Monday, November 25, 2013

Thankful, Day 25

Today (and every day), I'm thankful For the chance to wake up again and start fresh. Not because anything awful happened yesterday, but just because I can do more today. I think sometimes we think, "Thank goodness for God's grace and forgiveness, since I know I'll mess up today." We do! Or, I do. Maybe if we would think instead, "Thank goodness for God's grace and forgiveness that help me NOT to mess up." I don't think there has to be a point in our day where we say, "Well, I totally screwed that one up." We don't have to do everything perfect--cook the perfect meal, make the house look pristine, have a cheerful smile ALL day long--but if we could only make it to bedtime and say, "That was good. I did my best." So, I'm thankful for today, because I have another chance to do my very best.

I'm thankful for the chance (because I don't usually look outside before 7 am, but I did today) to see a gorgeous sunrise.
I'm thankful that today, once again, I hear little feet coming down the hall.
I'm thankful that today, once again, two little people crawl up on my lap and wrap their arms around my neck.
I'm thankful for another day to teach them about God's love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. 
I'm thankful for the chance to love my husband the best I can and to be his biggest cheerleader and support system.
I'm thankful for another afternoon to share my love of music with my students and to encourage them and help them use their gifts.

For everything today will bring, I'm thankful.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thankful--Day 21

Obviously, I've missed blogging a few thankful days, but that's ok. I've been so much more aware of being thankful lately, just because it's been on my mind. You know, that's what being thankful is--not just a statement you make, but a state of mind.

Today (and everyday), I'm thankful for friends. Two (or actually three) come to mind right off the bat, so I'll tell you a little about them.

Tracy and I have been friends for over 4 years. We went to church together all of our lives, but she's a little bit older than me, so we had never really talked to each other. I'll never forget the Sunday she came up to me when I was pregnant with Kade. I had just realized that I would be making the mistake of my life to go back to work after she was born, but I didn't know what to do. Tracy's daughter is 18 months older than Kade and she had stopped teaching after Rachel was born. My mom knew this and mentioned my dilemma to Tracy. Anyway, Tracy came up to me and just said that she knew what I was going through and she would be happy to answer any questions or encourage me in any way. And she did! She was the first person I called after Michael told me he had just gotten a new job that would let me stay home. I'm pretty sure she was almost as happy for me as I was for myself! We've prayed for each other, vented to each other, encouraged each other, and rejoiced with each other. I am so thankful for her and for her friendship.

Second on my list today are Jimmy and Marcia. Jimmy was my youth pastor from 11th grade to sometime around my college graduation. They have both always given me wise counsel, encouraged me and prayed for me, through some pretty tough times and some awesome times. In 2005 (I think), they felt God's call to start a new church and they have been at The Cave church for 8 years. I was blessed last night to lead praise and worship in music there. Even though it's not my home church, I always feel so welcome.

God friends are an awesome thing and I am so thankful for all of mine--those who were only in my lives for a season and those whose friendship has lasted for years and years. God has used you in my life in many different ways. It reminds me of that old song--I can't remember who sang it--"Thank you for giving to the Lord. I am a life that was changed. Thank you for giving to the Lord; I am so glad you gave."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thankful--Day 17

Today (and everyday), I am thankful for my home! Now, I'm pretty sure most people are thankful for their homes, but my home and I have a special bond. I have lived here since I was around 9 months old (with a year and a half break right after I got married). My boys sleep in the bedrooms where my sister and I slept for 20 years. Michael and I my parents' old bedroom, which is not quite as cool, but we have our own bedroom set and painted the walls, so at least it looks different. We cook meals and eat in the same kitchen (slightly updated) I grew up in and play in the same backyard. Michael and I had our first kiss in the same living room when I was 15 (Guess I can tell you now, mom!).  I celebrated so many Christmases, Thanksgivings, birthdays, Easters, and Fourth of Julys here with my first family (What else do you call your parents/siblings?).  There were fights here (hey, we're not perfect!), but there was even more Jesus! I am so glad that when my parents found the house of their dreams, Michael and I were in the position to buy our house. I have so many great memories here and now we get to make even more together!

