He gave just what she needed on a daily basis. I believe that God truly does know what we need and asks us to trust him to supply it as we need it. We just have to be faithful and obedient.

So here are some follow-up questions for ‘discussion’. You may choose to answer any or all of them. In your comment, either refer to the question number, or refer specifically to the question.

1. Why does God ask us to sacrifice?

2. What made the widow’s faith remarkable?

3. What other examples can you find in the Bible when the Lord asks for complete surrender?

4. When was the last time you had to reach out in raw faith trusting in what you could not see or understand?

5. How is this woman similar to you and experiences you have had in your life?

Here are some follow-up verses that I think connect well with this story; Philippians 1:6, Proverbs 28:27, Luke 6:38

We need to do something

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Hi there! Me again. It’s been 3 months since my last blog. I am ashamed of that but I’m back and starting again. I think I have had lots of thoughts and ideas for posts in the last three months, but I haven’t allowed myself to sit long enough and make them happen. But then today, something that I said to Brian after lunch kind of collided with a few things that Pastor David spoke about in his sermon this morning and I knew I needed to explore them here.

Brian’s dad, Dennie Suman, is battling cancer. He has been for a few years, but about a year ago it was “under control” and he was on monthly “maintenance” treatments. Recently it has begun growing again, and now the doctors are finding new tumors. He is rapidly losing weight and honestly, things do not look good. It’s sad to watch. Brian was moved to go spend some time with his daddy and really ask him where he stood with the Lord. He was able to pray with Dennie, and invited him to church today. I’ll admit I was a little surprised when I turned the corner this morning and found he and Pat (his longtime “girlfriend”) in the lobby. I had feared that he would just be too tired to get up and out the door for church – but he made it! I did my best not to let the shock of his sunken face and dramatic weight loss show on my face. I was thrilled they were there to worship with us.

Pastor David continued his series entitled “Who We Are” and spoke of how the world views us as Christians. Are we a people who would walk to the other side of the road and right past someone in need? Or do we stop and help people out of their ditches and love on them and let them see Jesus in us. (Okay…there was much more to his sermon – this is what really  resonated with me). Are we, as Christians, telling people what they need or are we showing people Jesus in our actions and in our lives?

So – here is where these two parts of my world came together today. After having lunch and a tearful, tough goodbye to Dennie and Pat, Brian and I quietly came home – both kind of fighting tears (he may not admit that). I told him that I just feel helpless and that we need to do something for his dad and Pat. Maybe I could cook some dinners, maybe we could go do yard work or clean their house. Whatever!?!? I just felt like we needed to DO something. But why? Of course any or all of those things would be nice things to do – and I’m sure they would be appreciated and helpful to them. But those things were really about me. Why did I feel the need to just do and do and do? I guess because I don’t know what else there is…If I could run out and find a cure for this horrible disease, I would certainly do that. But I don’t know what else to do! And then I was reminded of this morning’s sermon…maybe I don’t need to necessarily DO….maybe I need to show. Perhaps what Dennie and Pat need the most right now is to be shown the love of Jesus. Maybe they need to see Him in the midst of our prayers and tears. Should we be showing them our belief that if it’s God’s will that he will heal Dennie. Can we show them God’s love for them through us in a prayer-filled visit?

As these words flow through me to this screen, I’m thinking – well isn’t helping them with daily chores a way of showing them Jesus? Can’t we be the hands and feet of Jesus through small acts of service? Yes – those are ways of showing love – but what if what they need is more than simple chores done around their house! To me that is showing – and doing out of love. But I think that sometimes there is more. Can we show them our faith through this storm by not wavering and by leaning in to God through these scary times? We can show them our worship and praise to a God whom we KNOW is bigger than any of this on earth. I believe that if we really need to DO something for them at this point, it should be by SHOWing them that we believe in our heavenly father and will follow him and trust in him to make all things good, so that he may be glorified.

