Monday, December 14, 2009

My One Word for 2010 - HOPE

WOW! I can *not* believe it's been almost a year since I chose myoneword for 2009 and wrote this post. This year has flown like none other has (which as grandma taught me, mathematically makes sense and that will always be true that each year will seem faster since a year becomes a smaller fraction of your life).

When I look back at where I was this time last year and what God did in me this year - I can certainly praise Him for the work He has done in answering my prayer to help me trust Him more. I trust His goodness and His love for me. Of course it's not like I can check "trust" off my list and say I got it all figured it out --- but what I'm saying here is that there has been progress and growth. He has helped me in this area.

  • trust in God's goodness
  • trust Holy Spirit to work despite my own imperfections
  • trust in myself more and what I believe the Holy Spirit is telling me
A few weeks ago I started thinking a lot about hope. It was Thanksgiving week actually and the family was all talking about what we were thankful for and all the Lord kept speaking to me was 'hope'. I am *so* unbelievably thankful for hope. Hope of an eternal future with God and so many loved ones who have left us. Hope of things to come as I seem to be in a transition stage in just about every area of my life. I am full of hope and I am so thankful for it.

Hope is so powerful. After another series of struggles I went through about a month ago - my Brandon reminded me again of his life verses, Romans 5:1 - 5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

How powerful!

Then when I went back to MyOneWord post for 2009 - I saw this verse Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

and I was so excited - it really to me was confirmation of what God had done. As I've trusted in Him - He has filled me with hope. As I've trusted in Him and His goodness and love for me --- even through suffering (as small as the suffering might seem to others) - He has produced so much hope in me.

Despite the doubts I've had, despite the disappointments, the lost expectations, lost dreams, damaged relationships, and brokenheartedness I've had this year ---- there is hope. I can feel Him at work even though many times nothing that I physically see or hear reinforces that hope. I feel the hope, that tiny spark of light (as Kathy Escobar has described it as) that the Holy Spirit has given me - despite the circumstances around me.

I am soo excited to be in a season of learning again. My obedience to listen to God's voice telling me to simplify and MOVE from the position I was in has been one of the best decisions of my life... as small a decision as it was. Being in obedience allowed me to continue to hear the Shepherd's voice clearly. I feel so free and truly free to be ME again - and to be on the path He wants me on right now. I am moving forward again and not just stagnant which is what I was feeling for quite a few months there.

The advent season really is so much about hope too. I read 3 great posts the past week that I just had to include here:

Joseph:Unplanned Detours by Jon Bloom
Waiting, Hoping, Expecting the Wrong Things by Kathy Escobar
Thin Places: Surprise by Karl

They all tied in so perfectly to what the Holy Spirit had been speaking to my soul.

Karl and Kathy's both spoke to me about the wrong expectations I have had in many areas. In many ways, the entitlement attitude I've had about many things. Ouch. In particular, in finances or just 'things'. I have really repented and had to confess many times to God my desire for wealth/riches in many different forms. Even if it *is* for 'good reasons' and because of all the good we could do with it..... the Bible is so clear that the love of money is not what God desires. It can not be more important than God. It can not be an indicator to us of a person's relationship with God. It's not good or bad. Things are not good or bad. Money is not good or bad. It just is. But our hearts toward these things are what messes things up so much. Is it lack of humility, conditioning from culture, lust for for different idols - whatever the reasoning, I realize that many of the things I always thought I was looking for, waiting for are wrong expectations and are just not that important. And in hoping, expecting, waiting, anticipating wrong things I am missing out on what IS. Because as Kathy so beautifully put it, "I have more than enough of what's important". As I commented on her blog --- the world judges spiritual health or spiritual blessings by so many things other than spiritual health and blessings. Money does not always = God's favor. Physical health does not always = God's favor. God's favor is evident in fruits of the Spirit, gifts of the Spirit. Check out the Bible & writing of the early disciples.

*Side note - though we will always have the poor among and 'things' are not important --- that doesn't mean we just don't give it ANY important --- we are called to care deeply about the poor and suffering. We are called to be generous to those in need!*

Just as so many people totally missed the Messiah because of how he came to earth, lived his life, the way he brutally and inhumanely died not as earth royalty.... so might we totally miss God and life with Him if we're expecting, anticipating looking for wrong 'signs' or 'things'.

I thank God for this shift that has happened in us. I know that we have lived very simply actually compared to many the past 5 years --- but God doesn't ask us to compare to others. He's asking for more from us. I am so thankful for the way my husband handles our finances. I know that he is wise not going in to debt and being generous with what we've had. We barely spend anything 'extra' as it is besides food --- but I learned that even if we aren't spending and are giving --- we can very much still be lusting/desiring/loving --- because of what I've mentioned - expectations, entitlement atttitude, priority of goals, even the attitude in our giving.

In Jon Bloom's blog, I believe the last paragraph's really said so much, "The unplanned, inefficient detours of our lives are planned by God. They are common for disciples, and they commonly don’t make sense in the moment. But God’s ways are not our ways because our lives are about him, not about us. He is orchestrating far more than we know in every unexpected event and delay. So when you find yourself suddenly moving in a direction you had not planned, take heart, hold tight, and trust God’s navigation"

Well amen. So here is to HOPE. in this season of anticipation as we celebrate advent, Christmas --- I'm so thankful for the hope I have in Christ. Hope for today and for the future. I really have no clue what is ahead and what God is asking next of us but I'm so thankful that I am back with my spiritual compass focused on God (as shelby humphreys wrote to me). Because of the trust I have in who is navigating, I am full of hope. In my trust this past year to just take small steps in SOME direction - I learned so much and I found out which paths are and are not for us. With the discontentment the Holy Spirit spoke to me regarding much of what I saw and experienced this past year - I am fueled with hope and not full of frustration (in general). I am so so thankful for the NOW, knowing that I have more than enough of what is important.

There is HOPE

Some of the very very many verses on HOPE in the Bible:

But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish. Psalm 9:18

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD. Psalm 31:24

But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love Psalm 33:18

We wait in hope for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. Psalm 33:20

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5

For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth. Psalm 71:5

You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word. Psalm 119:114

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:30 -31

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:11-13

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I Corinthians 13:6-7

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:12-13

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. II Corinthains 3:12

But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope Galatians 5:5

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called Ephesians 4:4

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6that has come to you Colossians 1:3-5

But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. I thes 5:8

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, II Thes 2:16

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. I Tim 6:17

While we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, Titus 2:13

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain... Hebrews 6:19

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Blankie

51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. Matthew 27:51

When my heart is heavy, and I am painfully trying to carry it around inside all by myself....
you gently & patiently beckon me into your lap and wrap it around me.

The curtain that once represented our separation is now my blankie.
Wrapping it around me so every bit of me is covered & protected, you let me weep.

The curtain that once was a reminder of my filthy sin and inadequacies
now is the beautiful comfort you soothe my soul with.

Your only Son's finished work gave to me the most precious gift of all:
Ever-lasting intimacy with my Abba Father.

Wrapped in your arms I know nothing but you Daddy.
Your love your grace your peace your joy your patience.

My blankie reminds me daily of your power & mind-blowing ways:

Only you could take something once so cold, formal & distant
and turn it into the warm snuggly blankie to soothe my Spirit.

Only you Lord can take a heart that is empty yet heavy,
pour into it and give it back fuller yet lighter.

My words of thanks are not enough but Daddy THANK YOU for this blankie,
the reminder of what you did for me through your son Jesus.

The most precious gift this world doesn't know it is desperate for.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lessons learned the past year

I've come to this page so often in the past 6 months and just sat staring at the blank "new post" page. What is there to say at this point? I wish I had blogged all along so that the journey God has taken me on would make more sense to my one reader but I really couldn't do it for fear my words would be seen as negative, dividing, critical. I had to be certain what I was saying was from the Spirit and not my own emotion just so others who might read wouldn't get hurt.

