Saturday, July 30, 2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

An Abundant Life

Verb: Be filled with wonder or astonishment.
Noun: A wonderful or astonishing person or thing.

Verb: Surprise or impress (someone) greatly. 

Adjective: Inspiring delight, pleasure, or admiration; extremely good; marvelous.

Marvelous, astonishing, wonderful, etc.... Lately, this joyful vocabulary has been in the forefront of my mind and on the tip on my tongue.  

I am ASTONISHED at God's favor towards us.  

Our home is nothing short of WONDERFUL.  

I MARVEL at God's love for His children and how faithful He is to bless them!  There is some serious marveling happening over here.  

This week, a certain passage has been resonating in my mind - I love when the Lord recalls His word.  The Holy Spirit has been so faithful to remind me of our abundance both past and present. 

Isaiah 55:8-11
8 “ For My thoughts are not your thoughts, 
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. 
9 “ For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. 
10 “ For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, 
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." 

His thoughts are not our thoughts because He is omniscient - all knowing.  I am so blessed to know that God knows the plans for my life - he is in the driver seat, I just have to enjoy the ride.  No good thing will He withhold from those who love Him & obey His word!  What good news that is for the believer!  He's in control!

His ways are higher than ours because He is perfect and we have a fallen sin nature.  Of course the Lord does things in different ways because He has hindsight, where as we can only see what is right in front of us.  Sometimes only putting the next foot forward can be difficult, and I speak from experience, but the Lord knows what information we can handle and only gives what is necessary.  That's where faith comes in.  When in doubt, look to past experiences where He has come through before, He will be faithful to do so in current circumstances as well!

He is the GREAT provider.  His word waters us daily, refreshing our hearts and washing us clean.  Deuteronomy 7:12-14 it speaks of the Lord blessing those who are obedient to His word.  "He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grain..."  In other words, He's got us covered!  He will not leave us nor forsake disciples of his son Jesus Christ!

In my Christian life with the Lord, His word has NEVER returned void.  It has never disappointed and never have His covenants towards me been broken.  God is faithful to complete all that He promises.  I am so happy to be able to count on something in this life.  This world will disappoint us, sometimes people will disappoint us.  Money will disappoint, jobs will disappoint, but the LORD?  Never.  It's not in His nature.  I am so blessed by that fact.  Not only does His word never return void, but His word prospers our lives - He loves to give to His children.  The bible says in Matthew 7:7-11 that if our earthly fathers being sinful and evil (this is not a stab at my Dad, I love him and don't consider him evil at all!), although they love their children - if they can give good gifts to their children, how much more can our Heavenly Father give to His children who love and obey Him?  I can't even imagine.  

Our new home is a prime example.  It is beyond anything we need.  We are just two people.  We could easily live in a 500 square foot, fifth floor, have to go to the laundry mat because we don't have a W/D in the apartment, dwelling.  And we have.  We've lived in some pretty comical situations. (They're comical now, they weren't then...)  We certainly don't need a guest bathroom, a fireplace, a huge front porch, a comfortable neighborhood, and we certainly don't NEED to own our home.  But GOD! I love that phrase - BUT GOD; He loves us and wants to take care of us and even more than that, wants to bless us beyond reason!  

I stand in awe Lord!  Help me to use this home for YOUR glory, to bless others, to be a light in this dark world, and to shine for your glory not that of ourselves.  We love you Lord and are so thankful for your blessings in our lives.  Thank you God - we love You. Amen.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A House, A Home.

Let me take you on a little journey. It's a long one. You ready? Okay, let's begin.

It started January 15th.  Well, maybe it was a week before that.
We were house hunting, not just for thrills.  We were two weeks removed from our previous rental without choice, back to the sacred home of my sweet in-laws by force due to an uncontrollable, out of our hands, incident.  It actually wasn't my idea to buy a home, although the idea of home-ownership always sounded lofty and lovely, kinks included.  It was my husband's decision, well partly I should say. The Lord told Him that this is what we were to do, otherwise, I guarantee I would be blogging from another rented, unfamiliar, dusty and impersonal dwelling. Not because we don't want to own, but because we otherwise wouldn't have to guts to take such a great leap of faith. It wasn't really a leap.  I picture a leap as 99% successful, like jumping over a puddle in rainboots. Ours was more of a blind jump with no parachute, no back-up, and no other direction given.  So we obeyed.