Carry your weight

carryOur church is in the midst of transition. Our former Senior Pastor has moved on to another congregation, and in a few days we will vote for our new Senior Pastor – who is moving up from his role Worship Pastor. I am excited about the changes and look forward to things “settling” a bit. In his sermon this past Sunday, Pastor David spoke about his new role of Senior pastor and the weight that he felt as he stepped into it. I thought it was a great point that he made. There is a weight to being in a leadership role. As he said, when someone walks into our sanctuary, he has a responsibility to that person. That is a big weight…but since he is following his calling from God, he can’t give excuses and ignore that responsibility. (Pastor David, if you’re reading this – I hope that’s kind of. sort of close to how you explained it). He then went on to say that ALL of us have a weight that we carry as we live out God’s calling for our lives. Worship leaders, Sunday school teachers, volunteers in outreach, moms, dads, etc. We all have a responsibility to live the live that God planned for us…and sometimes that requires that we carry the weight of that role with us. I thought the sermon was great and I appreciated the words that God spoke through Pastor David that day. But it wasn’t truly until 24 hours later did the significance of those words really hit me. Like a wrecking ball. Over the past month or so, I have watched sin destroy some beautiful things that God had given us. I’ve witnessed people fall from their self-proclaimed “untouchable” stature of faith. It has been heart-breaking for me to watch, and I’m certain it has grieved God. Within the last 24 hours especially, it has become clear that the sin that caused a few to stumble, has greatly affected many others. As Christians, we have a responsibility to one another. We are told in the Bible to lift up or encourage each other daily. We are supposed to walk in community and love others together. When we fail in that duty, and especially when we fall to sin – others are affected! Pastor David was spot on with his point. There is a weight that comes with being a Christian. Especially if you are called to leadership. Or ministry. Or mentoring. If this is your call from God – to lead others – to teach and encourage and instruct (and it sort of is for all of us in a way) then DO YOUR JOB. Walk the walk that you talk to others. Now, before I ruffle too many feathers…I know that not a single one of us is perfect. We will all stumble. We will all make mistakes. When these things happen, we must own them, accept our part, repent, ask for forgiveness, and move on. Sin will happen. But we all have to realize that as Christians, our sin will affect others! There are always consequences for sin…and sometimes, people are a big part of the negative consequence. We have been saved and called by God to live HOLY lives. That is the biggest part of our calling from God. That is a big weight to carry. We will trip. But we still must be holy, because He is holy. My heart is broken for some dear people who have become causalities of another’s sin. I pray for healing and restoration. I pray that we would all be watchful and mindful of those to whom we minister…that we would carry the weight of that seriously and truly understand what is at stake.

Speak to me God

morganEach and every day I am amazed at the way the Spirit speaks to me. I know that at times I may sound like a broken record, and I truly wish I could find better ways to express my awe and amazement at the way God works…but the fact is He continues to work and speak and move in my life and I just can’t help but share it. I have often wondered about people who say they “heard from God.” Not that I necessarily doubted them…but more that I just wondered what that sounded like. And why wasn’t I hearing Him? Looking back, my expectations may have been slightly “off.” Perhaps I was waiting for Morgan Freeman to show up in his all white suit and convince me he had a plan. Perhaps I thought there would be thunder and lightning followed by a grand decree from a booming voice in the clouds. Maybe even I thought it would be a series of cryptic dreams for me to interpret. The way God has spoken to me has gone far above and beyond my expectations, though. God has placed some seriously awesome (yes, I just said that) people in my life over the last 6 months. As I have met and gotten to know these Godly men and women, I thought it was such a blessing to be surrounded by friends and church family. But only recently have I truly learned what that blessing really means in my life. They are indeed wonderful friends and people on whom I know I can count. But they are SO much more than this. I am learning more and more that these beautiful people are the vessels that God is using to speak to me. God knows my heart and he knows what I need to hear from him. He gives the people around me the words to share with me. Its just amazing! God has allowed me to open my heart up to people (something I have not done in….forever) and to begin beautiful friendships. He is using those relationships to restore me and to allow me to grow. I love the way God works! And I thank Him for speaking to me through the people he has placed in my life. They have brought fellowship to my door, peace to my pathway, and happiness to my heart.