There's way too much to even begin to try to catch up on.... yet I can't sit here and talk about any harvest of seeds or even much fruit other than what God has does *inside* still. I believe the last year has been an incredible time of God impregnating me with a wonderful dream/vision whatever you'd like to call it - of what could be and how true church/community could look like. I am literally pregnant, due with my second child, a girl in March.... yet as good friend Minnow describes... I do feel very much God is forming and growing a dream in me as well. He does continue to plant plant plant seeds in my heart and grow them yes but what is happening I find is that that growth is not forming 'things' or having dreams come to fruition yet --- the growth is truly growth in self and in clarity and direction to know where God is leading us. I am not sure if it's possible to encapsulate everything I've learned in a year in bullet form but I'm going to try. So here I go.

  • I realized I am as passionate as ever about the Body of Christ. Truly reconciling with others and learning what it means to be built together... with Jesus as the capstone.. into God's temple and His family. To become Jesus' beautiful Bride which *He* will cleanse and present to Himself. (Eph 5:25-27)

  • I realized this past 6 months has given me even more confidence in God's Spirit in me. The same things He is showing me now - He was showing me 6 months ago. The past year, I didn't listen to Him as I should have nor trust that voice entirely. Now, I recognize His voice and I will pray for Him to help me not make the mistake again of not following it. Even when what He's asking of me is scary, weird or illogical. I will trust Him in me and know that I don't need a degree, a title or an ordination from man to be full of the Holy Spirit and worth listening to. I will ask Him to continue to surround me with people who see the same and will value what He is doing in me no matter my gender, age, title, personality or position.

  • In the same breath, I must say I have sooo much to learn. I need people of wisdom around me to listen to. I will continue to have my eyes open to whom God is going to put into our path to be strong men & women of God to keep us accountable to His Word & His Spirit in us. I know that these fellow travelers on the journey would naturally come out of being part of a close church community the way I see possible... I patiently seek and wait.

  • I learned I am at a stage where I need something more than what "the usual" offers. I remember Brandon and I in our previous 'place' saying that we clearly heard God telling us that to truly have a different outcome, you have to do things totally different. We are ready for that. We haven't found it yet but we are not scared to take a radical, risky path. We are *that* desperate for something different... and God has prepared us to be able to go against the flow.

  • I learned that I don't care if I'm labeled needy, weak or whatever for the following statement....but I need people and I don't mean a bunch of strangers that know my name and hear about my week. I am ready for full reconciliation and healing with others that takes commitment, time, shared priority and effort. The Word is so clear about this to me. Maybe God doesn't show others what He has shown me but I can't open it up without hearing from Him our need for Him and others. That we are carry to each other's burdens (Galatians). The importance of teams and truly learning to love and work with others very different from us in background, lifestage. That the Holy Spirit can unify anybody despite frictions in personality and such. The only thing in this world that will last for eternity is people, souls --- are they most important to us next to God? Are they our treasures?

  • I learned the importance again of the Word. I can't believe how much God has shown me through His Word. I can't open it up without words screaming to me about God's love and His desire to find people who hear His call of loving Him and loving others, simply that.

  • I understand that to be part of a community like this that is so people-focused and relationship focused will not be growth-focused or even 'popular'. Although I see how God is using attractional churches and I'm happy that many of the leaders there are so happy.... God has instilled in us something different. I don't even think it's about what is right/wrong. I think it's about what is right for US. Even back from notes I took in 2005 - I see God has given us a passion for multiplication, not addition. And what that means is that it takes time. It takes a lot time to "prepare the soil". Lots of time and effort. Much like Jesus took years to prepare His disciples before they were sent "out" on their own. Much like Jesus had 30 years on this earth before His 3 year earth ministry took place. Addition is important - but I am willing to sacrifice addition for multiplication. More on that in a later post.

  • I know that attractional churches are bringing many people "back to church" and I don't want to undermine what God is doing there. Many people *are* attracted to this...... but many people are not. Many unchurched/unsaved are not. I don't have accurate statistics anymore but I think it's safe to say most of the people attracted to these churches are christians or grew up in a church environment. Nothing wrong about that - just a fact. And God uses different church environments for different people. Nothing right or wrong about - He is just a God that is not limited and will use so many different forms/ways to bring people to Him.

  • I learned that I need to lay down at the cross my own selfish ambitions and how much I care what others think about our decisions. I do not answer to others and I am actually quite honored when the majority don't truly understand what God is doing in us. I believe that the dreams God has given us are only possible if we walk opposite of any crowd or mass surrounding us at this point - because of what I have seen, heard and the direction others are going.

  • I also learned that there is no reason to be bitter regarding anything that has happened the past year. This has been an incredible time of learning for us. We hold no negative feelings about anybody we have journeyed next to. We love each of them dearly. I did very much mourn at the realization we are on different paths with our current people we are surrounded with but that's okay.... I really thought this community was where God would allow some of our dreams to come to there was mourning that took place.... but there is hope. I know God wouldn't give us these beautiful dreams if they were not possible. (side note: I do see God at work in each of their lives and I will look back at each of them with thankfulness for the time we had together. Not that we are parting ways entirely... many of these will remain people of influence in my life and vice versa.)

  • I learned it's rare to find people who are Spirit-filled elders or whatever you'd like to call leaders. All of us as christians are given the gift of the Holy Spirit - we are "indwelled" with the Spirit --- but I am pretty sure I can only count on my hand the number of people I have encountered in my real life that are Spirit-filled or Spirit-lead.

  • I have re-learned how truly wise & Spirit lead my hubby is. I love that he is my pastor. I learn sooo much from him and really believe so much in God's spirit in Him. To me He is the quiet still voice like the Spirit that many don't take the time to listen to --- and boy are they missing out. He is my leader and I won't make the mistake of not journeying right alongside him again. I didn't like being split from him in our community. Things feel 'right' when He is the leader in our home and when we are working side by side together in our community.

  • I have learned that it's actually really normal to be lonely in a community of 100 or room of 50. It's really possible to be in a group of people that you might have even contacted and then connectd with each other... for everybody to know you... and still you yourself be totally unconnected. I am still as passionate as ever that that is NOT okay even though it's normal. To not be okay with it is the key step to allowing God to get you out of it.

  • I realized that although I messed up sooo much of this journey the past year - I have done things right. I am proud that the Spirit kept me in line to protect my words and keep to myself anything that would be negative about the team I was on. I am proud how I protected the team and kept in the team what was happening in the team. I waited for opportunities to speak to those people only what God was doing in my journey or what I saw with those that were involved in the situation.... and since those opportunities didn't come often, I kept quiet. Those were the only people I really could be community with because so much of what I had to process and what God was doing involved them and things that were going on... so I couldn't process this with others in community. So even if it meant being really lonely, I kept my journey to myself waiting to see if those that I *could* talk to would ever be filled with the desire for the same. We never had the opportunities I desired to share all God was doing - and that is what it is. God allowed me other places to process and other people who were outside of the whole picture that would help me take this discontent and turn it into fuel and not frustration. He taught me how true community can look. He kept giving me desire for things and then I'd go ask how others would do things - and I find that all over the world He has given others the same desire. There are people out there journeying together how He has shown me is possible. There can be regular places to process, time to discuss disagreements, check in, check out, so many different things to help with building authentic relationships and journeying together! :) There is hope!

  • I learned that true biblical church (ekklesia) is extremely hard work and doesn't come by default. I believe it takes workings of the Holy Spirit over time and effort and intention by the leaders. I also learned that some environments actually work against how the Bible describes the (New Testament) church intentionally or not.

  • I learned that a church's structure and decisions that do not seem to be community-impacting are always community-impacting.

  • I remembered once again that God is way bigger than anything ever and He loves me so much He will not let me box Him in. He is not concerned with my comfort as much as He is ME. He is not concerned with letting things go according to the plans I design... as much as He cares about helping me trust Him. He doesn't care about giving me knowledge as much as He does teaching me to accept His unconditional mind blowing life changing love.

  • I learned how beautiful and powerful things can be when things are kept simple.

  • I learned that God has so much work to do in me. So much molding to be done. So much changing... yet I know He loves me just as I am. I know He accepts me and I know that the work is complete. The striving is finished. (see potter and the clay post)

  • I realized there are sooo many changes happening in our country and in our culture and God is doing something different. I really believe He is asking us to do something different than what has been going on in our churches since the industrial revolution especially. I won't get into my thoughts on all this..... but I believe there is a huge movement of God happening and it requires us to do things differently...