Thankful--Day 16

Today (and everyday), I'm thankful for my husband's career. For 7 years, he worked over an hour from home at a job he didn't particularly like. It stunk before we had children and it stunk even worse after we had children (even though we were thankful he had a job). Then, he decided to be an insurance agent and ended up working with a guy he went to school with. I think it's probably been one of the best moves of his life. He works literally 1 minute from our house with people who are believers. They also book and sponsor Christian concerts and events right here in our area! Tonight, we went to a marriage conference they sponsored with Kirk Cameron and Warren Barfield. Anyway, I am thankful my husband has found something that makes him happy and that he feels like he has a future doing, with good people. God always has the best plan for our life.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thankful, Day 14

I'm thankful that my life is so full that I haven't had time to blog about days 12 and 13! I'm also thankful that God doesn't love us based on whether we think of one thing we're thankful for everyday in November. Ha!

However, since I'm up before everyone else this morning and have a few minutes---today (and everyday), I'm thankful for my sister.

(She's the one in the wedding dress)

She is gorgeous, hilarious, talented, outgoing, easygoing (most of the time), a totally awesome aunt, fun to be around, and a million other things. I can't imagine my life without her. Actually, I can't remember my life without her.

Let me brag on her for a second. She graduated from college, even though at times, it was far from easy for her. She is a TV news director, y'all. I always say this proudly when people in our small town ask what she's doing now. She bosses people around for a living.

Also, she just got married (obviously) and she picked a pretty great guy to be part of our family. Actually, he's kind of the reason I decided to pick my sister to blog about today, so I'm thankful for him, too. They have a Facebook war going on right now where they hack into each other's Facebook (while the other is asleep or at work) and post hilarious pictures and posts. It gave me a good early morning laugh this morning. They are perfect for each other!

I'm glad she only lives an hour away, because I don't know what I'd do without her in my life on a regular basis. She is one of my best friends and I always know I can tell her anything without her judging me--actually, she usually laughs.

She makes the rest of us laugh, too. Because of her we are having tacky Christmas sweater pictures done in a couple of weeks. We would not be that silly without her direction. But we love her for it.

I'm thankful for you, sis! Can't wait to see you tomorrow!

P.S. She also has a pretty great blog if you want to check it out HERE.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thankful, Day 11

Today (and everyday), I'm thankful for the opportunity to do things I enjoy on a regular basis. As I sit here editing a book manuscript (not mine), I'm grateful for the education and knowledge that allow me to write, whether it's on this blog, in my personal journal, or the occasional freelance job. Monday through Fridays, I teach piano and guitar lessons--something I also love and am able to earn a little extra money doing. I have the best students in the world and get to talk about and play one of my favorite things, music! Most days, I cook and/or bake something yummy--my family definitely appreciates that! I love making them happy. I wouldn't say I live a life of leisure, but God certainly gives me the time and skills to do things that are a reprieve from laundry and dish washing. Actually, having other things I enjoy makes the everyday housework easier because I know it's not the only thing I have to look forward to. Nevertheless, I have to remind myself to do everything--even laundry, dish washing, diaper changing, and bill paying--as unto the Lord. It's all important.

Still, I'm thankful for quiet moments on my couch with a cup of coffee and an empty Word document.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thankful--Day 10

Well, I missed day 9--but I have a good reason!

Yesterday, we traveled a couple of hours away to go to the zoo. We needed a fun, family day and we had a blast! So, for day 9, I'm thankful to be able to spend time with my family. We saw some really cool animals, had some fun conversations, ate some yummy Olive Garden, and got some new toys at the Disney store (well, the boys did, anyway). Then, to top it off, we saw our first huge Christmas light display of the season (even though we decided not to pay $20 to drive through it). I couldn't have dreamed up a better husband and children. Good thing God is much more creative than I am!