As I edit and finish this post, I just received a message from one of these dear, beautiful people, telling me she is bringing dinner. I have a sick child at home and this dear friend cooked dinner so that my daughter wouldn’t have to smell food cooking. Proof that God ministers through my friends. Thank you God!

Sewing leaves

figOk….this is the fourth attempt at starting this post. I know what I am trying to say but the words are just not coming out in any logical fashion. They are coming out like cheesy cliches – and that is NOT how I want to sound or what I ever want to share in this forum. I am weighed down this morning by a sadness that I can’t seem to express. Why do I read…hear…and almost believe the idea that its ok to be who I am – but can’t seem to actually own that reality and live it every day? Why am I unable to drown out the voices that incessantly chirp in my ear about my shortcomings? Why is the “bad” always easier to believe than the good? Who am I to think that I am ___________ (fill in the blank with anything…worthy, beautiful, okay, able, – you get the idea). I know that I am told that I have been “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  Psalm 139:14. I read that…I believe it because it is from God…but there are many days where I DO NOT live it. I know deep in my soul that God loves me. I feel his love carry me through dark times and joyfulness. When I am alone in my fears, I cling to His love to sustain me. I do. But I still have doubts at times about ME. I’m not sure how that makes any sense. Perhaps when I fall to the dangerous act of comparing myself to others – it is then that I feel “less than” worthy. Comparison kills confidence for sure. When I am asked to step out and be bold I shrink and hide behind my insecurities. I become like Adam and Eve in the garden – sewing fig leaves to hide their reality. Ashamed of who they were and what they had done, they attempted to hide themselves from God. What do I need to hide? What am I afraid of revealing to the world? (As I type these ramblings of questions – I truly am not sure I can even answer them. As I reread and edit – I am not sure this even makes any sense). I guess my take away from this time spent pondering is that I don’t have to hide from the God who created me. He knows what I am attempting to conceal from the world – my endless insecurities and fear of failure. He knows and yet he loves me anyway. It doesn’t matter what the world sees or thinks, or if they judge and hate. I am broken. But with God I am whole. I am afraid. But with God I have not a spirit of fear. I am insecure. But with God I can do all things. I am weak. But in my weakness I am strong through Christ. I need to stop sewing leaves to hide myself from the judgement of others and stand strong in who I am in God.

Day 3 – Love Is Not Selfish

Originally posted on Became One:

lovedarebookLove each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. – Romans 12:10

“If you find it hard to sacrifice your own desires to benefit your spouse, then you may have a deeper problem with selfishness than you want to admit.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I truly want what’s best for my husband or wife?
  • Do I want them to feel loved by me?
  • Do they believe I have their best interest in mind?
  • Do they see me as looking out for myself first?

Whether you like it or not, you have a reputation in the eyes of your spouse”.