  • .....yet nothing is new under the sun. Nothing is "new" about any movement He is doing and I don't see what He is doing in Brandon & I as any label or part of any movement 'group'. Brandon and I fit in nowhere really at this point.

  • I see what is going on in the American church today as a cycle of life. A cycle of dis/obedience just as shown throughout the Bible. The people are stagnant and losing their spiritual compass. The priorities have shifted. They are trying to erect statues and buildings for God to dwell in again as they create their own idols... so God is having to change things up. The shepherd is calling people out and telling many to MOVE. To get rid of your idols, turn back to Him. Who will listen to His call? There is no set path on what He will ask YOU to do. Moving doesn't mean to necessarily LEAVE where you are...... what He asks is for obedience and it will be different for each situation/person. What it's all about is abiding in Him so that you will recognize His voice and grow in submission and obedience to Him. It starts that simple. Allowing yourself to be wrapped in His consuming love again.

  • I learned that God is a lot less concerned about what I know about Him than He is about me being with Him and growing in loving relationship with Him and others. The same lesson He spoke to me 6 months ago. He is a lot more concerned with a full heart than a fat brain. Although I will continue to study and pick up 'doctrine' in my studies.... I will not give it higher importance than relationship. In our finite minds, we will not understand this infinite incredibly mind blowing God. Anybody who is striving to do just that... or worse thinks they have reached that goal is not fun to be around. There's not a lot of peace, grace & love oozing from them. It is all about transformation - not information.

  • God loves people and is looking for leaders who will allow Him to stir in them the same passion.

  • Smiling at and making sure people are greeted once a week at a gathering is not love. That is the beginning of love because it's the beginning of relationships - but that's not enough. Others-focused love is putting others first. Putting people first above yourself. Putting people above things, systems, goals. Making others feel valued, important, accepted and loved... not for what it will do for you or how it will make you feel. Not for what they can do for you.... but because of what God has done in you. People matter. I'm tired of surface love. I want God to bring people into our lives who are willing to learn basic people skills that help us focus on others above ourselves. I desire to be part of a team focused on learning how to have an unselfish, radical, foolish love for others. I KNOW that I can't expect an entire church Body to see what God has opened our eyes to as far as community/relationships --- BUT I DO expect Him to bring us to a community where all the leaders do and are headed in the same direction/focus with the same priorities.

  • I'm tired of going through the motions. Life is so short. So many times I hear myself asking, "what is this all about anyway? what are we doing?".... if I can't answer that and feel right in my own heart that it's something GOd is asking me to do... I have the freedom to STOP and MOVE. If it's not clear to me how what we're doing ties into us loving God and loving others above all else.... Working toward being His family, His Body, His Hands & Feet and Jesus' Bride..... something isn't right and I'm not on the same path/direction as what I'm involved in. I don't have the same vision for the way things are being done.

  • So knowing that - I learned that God is asking us to move position/location so we can readjust our spiritual compass back to Him and what path HE desires us to be on. (Thanks Noele for that lesson - if you can't see God from where you are - you have the authority/right to get up and MOVE)

  • and I learned that is really hard. Because I love people - I love being around people and it's hard to step away from relationships even if it's not where God wants you to be.

  • part of me wishes I could just quiet this dream/vision He has given us and fit in SOMEWHERE. I wish I could go through the motions of how things have always be done and be happy.

  • I learned that seeds take a lot of time to grow.

  • Finally, I re-learned that the 2 greatest commandments are the 2 greatest commandments.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Potter & The Clay

Yay!! :) A writing season again! :) Glad to be back.

My husband taught a wonderful message the other week with the gradeschool kids that God continues to use in my life.

The lesson was based on, O Lord you are the Father. We are the clay and you are the potter. We are the work of your hands Isaiah 64:8

I have soo much I could write about this lesson - but the only thought I want to write about now is what God spoke to me about the verse last night. So often we hear this theme of "striving" to be more christlike. "Try our best".... "strive to be more like Him" and so on and really I believe it presents the wrong picture about what the christian life is about. I agree that we need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12) but I don't think the "work" is anything that we can contribute other than our submission. The work is obedience. The work is *abiding*. HIS work will be done in us, our work is to listen, conform and allow the Potter to mold and shape and define what we are to be.

Our value is not in our end use as a vase or bowl or cup. Our value is in being the clay. Knowing we are being molded (together!) as His beautiful Bride to present to Himself perfect and without blemish. (Check out Ephesians 5:22-27 about the role of the church, us, His Bride to support this point even more).

The value is in the process and in who is making us. If a vase in the process of being made kept trying to "help" the potter by trying harder, trying even with good intentions to work itself into what it feels it should look like..... the truth is, that vase will just get in the way of the Potter's work. Imagine a potter trying to create a beautiful piece of work that kept working and moving on its own. The vase finds its value in submitting to the Potter's touch and learning to shift and obey only when the Holy Spirit, the Potter's fingers, in a way, leads and says to. All the praise and glory and honor goes to the Potter.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

From Eternity To Here - Book Review

I really enjoyed and was challenged by From Eternity to Here by Frank Viola. It was the first book I had read by Mr. Viola so I had quite a few questions on general ideas that were briefly mentioned (such as what does "organized religion" really mean? if it's bad - what makes it bad? and when did it become bad? when did it start? It didn't start with Jesus' followers in the early church? what went wrong and when?). I'm sure many who read writings from him and similiar authers don't come with those questions so it would make even more sense to them - but despite being naive to many of those terms and topics, I could still understand and readily receive the ideas presented and though I don't agree with everything written (obviously) I loved the book and it really fit well with my Spirit - very challenging and truthful.

I would go so far to say this book was a direct answer to prayer. Even if you go to back to my blog entry on June 18th you can see that what I was going through was directly answered by God to me through Desiring God by Piper and this book. I was going through this phase where I "got" that everything was supposed to be God-focused and somehow "we" were all us-focused/individual-focused... I knew that. But then as the devil does - he planted seeds in there as I tried to let Jesus help me be God-focused and I started doubting I was loveable at all. If the only thing good is God then what am I worth? I was feeling unworthy, empty, not worth being saved or receiving His love.... this book brought me back again to the gospel message and help me find that middle ground of understanding my worthiness as part of His creation and part of His ultimate God-glorifying purpose & mission.... yet it never denied my brokenness and it took away my self-focus and individualistic tendencies at the same time!! The problem before was that I didn't get the bigger picture and what I was apart of. Thank you God for all these beautiful lessons and reminders and reassurances of your love!! :)

I don't know enough theology to debate much of his stances on scripture.... I haven't read enough books to know if these ideas presented or new or not..... but they were new to me! I am simply reviewing this book from a standpoint of a lover of God & people who is allowing God to use her to exemplify how to live in community in love with God and others. I am simply a young passionate woman who has known Jesus since I was little but never allowed myself to truly be set free and filled with the Holy Spirit until a few years ago. Since that time of submission to Him (finally) in 2007 - the growth of Him in me has changed so much. I have so many questions, struggles, passionate pleas to Him full of doubt and questions but everything in me is completely convinced that He is the solution to everything and an all satisfying God that I want to partake in for eternity. Now on to the book review......

The book is a compiling of 3 distinct 'volumes'. The Bride of Christ. The House of God. The family of God and the Body of Christ. Reading about God's central purpose which is all 3 of these combined, was very powerful to me and it really helped unbridle my passion to be part of all these things.

Through it, I really felt God helping me take steps to stop thinking of the christian life as 'me' getting closer to God. Me becoming obedient to Him to be able to be used. Me living life abundantly. I truly was able to see the bigger shift and I really felt a paradigm shift happening in many areas. As I read some parts I literally felt some sort of shift in my brain happen. It was as if a box I had created was blown apart and my mind was open to many other perspectives and ways of looking at our purpose.