Also, today (and every day), I'm thankful for all of the men and women who have risked their lives in service to our country. I'm proud to say that my granddad, several of my uncles on both sides of my family, and many other people I know are veterans. I can't imagine all of the things our service men and women go through and see, even in their training. I love my country, but I couldn't leave my family and everything else I know and go off to war. I'm grateful for people who answer the call to protect the rest of us. I know that it's not easy for them to do what they do, but they're willing to do it. Thank all of from the bottom of mine and my family's heart!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thankful, Day 8

Today (and everyday), I'm thankful for God's providence. First, He sent His Son to die in our place and to carry the cross we should have had to bear. We are no longer in bondage to sin; we are slaves to righteousness! Thank You, Jesus, for taking our place!

Secondly, I'm thankful that He always provides for my family. If I could tell you all of the miracles He's done for us, you would be dumbfounded. Even when things seem terrible, He turns them into something beautiful.

Example number one--last month, Michael accidentally caught our kitchen on fire. It was a relatively small fire, but then the firemen came and blew thick, black smoke through our whole house and out the back windows. It was an absolute mess. Only our stove, a set of cabinets, and the wall behind the stove were destroyed, but every piece of clothing, toy, bedding, rug, furniture, curtain, etc. had soot on it. Fun times. At least we were all safe. Well, out of that mess, I got to replace my stove and hood, with a new stove and an over-the-stove microwave, which we've always wanted! I got a freshly painted kitchen and living room. Every stitch of laundry was washed by a cleaning company and looks like new, and my whole house was cleaned top to bottom for 3.5 weeks. It ended up being more of a gift from God than a bad thing!

Example number two--Most of you probably already know this, but I didn't really want to be a stay at home mom until Kade was born. By then it was too late. We hadn't done any saving to prepare for me to stay at home and Michael's job alone wouldn't cover our bills. I, very reluctantly, went back to work after my maternity leave. For 2 months, Michael and I cried and prayed, and a month before Christmas, Michael suddenly got a new job (completely unexpected) and the salary was more than what we needed. I was able to quit my job teaching at Christmas and start my new career. :)

Then, there are all the little ways He shows me everyday that He cares about our needs--finding an unexpected sale at the grocery store on something I needed, running into the perfect fall placemats at a thrift store for really cheap, calling to pay a medical bill and being told I have a credit. Some people might call it luck, but it happens too often and always at just the right time for it to be anything but God.

He never, ever leaves us begging for bread. He is able to do more than we could ever ask or think--and he does it! And for that, I'm so thankful.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thankful--Day 7

Today (and everyday), I'm thankful for free will. God could have easily created a clone army who followed his every command, but he wanted a relationship with us that was based on love and trust. We have to choose to follow Him. And the fact that we have the free will to choose-and we choose God-makes our relationship with our Creator that much more special and personal. It's like the song--

I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
No turning back, no turning back.

We have to decide every day to follow Jesus. We have to choose to seek after Him, obey Him, love others, and walk constantly with Him. It is a deliberate life. We can pick blessing or cursing, life or death, freedom or bondage--and all of the good things are found in Christ. I think we can all testify that it's not always easy to choose the narrow way. The pull of this world is strong......but we are more than conquerors! Thank You, Jesus, that we have the freedom to choose. I choose You!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thankful, Day 6

Today (and every day), I'm thankful to live in this country. The candidates I would have preferred to win might not have won the election yesterday, our government might be in a heap of debt, I might not be very happy with our current leadership, but we still have it better than many other countries.

You know, I know that God doesn't think, "Well, I love so-and-so the most, so I'm going to let them be born in the U.S.A. That is ridiculous, self centered thinking. God needs us and wants to use us wherever we are. He takes care of us no matter where we live. His children in Asia are just as important to Him as His children in Africa and His children in Australia.