But let's get back to the point - the first week in January.  We had two appointments with our realtor that day.  One house of which we were sure to fall in love with and the other house left much to be desired per the pictures online.  Funny the way things work out.  The first one (that we LOVED online) was a wreck.  The "backyard" would have needed a bush-hog to plow through the overgrown shoots of weeds - I wouldn't be surprised if I were to find a small alligator family living there comfortably.  No joke.  Being the un-handy people we are, we walked away knowing it would be way over our heads, let alone the poor people we would be depending upon to help us fix'er'up (they would have never spoken to us again, trust me).  

Onto house numero dos.  The pictures online? Horrid.  The pink exterior paint? Wow. Paired with the victorian scrolly embellishments, strange eighties stone work, and farm-style shutters? Interesting composition to say the least.  Strangely enough, upon arrival, the neighborhood was peppered with twenty-year tall oaks, homes mature and well-kept, streets wide and welcoming and the lots wider.  To be frank, the paint color didn't get any better in person, although my husband's affinity for said color strangely comforted him, being it was the same EXACT shade that his parent's house was for so many unliked years - (they hated it too, so don't worry I'm not stomping on anyone's design toes).  The dilapidated porch actually looked worse in person, but the inside was the deal sealer. Yes, the kitchen and bathrooms were ugly, but hey I like a challenge, I have always wanted to put my own stamp on our first home.  The main thing is, she had good bones: an open and airy floor plan, six year new roof, 8 year new AC, wall to wall tile/wood floors, two huge porches, a fenced in yard and square footage for miles baby (okay for 2100 feet, I couldn't help myself).

That week Pete left for California to the Youth Pastor's Conference.  We both decided that if this were to be our house, one week of waiting wouldn't hurt.  If it wasn't our house, someone else would make an offer in that time. So we prayed and prayed and waited 'til he got home a week later on a Friday. That Saturday we made an offer - January Fifteenth. 

Here comes the fun part.  We waited and sat and waited and sat and then waited some more.  My lesson is ALWAYS waiting, me and the Lord have a fun banter going, but I'm becoming okay with waiting. Me and waiting? We're like THIS - fingers crossed.  The first two months (January & February) were a very sweet time of packing up my in-laws, spending lots of late hours together that we otherwise would have missed out on, and giving them a proper send off to Montana, complete with a final two months of love.  Then March came and the busy-ness subsided.  We settled into our paper plates, styrofoam cups, and minimal furniture lifestyle - ready to move at a moment's notice (remember, our family now moved out of their enormous house, along with all of their belongings and we stayed in their home whilst awaiting our answer).  Then came April.  The paper plates ran low, the lack of dishware became annoying and my expectation of our short sale taking 30 days to approve fizzeled slowly, not to mention my lack of wardrobe options was becoming increasingly apparent.  See I'm an optimist and I couldn't get that '30-day miracle short sale' our realtor mentioned out of my thick skull.  We heard back in April that the bank had accepted our offer.  From there we knew it could take 30 days for our loan to be approved so I figured, hey May 6th is exactly one month away, we might be moving on my birthday - how awesome would that be??? Naivety at it's finest folks, see I can say that now and it really is funny like they say.

Welp. No. That didn't happen.  The approval from the bank was only the first of 27, yes, 27 steps that the bank had to still go through.  Don't ask me what the other 26 steps were, but it took another two months from that happy day in April when we first saw a shimmer of hope.  I only broke down once during that second waiting period - like actual meltdown, throwing up, what the heck are we doing Lord kind of a deal.  You know, I tend to be dramatic when things start closing in on me - kind of like that kid in the candy aisle crying on the floor... maybe akin to that, a little bit.  But in all of this I knew the Lord was in control, and I have never been so close to His side.  His constant comfort to my cries and whines were incomparable, even to my sweet husband's kind words of encouragement.  

His timing, I didn't understand.  His direction of buying a house now, I really didn't understand, especially because we had to come up with thousands of dollars with no sure time frame.  But He has revealed these mysterious things to both of us.  Had we not made an offer when we did, we would not be able to use my husband's current job of seven years as collateral, as he hopes to transfer to a position of full time-ministry soon.  Let's just say that banks don't give out loans to people who jump around a lot - I have never been so thankful that my husband, (although his job is taxing and he is ready to move on as soon as the Lord sees fit) has remain firmly planted, and bloomed for that matter.  He is being used as a light to a dark world that might not otherwise see Jesus.  He is comforting others, encouraging fellow believers, and I am so proud of his constant endurance and strength.  Waking up at 3am several days a week while simultaneously serving at church for the duration of another full time job is not something I would be capable of taking on, but he has and is handling it flawlessly - I get to brag since I'm the one writing this thing.  All the while, he lets me enjoy my luxe schedule while working my dream job!  He really is amazing, if you don't know that already.  