I really understood more God's ultimate purpose and how we really had messed it up in many ways with our human efforts to promote individualism and independence... when the Bible preaches exactly opposite. God's mission is not man-centered but God-centered. (pg 14) Amen!
Commentaries on each volume:

The Bride of Christ

I loved this chapter. I walked away from it thinking WOW how come we don't talk about the Bride more!? He is right, she is "a forgotten woman".... This truly confirmed so many of the things God has been doing in me the past year truly learning to love others. It really helped some things "click". This past year it seems He's been teaching me a lot about the Bride.... especially this section in Ephesians where it discusses the bride and Christ and each roles ('jobs').... so much of this chapter fit so right into my spirit I felt like I could have written it! God really spoke to me through this chapter a lot.

  • God is perfectly adequate within Himself. But because God is love, He is not content to be adequate in Himself. (pg 39).... was so thankful Mr. Viola made sure to make this clear. I would have been so turned off if he had not written this yet continued to talk about the Son's passion for a Bride and counterpart.
  • loved reading the connection/parallels between Adam & Jesus's love stories
  • curious how other men would receive these ideas of being part of the Bride. Does that sit well with other men? There are so many things we think of when we hear the term "bride"... are any of those things (gender specific) true about THE Bride? Wasn't sure how to work that out in my brain. Is Jesus male? He is a son, He is a male like Adam? I kept getting that all jumbled up. I can really relate being a bride, since I am now a wife - I wonder if the majority of men can fully appreciate being part of the Bride?
  • Very powerful explanation of why Jesus had to find a lover and have an outlet for His love on page 57. Loved that entire part of the book. Jesus' love must find a home and then it will eventually return to Him. If a woman doesn't open her heart to a man's affections, his love will find no outlet. It will stay frozen within him and he will experience an agonizing frustration.
  • "Free at Last" section might have been my favorite in the whole book. Pages 61 - 64 Without seeing yourself as God sees you, there will always be anxiety between you and the Lord. We have no right to an inferiority complex. We have no right to perpetual guilt. We have no right to see ourselves as unworthy. We have no right to allow ourselves to be hounded by an accusing conscience....... we *are* unworthy in ourselves... we all are... but we are not in ourself, we are in Christ. And that is where God sees you and me, inside of purity itself..... what grieves Him the most, is when she does not accept that love........ He has accepted you completely and fully. His love is not based upon your conduct, but upon His own. Open your heart and receive His fervent love. In this way, you will be able to reciprocate it...... she (the bride) has been programmed to believe she must work, sweat, and strain to earn God's favor and love...... She can only love her bridegroom when she is utterly liberated from fear, guilt, and religious duty and takes her Lord's view of herself..... We are His Bride, not His slave or His maid. She has His favor. He is pleased with her right now.
  • The writing on God's love... more thoughts on the 'fear' of the Lord, guilt and the condemnation we put on ourselves and each other on page 74 to 78 again so powerful! We do not have to hide from the Lord, though that is a spiritually transmitted disease started in the garden. Distancing ourselves from the Lord due to a guilt headache and a condemnation hangover hurts Him far more than the sin that created those feelings.
  • Your good works do not affect His love for you (pg 76)
  • Really liked how he continued to tie together different passages and books of the Bible. Gensis & the Gospel of John pg 116 and then Revelation &the Gospel of John
  • the chapter ends so beautifully: This glorious woman is in Him, by Him, through Him and to Him. God's grand mission is to obtain a bride who passionately loves His son. Any missional endeavor, therefore, that doesn't put the chruch front and cetner falls short of God's central thought...... This passionate God of yours is simply looking for a people who will love Him! Let us then accept His opinion of us and get down to the simple business of allowing Jesus Christ to overwhelm us with His unbreakable love and His unbridled passion..... this is the first step to fulfilling God's ageless purpose.

  • One thing I did not like throughout the book was the numerous "lists" as the author tried to parallel or make exhaustive support for a point he was trying to make. He lost me each time he did that and I'm really not sure where he's getting it from. "This represents this" ---- metaphors/parallels to what things could symbolize what. It seems to me many times he was trying to go 'too far' and though I don't think it went against scripture - I just don't think scripture supports the ideas he was listing off. But it didn't turn me off enough to put aside what he was trying to get across. I would just zoom through the "lists" and simply read the one or two from the list that he went in depth with and those 2 would usually make enough evidence for me for the point he is trying to prove.

An Eternal Quest: A House for God

  • In the last section, we discovered that God's ageless purpose is to obtain a bride for the eternal Son..... God's ultimate purpose is bound up with obtaining a home for the everlasting Father. (134)
  • I really believe Frank Viola did a great job tying in the scripture to this 2nd purpose. It seems so obvious to me now - God's mission to find a home/house. Not sure why I had never heard that talked/written about before but now I see it all over the Word.
  • stones that are not built together with other stones ruin good land (2 kings 3:19) Thus lone-ranger christians are of no use in the building of God's house... COnsequently, God is monumentally disinterested in raising up spiritual giants. He's looking for a people who are willing to be cemented together for His dwelling.... The Lord Jesus is looking for willing vessels who will abandon their western-styled individualism and live a shared life with others under His exclusive headship. (171)
  • had trouble with chapter 17 - sent the author many questions about "organized religion". what it means really, implications, and many other questions because I really just don't know enough about this debate and what is good/bad .... right/wrong about either. I do really understand the description and discussion of "ekklesia" and am in agreement with much of the chapter - but at the same time much of it is confusing - I am sure many of his other readers won't have that problem though.
  • one of those lists I wrote about above that I don't get and think just goes too far is pg 198 - 199 ..... really am not into all the symbolism.... symbolism always just seems too opionated and not always biblical.
  • Enjoyed that the book really promoted personality responsibility to partake in our Savior but also that it is impossible to make it an individual pursuit. We need each other.
  • Food, Drink and Rest section one of my favorites in the book. (pg 204) all about partaking in Jesus and letting Him do His work in us - there is rest in partaking not work, legalism, standards, expectations
  • section named Tale of 2 Trees (207) I believe did try to explain further the debate against religion..... "organized religion" I guess.... and this chapter made a lot more sense... but still wrestling with it all.
  • Great last paragraph that really summed up the section: The need in this hour is the same in every age. It is for God to secure a people who will allow Him to work the imperishables of gold, pearl and precious stone in them corporately. A people who will make their exit from the counterfeit habitats that vie for their loyalty, and who will pay any price to be constituted together with others who are learning to partake of Jesus Christ. For it is through such that God builds His house. (220)

A New Species: The Body of Christ and the Family of God

  • Loved this section as well! All three really were incredible and came together beautifully. This one really caused a lot of shifts to happen in my thinking. Just incredible points to focus on.
  • Description of church was awesome in chapter 22.
  • The Body has truly been the focus of much of what God has been teaching me in the past year - in preparation for how God is using me now/ what God is doing through me now in our church community.... so this chapter really sparked a lot in me. It brought all the lessons from the book together for me so much that I almost felt like wrote many parts of this myself. Love when the Spirit does that.
  • salvation is not simply an individual transaction. It's rather a translation from one community into another. (col 1:13)
  • Jesus Christ is one with His body.... We are part of His body.
  • When I read that section about how we truly are part of His body, that it's not a metaphor, but we are part of Him. He being the head, us the Body.... I just had such a shift in my brain/heart. It really gave me so much clarity and it was the puzzle piece that made so many things click. I think I knew that.... but for some reason reading it the way he continued to write about made it so much more clear. Thinking of how we are inseparable from Christ and how we are looked at by the Father the same way He looks at the Him (since we are one) just really helped me understand and accept on a whole new level His love, grace, undying passion for us.....
  • if you are in Christ, you cannot help but be loved by the Father, enraptured by Him, and the object of His undying love. this truth is difficult to hold in our minds. consequently, it is one of those tasks of a local Christian community to remind its members of those realities (250)
  • Because you and I are in Christ, we come to the Father through Christ and by Christ. If Jesus Christ can be condemned, than you and I can be condemned. If He is outside the reach of condemnation then you and I are as well (251) Romans 8:1
  • I like that he made sure to put in there a brief note about chastisement and that God will chastise out of love - but that it in no way affects His unconditional acceptance
  • when we discover that our relationship to the Father is actually Christ's relationship to His Father, it changes everything. Our souls find rest..... no longer do we say things like, "*I'm* working on *my* relationship with the Lord"... "*I'm* struggling to be a better christian"
  • You and I do not have separate fellowship with God the Father. we have been called into the one unique fellowship of God's Son. Christ's perfect unclouded relationship to His father is the marvelous legacy that He has given to you and me (254)
  • *loved* chapter 25 - discussion of Paul's letter to the corinthian church that was full of all kinds of problems.
  • We christians are not simply disciples of Jesus. We are not simply believers in the Savior of the world and the Lord of creation. We are members of Christ.
  • because we are all inseparable from Christ..... to wound a member of the Body is the wound Christ.
  • Col 1:18 - eph 1:10 --- wow this chapter really helped me understand much scripture in a totally new light.
  • pg 270 to 271 the Fullness of Christ - great explanation of church and how wrong our individualistic nature is
  • *really* loved the description in chapter 27 - what does it look like today?.... helping it sort of come into focus what true church should and could look like in its simplest forms. Many church leaders today will not like this chapter but I believe it's the truth. It really boils down what is of most importance and what "stuff" we could leave out of our church communities. challenging stuff but so true!