However, I'm glad I live here, where we still have many freedoms, can mostly speak our minds without fear, worship in public places, do some good (if we are willing) for those in other countries, and many other things that we might not think about when we're only meditating on the bad news in current events. I'm thankful for our country's heritage, that our founding fathers let God guide them in establishing America. I'm thankful for the soldiers who put their lives on the line and sacrifice precious time with their families in order to help keep us safe. We can see the beauty of God's creation everywhere across this land--the Grand Canyon, the Appalachian Mountains, the coasts, valleys, deserts, every kind of scenery and weather we could imagine. We have so many choices and options that we don't even appreciate. Anyone can vote, anyone can get a good education. I'm not an idealist, but we are very blessed.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thankful, Day 5

So, I've seen some people poking at others who have chosen to do a thankful post every day this month, saying that we should be thankful every day of the year. Well, of course we should! Are we always, though? I think doing these posts is a good way to jumpstart our thankfulness. When I actually take the time each day to sit down and think about the things I'm thankful for, my outlook on the day is much more positive. I focus more on the things God has given than the things I think I should have. With that being said....

Today (and everyday), I'm thankful for the cutest, smartest 21 month old I know--my baby boy.

Look at that angelic face! I could kiss it all day long! Luke gave me the sweet gift of a baby all over again. Another chance to hold a brand new little person and marvel over the miracle of life and love. Another chance to be there whenever I was needed or wanted, even if it kept me from sleeping. Once again, I got to feel the joy of hearing "Ma ma" and "Da da" and the mixed pride and dread of watching his first steps. Now, he is big brother's number one fan and follower. He calls me "Mommy" and is adamant to have his own way! But when I lay down with him at night, he wraps his little arms tightly around my neck and kisses me. Sometimes, he gets up in the middle of the night and comes to our bed, grasping his stuffed Mickey Mouse, and simply says, "Hey". I always lift him right up into his spot between Michael and I and we smile at each other in the dark, glad to have him as our baby for awhile longer.

I'm so thankful to God for you, Luke, and for the joy you bring to us!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Thankful--Day 4

Today (and everyday), I'm thankful for forgiveness. First, I'm thankful for Jesus, who sacrificed Himself so that my sins could be forgiven. And because of his forgiveness, I can (and must!) forgive others. It's obvious from observing my 4 year old, that from a very young age, we have a hard time forgiving and asking forgiveness. We don't like meeting the level of humility it takes to forgive or to ask forgiveness. It's not fun to admit we are wrong or to cast aside our anger at someone else. However, Jesus says that if we don't forgive others, He cannot forgive us.

I love this passage in Romans: "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.…" (5:6-8)

Jesus died for us--to forgive us--while we were still sinners! He gave Himself--all of Himself. After that kind of gift, how could we not die to ourselves to forgive others.

One time, Peter came up to Jesus and asked how many times we should forgive someone who sins against us. He said, "Should we forgive them seven times?" Sometimes, there are people in our lives who mistreat us, disrespect us, offend us, or hurt our feelings again and again and again. Jesus replied, "Not seven times, but seventy times seven" (which basically means infinity). Now, this doesn't mean we have to lay down and let someone abuse us, but it does mean that we don't carry a grudge around and grow bitter. I'm preaching to myself, people. I know forgiveness is tough!

So, I am thankful for God's forgiveness, which wipes my slate clean and gives me the strength to forgive other people. God casts our sins as far as the east is from the west; He never throws them in our face or says, "Well, I guess I can forgive you, but...." As soon as we repent, the sin is gone.

God, thank You for Your forgiveness. And help me to forgive as purely and completely as You.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thankful--Day 3

Today (and everyday), I am thankful for my husband.

He's been my sidekick for 12 years and not many 28 year olds can say that. I knew he was the one from the beginning and I'm glad I've been able to grow up with him.

He spent our entire honeymoon holding my hair back from my face while I threw up and eating Subway outside in the car, so it wouldn't make me nauseous. I knew he was a keeper for sure, then.  He always takes care of me--and the boys. He works hard so that I can stay at home and he has never once made me feel like I should go back to work or that I am anything less because I don't have a "real" job.  He changes diapers and helps put the boys to sleep, makes THE best biscuits and gravy, and fixes everything around the house. He's also an awesome labor and birth coach. Every time I think I'm mad at him, he makes me laugh. He makes me laugh anyway!  He is patient, kind, and gentle. Oh, and he does a pretty mean cartwheel. ;)
I'm glad he's my first and my last. I'm glad he's all I know. You don't have to eat a bunch of rotten apples to get to the good one, girls (and guys). I'm so thankful God brought him to me.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Thankful--Day #2

Just so everyone knows, I'm not listing things I'm thankful for in order of importance. That would be almost impossible to do!