His timing, I now also understand.  Had it happened any sooner, it would have been in my own strength.  I came to a point of total contentment in the Lord.  I would have rented another apartment if this all fell through in the end and would have been joyful to, only to prove that I trusted in the Lord and obeyed His word to my husband.  As he put it, God's direction to him was as close to audible as he has ever heard.  We held fast to that word and knew that his word would not return void.  

Then last week hit.  It was a ringer of a week.  Things were falling out of our grasp and out of our control.  Everything was done and approved on the house - things seemed to be moving swiftly for once. Then hiccups popped up regarding our loan.  Things had been overlooked in departments beyond our sight or control.  It really felt as if we were tetering on the edge of a cliff, holding on for whatever wave of bad news struck next.  Two young men whom close friends of ours knew went to be with Jesus that week - it was dark and Satan had his fiery darts in hand.  The waves were building and the storm was brewing forcefully. 

The Lord was with us then too though.  He heard us and saw us and never left us, even though we couldn't see Him or hear Him telling us what to do.  Then He gave us this verse, that I will forever hold dear to my heart:

Revelation 2:10
"Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." 

Pete read this verse in his devotion the day we heard the news about our loan, not knowing of the issues that had arose, as I had been dealing with them at work while he was resting after an early morning work day.  He told me this verse burned in his chest and he knew it was for us and that we needed to take heed.  This verse quenched our fears and questions.  From there we gave it to the Lord, sought prayer from family and loving friends and waited to hear a conclusion.

The next day, Satan was at work again in my mind amidst the verse that comforted me so perfectly.  Lies telling me that the Lord was only testing our faith and that He would not be faithful to his promise to us, that we were foolish for waiting upon nothing, and that we should just give up and give in.  I held fast to His word and prayed more.  

Hours into the day my phone rang with good news on the other end: our insurance rates were miraculously lowered due to a phenomenal appraisal and inspection, which put us in the clear financially with or without changes to our income.

I write to you now, less than a week away from closing.  Can you believe it?  I told you it was a long ride, but it was worth it no?  Please continue to pray for us, as it is still hard to get excited even when I see the end in site.  Satan still gives me doubt but I know the Lord is sovereign in all things.  Thank you for those of you who have bathed us in prayer and service in helping us ready the house and ourselves for transition.  We dedicate this home to the service of the Lord and can't wait to see how this earthly home will be used to bring others an eternal home in heaven.

Much much much love,

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I Pick Slavery.

Another Word for Freedom
By Skip Heitzig

There is a popular song by Kris Kristofferson called “Me and Bobby McGee.” In it, there’s a line, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Some have said that means that when you’ve lost everything, that’s freedom.

We have a skewed view of freedom. People say they want freedom, but sometimes freedom is another word for enslavement. People say, “I want to be free from guilt in my life. I want to be free from God. I want freedom from any moral laws.” They call that freedom.
But the more of that kind of freedom you have, the more enslaved you will become. The more you do as you please, the less you will be pleased with what you do. That’s a law you can live by. If you live to please yourself, you will not be pleased with yourself. Your life will go nowhere.

In the ‘60s the slogans were “Do your own thing,” “If it feels good, do it,” “Different strokes for different folks.” All that moral relativism has seeped into the bloodstream of our culture and wreaked havoc. It sounds good and tolerant, but it has caused devastating effects. The “freedom” to experiment with sex has caused millions of unwanted pregnancies and an untold number of abortions. “Freedom” to experiment with drugs costs society $40 billion a year. All these things promise freedom but create bondage.

Romans 6:16 says, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” If you live to please the Lord you will have joy, contentment and satisfaction that you can’t imagine, even in the worst of times. Freedom is being a slave of Jesus Christ. Those who are sold out to Jesus Christ become the freest people on the face of the earth.

You could say, “I don’t want to be anybody’s slave!” Well, too late; you already are! Bob Dylan put it this way years ago: “You’ve gotta serve somebody.” It’s true. And if you say “I’m not a slave to anyone else,” then you’re a slave to yourself and your own pleasure, and you’re in bondage. “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life” (Romans 6:22).

So, as we celebrate our nation’s freedom, I want to remind you that true freedom is becoming a slave of Jesus Christ and that “Whoever the Son sets free is free indeed” (see John 8:36).