When then is God's end? What is His grand mission? It's to expand the life and love that's in the Trinitarian Community. It's to increase the fellowship of the Godhead and reflect it on earth........ to obtain a bride, a house, a family, and a body that is by Him, through Him and to Him..... God's ultimate purpose begins in Genesis 1 (which he did a great job explaining) before the fall not after the fall.

Just absolutely LOVED the community and corporate focus. I got so excited as I truly was convinced of God's purposes and it really just re-affirmed everything God has been teaching me the past few years. These topics, the bigger picture.....are truly not talked about often enough. This all (in general) fit so right with my Spirit and I just LOVE talking, listening, reading, writing about the Body, the Bride.... and now I can add in to that... the House of God.

Focusing on these purposes of God and finding my place in them, in Him, for Him, by Him has been an incredible revelation. I loved this book and would recommend it to all who understand or desire to understand that our purpose is not just to be saved from hell or to try to be a 'good person' or 'to please God'.... but there's a much bigger picture that is entirely focused on God and His ultimate purposes - as it should be! His story is so exciting and SUCH 'good news'!! Life is not about simply 'winning the lost' but it is ALL about God!!! We are part of a much bigger picture, praise God for making His purpose be in our best interests as well! More than any other 'purpose-focused' book and 'finding our place in the story' book --- it truly was God-focused; God-glorifying; God-centered and not me-focused; not individual focused..... which was truly soothing to my Spirit since I know that is the way things should be! It is all about Him!

Thank you so much God for using this book in my life and Mr. Viola for allowing this work to flow through you!


The following bloggers are posting a review or Q & A with Frank Viola on his bestselling book FROM ETERNITY TO HERE today, Tuesday, July 21st. You may order the book at a discount at – it’s also on audio book. Free discussion guide, sample chapters, interviews, and a free audio of the first chapter are available on that site also. Here are the bloggers who are participating:

Jay Becker -
Mark D -
Igniting Hearts - Kimber Britner -
Karyn -
Barefoot Preacher -
Every Day Angels -
FaithEngineer -
Kristen Schiffman -
CrossPointe: The Church at Bevo -
Crazy Love for God -
Amazima Ministries -
Down to Write Honest -
A Beautiful Mess -
The Blakes on a Mission -
Words by Jud Kossum -
Eric Jaffe -
Reconnect with God –
2nd Cup of Coffee -
Nolan Bobbitt Website -
Klappyanne -
Daveingland -
Randi Jo Rooks -
Ephesians Five –
Michael Bayne -
Encounter Church Helena Blog -
Thoughts B4 Conviction N2 Action -
Edevotion -
Seeking After -
Eric Powell -
Borrowed Light -

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chandler on Gospel in Bible Belt

I saw this on Gospel Driven blog.... and wanted to post it here. I hear what he is saying here and can relate 100%! I find all this to be so true of where we are in North Carolina as well. SOO many people I come across know enough (think they know about) about Jesus that they think they don't need to know more. but they only know *about* Him... but they don't KNOW Him. His love, grace, patience. The challenge is how to get all of us to be gospel-focused again. I like his idea of constantly contrasting how so many of us live and think to how Jesus lives & thinks from the Word. I think that getting churches to truly be gospel-focused is so challenging... because so many times - the leaders of churches across our country are not gospel-focused. How did these leaders get into these positions of leaders? So many of them are morality-focused; professional focused pastoring/success-focused; works-focused; religion-focused.... not Jesus & gospel-focused. Continue to open hearts to you Jesus. Give us more leaders that will focus on you and the Good News alone.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Delight in Him, self-denial, seeking pleasure, longings

So many different things going on in my journey right now. Just seems like a lot of shifting, changing, wrestling is going on. BUT I feel optimistic at what will come out of all of this. Pushing through feels so good. I feel breakthroughs happening or about to happen. Seems so many of us are just in a training season - lots of breaking to be molded, shaped.. always hard - but yet "the hard is what makes it good". The tough is what makes us better.

I could probably write down so many thoughts from my regular journal about all the different areas of our life right now - church, relationships, family, whatever.... but just wanted to share some insights of what I'm learning personally.

This past year I've been wrestling back and forth with self-idolatry. Being self-focused. How to have more of God, less of me.... yet still somehow love me and see value in myself as God's creation. Much of what I was processing through was written in this post in March. I felt like God had really helped me then..... but He has given me some fresh insight as well. I was missing a key component back then.

I feel like the devil just loves for us to over-correct. It was like I really realized I had been too self-focused.... so he swung the pendulum totally the other way and made me feel that I could never think of myself ever. Enter in more guilt & standards & mess. Self-denial and unselfishness had become my idol. Weird.

So finally during a 'session' last week :) aka tears, exhaustion from lack of rest & peace & too much thinking, frustration ...... I wrote in my regular journal:

God, something got thrown off. Somehow I am not captivated in your love right now and somedays I even miss a little bit the way I lived pre-Spirit coming in and changing me. I know your presence & love isn't a feeling so it's okay when I don't feel the Spirit's presence & don't feel excited, passionate. I'm mature enough in that way that I have faith even when I can't see or feel what I know is there. But it's more than that. I have a longing that isn't getting fulfilled right now. Something isn't right. How come I felt so broken before when I lived that life without you.... but now with temptation lurking (even if it's very minor temptations) the devil sometimes tricks me into thinking I am missing out??? He tricks me into believing even a little bit that I am missing something. He tries to convince me that you are boring and that you want only suffering from me. Only struggle. Only molding. That you desire to not even be me at all -- but just be a shell that you live in. That's a message I heard for so long. That I just have to deny self so much that I'm fully you and not even me. That there is nothing good in me so I have to empty out all of me and when I am fully you in me then I will be good, 'good enough'. WOAH even writing that I can see how messed up it is. But isn't that the message we send so much of the time? (and then on the other hand - we have groups that have realized how messed up that message is --- and they over-correct this wrong message and make the mistake of uplifting people so much to the point that it takes the focus off of Christ. It takes the focus off our brokeness. We have to stay focused on the gospel truth. That we ARE valuable - but we ARE broken. )

How easy it is to forget we have value because we are God's creation. He didn't give up His ONLY son because He felt bad for us and like, "oh they are pathetic, throw them a bone" --- His son is no scrap, no bone.... He was the most important thing to Him and He gave Him up for ME! Obviously there is something about me worth saving. God desires to be in fellowship with us. And He was willing to go to the HIGHEST extremes of sacrifice to have that. Wow.

As the gospel message once again soothed my soul and reassured me that a) He is good b) He loves me c) I have value and d0 He is worth anything I have to give up

I turned from my temptations and focused on Him. I asked Him though to somehow show me what to do with these longings. Obviously, since I was being tempted and I had a longing not being met - I needed His help. So I asked Him... God do I just push down this longing? Pretend it doesn't exist? Work on self-denial? What?