Kendrick, S., The Love Dare, B & H Publishing Group

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Belonging

homeYesterday, we said farewell to our Pastor, Paul Mills, and wished him well as he and his family begin the next chapter in their journey. As I prepared for the service, I placed a travel pack of tissue in my pocket, and went easy of the application of my mascara. I assumed that there would be lots of tears as Pastor Paul spoke his “Last Words” (his final sermon series for us). I pictured a sorrowful service with tears and memories of the past 8 1/2 years of service. What I got instead was far different. I knew as the worship team started the first song that this service was not going to be about a sad farewell, but rather it was going to be a celebration. NOT celebrating the fact that we were losing (or getting rid of) our beloved Pastor. Celebrating all that God had done through him for our church family. Worship started with an upbeat song that was loud and happy…and it included the entire congregation jumping! It was an amazing display of God’s people jumping for joy and happiness. I was simply blown away by such joyful worship. The remaining worship was powerful (for lack of the right adjective to describe it). It was during this time of worship that, for me, the tears came. Not sad tears…but tears of peace and comfort. Tears that come from begin overwhelmed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. It was incredibly moving. Worship truly speaks to me. Seeing a room packed full of people with hands raised to God fills me with peace. Hearing voices of all ages singing praises to our God fills my soul. Being so filled with the presence of God became so overwhelming to me that the emotions came out in the form of tears. And then – as if that were not enough for one day – Pastor Paul delivered a beautifully spoken message about love. His words were heart-felt, but not weepy. For a farewell sermon, I thought it was just wonderful. He combined some memories from the past with wishes and thoughts of our future with a new pastor. It made my heart happy to be there and to be a part of such a special service. It made me joyful to be a part of a church home. I am so thankful that I serve such a loving God who knows our needs so intimately, and fulfills them as he knows we can accept them and truly appreciate them. Brian and I had prayed for such a long time to find a church home. Not just a place to attend church…but a church home complete with a church family. After such an amazing service, I was overwhelmed with joy to belong to such a loving home, and a welcoming family. I am thankful to God for giving us somewhere we belong, and I am confident that God will guide our future as a church family as we welcome a new pastor.

Experience His Love

cross“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”  ~Ephesians 3:19

This verse has recently become my favorite verse. I know that I have read it many times in the recent past, but in the last week it has become so meaningful to me. And the more I read it, the more I see how packed it is with so such rich meaning and beauty. The first part that I really love talks about experiencing the love of Christ. God doesn’t want us to just know that we are loved. He doesn’t want us to just feel that we are loved. God wants us to experience his love. I love that idea. Its so much more than a feeling…stronger than an emotion…it is an experience. And even as we experience it, it is too much for us to understand fully. It is not like an earthly love. Its a supernatural love from our creator – the one who created us and who created love. THEN – only after we have experienced this love – THEN we our complete. Hmmm…so earthly love does not complete us. Not love from our spouse, or kids, or friends, or even brothers and sisters in Christ. The love of Christ is what completes us. Without experiencing that love – we are not complete. But when we do experience that love, we are complete with ALL the fullness of life. This is the abundant life that Jesus promised. It’s why he came. John 10:10 says “I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” We are just going to “get by” in this life. Jesus’ love completes us and grants us that fullness of life. So, we experience His love (even though it’s too much for our brains to understand), we are made complete not only with a full, abundant life, but also with POWER from God. So a full life, and power from God. Power to live out our lives, power to overcome struggles, power to fight the enemy, power to love others through their sin, power to spread the gospel, power to fulfill the plans God has for our lives. The promise from God to be made complete with His power is overwhelming to me. Being complete with His power means that there is NOTHING out there that is bigger or stronger than my God. With his power in my I can accomplish all that he has in store for my life – no excuses. God would not call me to serve him, and then not equip me with the tools to do that. To think otherwise is to short change God. As we experience the love of Christ, we are made complete. Life becomes a full, rich, meaningful life. We share in the power that God has for us. Rather than feeling God’s love, or knowing that he loves us, choose to experience His love in your life.

A few of my favorite things

Originally posted on Became One:

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I am sitting here staring at my computer screen trying to will myself to make sub plans for my middle school classes on Friday. (If you are a teacher you understand why this is so hard.) Brian and Nick just left for Bible study and Awanas. This will sound silly to some, but I miss Brian when he is not home with me. I do not like to be apart from him. My second favorite part of the day is when he comes home to me after we have both worked all day. I love cooking his dinner and having it ready for him when he walks in the door. i make it a point to greet him at the door when he arrives each evening. These little, simple gestures make me happy – and I know they make him happy too. My favorite thing is waking at 4:15 (craziness)…

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