The next day - my mom gave me a book for my birthday - Desiring God - John Piper. I'll just say.. WOAH. I'm talking a specific and direct and personal answer to those questions from the DAY BEFORE. Here is what I read:

Delight yourself in the Lord (Psalm 37:4) ........... God is most glorified in Him when I am most satisfied in Him (WOW!!! that is truly one reason why God is not as glorified in this country as He should be --- we are not satisfied in Him --- we are so focused on doing things right and staying in the lines --- we are not being encaptured by His love, His beauty, His goodness, Himself that is more filling than the choicest of foods & sweetest of desserts)

The Joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10. Find strength from spiritual joy! May the living God who is the portion and rest of the saints, make these our carnal minds so spiritual and our earthly hearts so heavenly that loving Him and delighting in Him, may be the work of our lives. When delighting in God is the work of our lives - there will be an inner strength for ministries of love to the very end.

Pursuit of joy in the Lord is the key to breaking the power of sin. I know of no other way to triumph over sin long-term than to gain a distaste for it becasue of a superior satisfaction in God. God remainds gloriously all-satisfying. The human heart remains a ceaseless factory of desires. Sin remains powerfully and suicidally appealing. The battle remains: where will we drink? where will we feast? and the answer is clear: Feast on God.

God's passion to be glorified and our passion to be satisifed are *one* experience in the Christ-exalting act of worship.

I used to have this feeling that if I did something good because it would make me happy, I would ruin its goodness. I figured that the goodness of my moral action was lesssened to the degree that I was motivated by a desire for my own pleasure. To be motivated by a desire for happiness or pleasure when I volunteered for christian service or such - that seemed selfish, mercenary. This was a problem because I coudln't formulate an alternative motive that worked. I found in myself an overwhelming longing to be happy, a tremendous impulse to seek pleasure, yet at every point of moral decision I said to myself that this impulse should have no influence. Even with worship - I thought it couldn't be about me at *all*. There must be no self interest. Without knowing, I was removing my heart. In a matter of weeks, I found it was unbiblical and arrogant to try to worship God for any other reason than the pleasure to be had in Him. Not His gifts, but Him. Not ourselves, but Him.

All men seek happiness. This is the motive of every action of every man - even of those who hang themselves. Seeking one's own happiness is not a sin; it is a simple given in human nature. It is a law of the human heart, as gravity is a law of nature.

If asked 20 good men today what they though the highest of virtues - 19 would reply unselfishness. Yet, if you ask 20 christians of old - all 20 would reply LOVE. How did the negative term get substituted for LOVE, the highest of virtues. Ironically enough, unselfishness carries with it not so much even serving good things for others - but in doing without them ourselves! (which is actually selfish - weird) Our abstinence and not others happiness was most important. In there lurks in most modern societies that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing. I would say that has no part in christian faith.

Our Lord, as C.S. Lewis says doesn't desire us to have no desires. He encourages us that our desires are not too strong, but too weak! We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wnats to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine waht is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. we are far too easily pleased.

It is not a bad thing to desire our own good. We don't seek pleasure with nearly the resolve & passion we should!! we OUGHT to seek our own happiness. Our mistakes lies not in the intensity of our desire for happiness but in the weakness and direction of it!

our infinite abyss can only be filled by ain infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God himself. All those years of trying to suppress our longings made us surprise our desire & passion for God!! (wake up!!)

Persistant and undeniable yearning we all have for happiness was not to be suppressed - but glutton on - on God! Praise should be motivated solely by the happiness we find in God. God desires praise from us - not as a vain woman who wants compliments --- but because all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise!

We delight to praise what we enjoy becuase the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment! It is its appointed consummation! God is not worshipped where He is not treasured & enjoyed! Praise is an expression of joy. To NOT enjoy God is to dishonor Him!

God is glorified by our joy in Him!!!

Are we joyful in Him? Can people see the joy He brings to our lives? Can people see our face aglow as on our wedding day?

To say He is not fully satisfying is sacrilege. Have you ask Him to satisfy you? Have you given Him the chance!?

God is glorified when His glory is rejoiced in.

wake up! show people who He is, what He has done, what He can do! How perfect and beautiful and loving He is!!

It was one of those moments when I was so convinced of God's presence I just cried. Oh GOD YOU CARE... you care to answer me!!!!!! It's ABSURDly glorious!! My brain can't handle it!!! This is available to everybody ---- but do you love everybody like this?! This world would be soo different if everybody knew you like I do!! I am undeserving! I praise you God. You are amazing and perfect and you LISTEN and you are the best Father ever. Your love is just AMAZING. I have no words to even describe what you do to me. There is nothing in this world that would tempt me to forsake you in these moments. Oh God I can't believe how fickle I am. How immature & wish washy. God help my unbelief. I believe! I believe in your goodness & your love. God keep me from temptations. Help me continue to pursue YOU to fill all these longings!!! Help me not push down my longings but to feel them to the upmost so you can fill me beyond measure! Help me continue to believe so much that your love is better than anything this life has to offer! I could sing of your love forever!!!! I could sing of your love forever... how great though art!

De-Churched... Moralistic Deism

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My new favorite verse

All these years of reading the Bible and I've just now found this treasure! :)

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Romans 12:11 NIV

Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master.....
Romans 12:11 Message

but serve the Lord with a zealous spirit; or but let the Spirit excite you as you serve the Lord.
Romans 12:11

It's not only OK to be zealous - God desires it of us! :) His Spirit excites us! *IF* we let Him! :) WOW that's cool!

It's so exciting to know I don't have to keep my flame in tact. YES I *do* need to have self control....yet I can be excited! We have freedom to be enthused, excited, passionate, on fire. God has blessed me with a personality that is full of these things and it is exciting to know that I can be free to be the full me He created me to be! I don't have to "grow up" the way the world desires me to!

So many times I used to get discouraged when others didn't express their excitement like I did --- but I have learned that:
a) many are just not excited because...
b) many haven't experienced what I have and...
c) many are going through different seasons than me... OR
d) nobody has the exact personality as I do and I have to be okay that they express their zeal differently!

SO it doesn't matter if others are excited just like me or not..... as my brother in Christ Mark shared with me last weekend from a book entitled _____ (?) (this is my paraphrase).... we are free to be consumed in the presence of our God and get so wrapped up in the music He spins into our lives that we ignore the other cadences the world tries to project into our days. We can get caught up in the music! We can be all who we are meant to be in His presence. He frees us!

Fervent in Spirit
NOT indifferent!

I like those phrases!

Thanks for this part of my personality, God. The Randi Jo that you made me to be - the one that leaps into my Daddy's arms, that is excited about you and your love! The one that so badly wants to let loose and dance and let my hair down and squeal in excitement when you make yourself known to me. The one who can't stop smiling when I feel your love... the one who can't stop crying when I hear the Spirit! Thanks for helping me find these words today Daddy! I LOVE you! :)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Learning, Discipleship, Systems

I have truly been under attack the last few weeks... but God has been so faithful to bring people to encourage me, pray with me and speak into me. He is reminding me to take my thoughts captive and use His Word as a sword! The attack today was just feeling overwhelmed with information. and discouragement of what I felt was time wasted in my past as I tried to learn/grow...

A few thoughts on what I learned:
  • because I was always such a great public school student... I have this system of acquiring and retaining knowledge... but here's what I learned: spiritual transformation has nothing to do with that system. That system is not applicable to my spiritual life. (dang! and praise the Lord! I'm so thankful that it isn't!!! I hated that process of school and how nothing was ever used later on. Just memorized for reguritation. So thank GOd it's not like that... but dang! dang! because I sure did treat it like that for a long time... what a waste...)
  • true wisdom only comes through experience and life lessons.... letting the Word play out in our lives... not just acquiring knowledge.
  • it's all about transformation - not information
  • that being said.... I know it's a great thing to be seeking knowledge ("info")... yet I've let it get in the way of me spending time with God. How did that happen? The system became a thing I leaned on instead of God.
  • So how to seek knowledge but let it help me get closer to God and not hinder? I don't want the sytem to become a "thing".... so to keep my organized side happy but not depend on the system... I will now choose just *one* verse/passage and not move on to something else until it has become a part of me.... until I have truly soaked it in and have made room for it. I will continue to write letters to God in quiet tme as I have time and as He leads me in my journal - but I will just highlight the passage He's working with me on. Not a million passages a day - ONE.
  • I don't know how this happened. I thought I was such an advocate for not letting knowledge be an idol. For God loving my heart and not my brain --- but something shifted..... I truly believe that so many of us christians are so busy LEARNING we don't even know God. We spend so much time learning we never spend time BEing.
  • I had truly let myself get overwhelmed with 'information' and organizing it.... There is just so much to know! It's always such a humbling and (even) mourning experience to see how little I know.... how little I will always know on this earth... how much more there will be... and how there is no formula and final exam to regurgitate all of this. That's a great thing and a bad thing. Bad thing because I'm a control freak in many ways and I like systems. I love organization.... but I need to stop leaning on me. I need to GIVE IT UP! Geesh! How many times has God spoken that to me. Give up trying to do it on your own and you will get what you desire!
  • I must learn to trust the Spirit more. He will help the words abide in me. He will help me memorize and acquire wisdom.
  • I should not be discouraged that I had done it wrong for so long. I did what I thought was best at the time. I refuse to let the devil in to burden me with guilt at the mistakes I've made.
  • This process is so hard. All this pruning and growing and stretching. I better get used to it - this is what life is all about huh? :)
  • just because I don't remember all the books I've read, all the scriptures.... that is okay. I'm not supposed to. I also don't remember every meal I've ever eaten -- but it nourished me at the time and that's what is key.
  • Reminder to self: remember what Allysa spoke into me about grandma. Grandma didn't 'lose' that knowledge and wisdom that life had taught her though I saw her lose it in her earthly body & mind the last years. Her physical body isn't who she was/is. Her spirit is still very alive and well. I can't be fearful of losing knowledge, stressed over keeping it organized, etc..... this isn't what life is about. Geesh! It isn't about filling my brain and storing things up like school - this is all about learning to lean on Him. Learning to think like Him. Live like him. Working out my salvation that He already gave me. Journeying daily with God - to let Him change and shape and mold me to conform to Him more and more. Grandma, who she really is, her spirit never lost anything and she truly did pass so much on to me - that knowledge & wisdom wasn't lost in so many ways!

As always... this teaching though it is for me personally is also SOO applicable to the role I'm in right now with Connections at church. He is reminding me that learning/discipleship/growing isn't linear. There's no -- okay she 'got this' now let's let her graduate into the next 'class'... It's very 'messy'... can not be controlled... Spirit-lead.... circular...and unique for each of us.

How come I truly don't like systems in the church -- yet in my personal spiritual life I was operating in one? What I believe so strongly about discipleship - I need to apply personally!!

Knowledge & wisdom comes from life and I know as Connections director, God just wants to help me create environments for people to connect so they can experience life together. In a tight community with His Spirit.. growing and learning through life experiences... prepared & encouraged & strengthened through the Word.

P.S. I can't stand know it alls.... but I sure do love lovers. People don't care what you know... until they know how much you care. We are not called to fill other's minds with knowledge... we are called to love.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Children Learn What They Live

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.

If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Dorothy Nolte

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fishers of Men

I'm just in this season where I just feel the Spirit. A boldness maybe is even the word. I just feel pushed by the Spirit. Pushed, stretched, uncomfortable with all He's asking of me...and every time I try to ignore it.... He sends the message that much clearer & louder. He's telling me that He's looking for people who are willing to reach out. Be a bridge to others! So few people interact with others and truly get into other's lives!

I hear you God.... now help me figure out the easy "next steps" for me. This is the thought process I'm working through today with Him.... tomorrow I will give some more "next steps" as far as how this all fleshes out as I try to make myself available in this world to others!! :)

"...Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men"

Is a person a fisherman if he doesn't cast a line? Is one following if he isn't fishing?

There are 3 tricks the devil will plant in our minds on why we can't engage with others. I pray for each of us to make positive that God is telling us to hold back... and not the devil.

a) I don't have enough time. God - am I giving you enough time? Am I giving your children enough time? God you tell me to be focused on things not of this earth -- and that is you and that is people. That's the only things that will last God. Are we as a church body showing others that they are worthy of our time? Or are we only showing them that *we* are worthy of *their* time.

GOD YES there are periods of our life when you call us to rest. You demand us to rest. But let us be sure that YOU are telling us to rest and we're not acting out of fear, laziness or falling into the devil's trap of excusitis (a disease --- symptoms are excuse after excuse after excuse)

b) I just don't know enough to pour into others. God help me believe that the message of the cross is this simple & foolish God! God it's simple! You picked us up and carried us into our Father's arms because we allowed you to save us. GOD the world doesn't get it! 75% of the people that we ask on the streets, "do you know how to get right with God?" won't answer with the gospel. The cross. The finished work. let us not get bogged down with anything but this message God. Help me understand that the christian life isn't about transfer of knowledge from one person to another but an indwelling of the Holy Spirit and encouraging each other in that. Help me believe Acts 1:8 that I have the power of the Holy Spirit and I know enough to share. God I know nothing...I'm such a blonde and flighty and I'm not super intelligent... yet I know enough to share God! I know the good news God! I know this news---- that there's ONE GOd and He's real and huge and powerful and all knowing and He loves me!! and I have connected with Him, THE God of the universe in a real and intimate way through Jesus. It is that simple God! I don't need to know all the answers. Let us help people get over this myth that only pastors have access to truth and knowledge and God. We know enough to GO! Let's be okay with the gray areas and that there are things we don't know. let it never hold us back from opening our heart because of a lack of knowledge! This is what mentorship/discipleship is all about -- opening our hearts to show His. period. serving others with our gifts! period. amazingly enough - I find people don't care what YOU KNOW... they care that you care! They want somebody to listen!! They want somebody to hear THEIR voice! they don't want to just listen on Sundays --- they want more --- are we giving them that opportunity!??!?!! God there are people screaming for somebody to care! Help us be your heart GOd and show them they are your children and are worthy of our time God! your children are worthy of our ears and worthy of our patience to let them struggle and wrestle and battle. help us not just be satisfied with people conforming to christian living God --- isntead let us not stop praying for converts GOd. For radical followers of you foolish enough to believe they have a secret to share with a confused, information bogged down complex thinking world.

c) I just am empty. If we're going through a dark season... we feel we'll somehow discredit the BOdy if we try to pour into others..... that's a devil's trick! see above -- people need somebody to listen. People need somebody to care. I don't care what season you are in -- you have 2 ears and you can give them to somebody at least once a week. God help us believe that when we have nothing left to give... you will still flow through us. Sometimes GOd THE way you want to help US to get out of our seasons is for us to open our hearts to your children. God we are blessed when we serve others! Let us not forget that God. When we open our hearts to others --- your Spirit in us speaks to theirs God --- and our spirit comes alive as that flow through happens!!

It's not about us - God it's about you. Let us not be a clogged pipe / a rubberneck for what you want to do. let us not keep this secret to ourselves. God let us be a channel that you can work through. You are looking far and wide for people who will just open their hearts to others. Give us the gusto to just GO and see what YOU can do.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

wait, Randi & thoughts on Community

To make an incredibly long set of lessons over the past weeks be short.... here it is..... be patient Randi.

Give me a new christian and I will have all the patience that God provides to wait on the Holy Spirit to do His work.... I'm not even waiting for anyTHING out of a new christian (though sometimes I DO fall back and not have as much patience as God would want me to). I don't need them to be looking, smelling, acting like a christian in any set time (in fact, let's hope they don't just conform to christianese... we have now such a "strong" 'christian culture' that one can actually conform without converting to be a follower of Christ) ...point is, I can trust the Holy Spirit to do His work. I am okay that a lot of the work He does won't be seen.

BUT there is something I am yearning for so bad that God has had to continually remind me to wait on... and that is this beautiful vision He has given me on how to truly BE the church. How to truly experience community. How to live life together and truly work toward being an Acts 2 Body. I've seen it... I know others are living it....I'm excited for it. When I do get there, it's not like I'm going to say, "ok that's it, I've arrived".... it's just that I believe it truly is the "next step" God has laid on my heart... and as I pursue Him, I know that this yearning He has put in me for this.. is from Him. He continues to provide me resources & experiences that just fuel me even more for this desire for this specific mission He's given to us. He continues to energize this vision/mission whenever I give up even a little.

But here's the thing He's trying to teach me.... that I can't force others to want to be in community with me. As frustrating as it is... I have to be okay with that. As discouraged as I might get as we look for others to journey together to figure out how to be the church biblically, I can't convince. I'm just ready for the next step... but right now it's clear He's telling me to wait on Him. But it's just tricky.... I try to wave the flag that we need each other/need more time together... but because we don't have the time together now... I'm in a rush when we do get the time cuz I know we probably won't be together again for a while so I'm in a rush to get everything out of those opportunities that we can. And being in a rush doesn't help those opportunities.

God is telling me..... *He* will show others how clear it is in the Bible that we need each other. I truly believe that we are not being obedient & not being the church if we're not in community with others. Truly living life together with open hearts.... reaching up to a mentor and reaching out to others. I really believe everybody no matter who they are, at all times should have somebody they are reaching to/learning from... and somebody they are pulling/reaching to/pouring their heart into.

Just as He has shown me, He will show others. I may or may not be the tool He uses to show that to those around me and I have to be okay with that.

God I'm thankful that you are going to form a community for me & B to be in. Help us wait on others yes --- but also help us reach out and look for those that are ready now. Thank you God that you use so many different avenues to teach others so I don't have to even teach. You will teach through whatever is best for them on your timing.

God I know that this is just the specific vision/mission you've given us and that my brothers & sisters have been given unique visions of their own... GOd open my heart to what you're teaching them too!

God thank you for showing me that I should just find ways to model the type of community I believe you'd want us to be in. Help me be a blessing God and just reach out to whoever is willing. Help me continue to 'wave the flag' of community but never be a burden or annoying. Let me let YOUR truths annoy/offend and never myself or my tone be the one annoying or offending.

YOU create community God -- help me just create environments to foster it and encourage it and never hinder it.

Thank you for the community I know you are creating for us. A community of christians that will share life together... not just Sundays. That will encourage one another in the faith. Listen to & pray for each other's struggles.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Love & Holy Spirit post from January

I've just been thinking about this post from January and wanted to put it here again. The part I truly wanted to remind myself was this:

He is teaching me what it means to truly LOVE. but I couldn't manufacture/ create that sort of love. I couldn't make myself love Him enough to desire to spend time with Him. that's where the Holy Spirit came in! Listening to talks on the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan and then reading out of Love Dare --- within 24 hours they both had the EXACT same message --- that HE is the one who gives me the ability to LOVE --- selflessly. It is impossible to have agape love and desire God so much without the Spirit. The Spirit is who lets that love flow.The spirit is who we tap into when we show that agape love. It's His outpouring that allows that love to be possible for us.

So it's like the one thing I was striving for - I was *trying* to love God & others (on my own doing)..... when I stopped striving and let Him love and help me --- then I was given back a million fold what I was striving for.... sort of like, you can't get it -- until you give up trying for it. What you sow you shall reep type of thing?? Give up self - get self back? Give up your life, get it back.

I was trying to do things by myself.... rather than letting the Spirit do His thing. It was an impossible feat so obviously the devil had a great hold on me as I beat myself up with guilt.

It's so true --- we can not in our own work manufacture or create love for Him or others. We can't "try harder". HE is love - all true unconditional selfless love comes from Him alone! We must let the Holy Spirit fill us... spending time with Him & The Word, asking God to please fill us with love & passion for Him.... those were the first steps for me. To just ask for help, make myself available in quiet time & time in the Word..... then before I even realized it I was filled with love for Him & others!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What stirs your affection for God?

Saw this post from Pastor Matt Chandler and it really got me thinking... are their things in my life that stir my affection for God? What encourages my soul?

This is so much more than a feeling... I'm not talking about things that make me feel happy... because many times I don't "feel" anything... I'm living by faith. Believing He's there, watching, listening, working, creating, designing. But I want to write these moments down to thank Him and remember these moments when I'm just in the every day reality of life. (I actually don't want to use the word "inspiration" though as Matt Chandler did .... because as most refer to inspiration today... they make it seem like inspiration is a feeling, a surface level fluffy emotion type stuff and many times people get addicted to that. So that that's not what I'm referring to.... I'm referring to what stirs my affections for God. Helps me recharge so I can do this work for Him. What helps me live by faith!)

That was a lot of writing to say nothing... point is.... there are some things in my life that I do believe stir my affections for God, my sweet savior Jesus, Creator, Spirit.

The following are some on that list right now. I don't want anybody to read this though and think that these are ideas are for anybody but me. This entry is purely for *me*. It fits who I am.... things about me only the Creator could truly understand and could use to help draw me to Him.

And another point to add in here is that I can't just go through the motions doing these things thinking the things are what are special. These aren't a checklist for me to do.... these are me acknowledging how God works with me..... memories of how He helps stir my affections for him! To thank Him for knowing me and working with my personality type & way of relating to the world to help me seek Him.

What is special about these things is God being there and the gifts they are, not the things themselves:

  • The Word - I guess that's understood... but truly when I'm regularly in the Word... I have no doubt it is an alive "sword of the Spirit".... the protection, guidance, refreshment, insights it gives are from the One God alone. Can not be duplicated, replicated, disputed.
  • Not sleeping in regularly... When I respond to God's call to me to spend time with Him before my boys wake up.... it truly does something in me. When the first streams of sunlight peak in and the birdies wake up from their slumber excitedly welcoming the sunshine they have waited for; and He tells me to get up and not roll over - I love those moments with Him.
  • Writing about life. Writing to Him. Taking time to truly not just zoom through life but to sit back, reflect, think about what I am experiencing, feeling, learning. Paying attention and writing about it. :) Writing appears to be my creative outlet and I enjoy expressing myself to Him and about Him this way.
  • Beyond surface conversations with others. I guess I don't mind chit chat - I enjoy getting to know people and hearing about their day, etc.... but much of the time I am screaming inside to sit down and have a deep conversation - can't we get past all this and talk about our hearts? I have such a longing for true community and to truly have a radical authenticity & openness with others. I really do long for relationships like this that will be people desiring to spend regular time with me to share our hearts. I enjoy having fun and just "being" too....but give me some friends willing to go deep and worship God through our love & authentic conversation together - my soul is awake and alive. My favorite way to worship & praise God might be through conversation. I truly love worshipping God through encouragement, exhortation (is that the right word?) teaching and accountability in the Body. Uplifting others in the Body - I love knowing GOd is being glorified in those relationships. I love feeling God's smile fill my soul as I love with others (my love language - words)
  • The beach, sunset, ocean, mountains, watching ants work, horses run, birds fly, dolphins play, butterflies prance, beautiful flowers, waterfalls.... nature! I also love praising Him through the enjoyment & thanks of how beautiful His creation is.
  • Reading books other than the Word. Whether it's books on marriage, parenting.... I guess again because my love language is words... give me a book that is gospel focused, biblically based and God glorifying: run to God being the main message...... and my soul is comforted.

Thanks God for all these ways you help me seek you. Thank you for answering my prayers to help me be passionate about being with you and loving you. Today I literally feel in my soul that this mouth of mine doesn't even deserve to utter your name.... yet your Word tells me you love me. God it brings tears to my eyes to know you love me. YOU the Creator of the UNIVERSE love ME and you talk to me God. You spend time with me, you are in me, you care for me, you listen. Why do I have so little faith in your ability to cleanse, lift, fix, change, work sometimes!? Thank you for always forgiving me and loving little old me. You love me God! Unconditionally, unashamedly... you even stand beside me in my mistakes and don't forsake me in embarassment. You are loyal God! What an AMAZING mind blowing Truth! THANK YOU GOD for you! Thank you God for always reminding me of the 2 greatest commandments to love you and to love others.... if I'm not passionately radically in love with you and others.... I know it's time to 'start over' falling back in love with you. How can I ever express to you God my love and thanks for you? I'm in awe how you never give up on me. You draw me in God.