Today (and everyday), I'm thankful for Kade, my first born. He is 4 and some days are so rough right now, but nights like last night make it so worth it.

He got out his little guitar and said he had written a song. We asked him what song it was and he said it was called, "Why did Jesus die on the cross? He died on the cross for my sins." He made up a simple melody and was strumming his guitar and singing those words over and over--"Why did Jesus die on the cross? He died on the cross for my sins."

Well, that was enough to make my heart burst, but I decided to Facetime my parents and have him play his song for them. He played it and they were telling him how great it was and how true the words were and he said, "It's a Jesus song and a praise and worship song. One day, I want to be on the stage at church and sing it in the microphone."

Oh, my heart's prayer has always been that he has the heart of a worshipper, not just in song, but in the way he lives. I don't care if he ever plays his guitar from a stage, but I just love his childlike heart, that knows the truth of Jesus and wants to sing it to other people.

So, I am thankful for Kade, who teaches me patience, childlike faith, and the meaning of unconditional love. God works through him everyday, even though he doesn't know it yet.

Thankful-Day #1

So, I know that many people post something they're thankful for each day in November, as a kind of month-long celebration of Thanksgiving. I think that's awesome, but I'm not always good at planning ahead, so I didn't plan or do anything with my kiddos--yet (give me a break, though; it's just November 1).

I wanted to keep my own personal log of thankfulness, though, so I thought I'd write a quick blog tonight.

Today (and everyday), I am thankful for my parents and the legacy of faith they have given me. Because they helped to fill my heart with the Word of God before I could read or even understand what I was hearing, I am able to recognize His voice when I need to hear it.

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 says, " Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."  My parents did exactly that. They filled my heart and mind with God's Word while we drove in the car, in the mornings as we prayed, through encouraging notes and scriptures they put in my lunchbox, in TV shows and movies we watched, books they read to us and gave us to read, bedtime devotions, and many other ways.

When I was old enough, the choice was mine and I read the Bible on my own, listened to teaching at church, listened to music that lifted God up, went to youth group, surrounded myself with good friends--but only because of the foundation of faith my parents laid.

I am always amazed (though I shouldn't be) when God drops His Word into my spirit. It's easy to recognize God's voice when you know what He sounds like. Psalm 119:11 says, "I have hidden Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You." It's much more difficult to sin when God's Word is written on your heart. It's harder to dismiss something as ok when you know exactly what God has to say on the matter.

The older I get, and the older my children get, the more I appreciate my parents and pray that I can give my sons the same gift my parents have given me. I love you, mom and dad!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow...

It struck me that some of the time, I probably come across as though I have things figured out--like I'm trying to teach you (whoever "you" is) a lesson that I have down pat. Well, I have news for you people! Usually, I blog about something because God has just showed it to me and I can't keep it to myself. I don't have it all figured out and I probably never will.

Case in point: I am a worrier about money. I'm really pretty laid back about everything else, but I worry about money all.the.time. The kicker is--we have never been broke, never paid even one bill late, never had to go hungry. We've made sacrifices for me to be able to stay at home, but we've never had to go without anything necessary to our survival--and even many luxuries.

And still, I worry. Do you know what I worry about? This is my thought process--"What if so-and-so happens, we have to use our savings over a period of time, we have no more money, we can't pay our mortage, we have no house, and so on and so on?" So basically, I worry about months and even years far off in the future. It is so ridiculous when I type it out, but it is serious stuff when I am thinking about it.

It drives my husband absolutely NUTS. And it turns me into a miserable, impatient, sad....person. What lousy trust in God, right? I know what to do...and I don't do it.

I am so thankful at times like these that God's Word bubbles up in my heart and speaks straight to what I'm going through, right now. He says, "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own" (Matthew 6:34). Sheesh, ain't that the truth?! My brain and my heart can't handle the troubles of today and tomorrow, much less of today, tomorrow, the next day, and the next day, and the next day. In verse 33, though, Jesus says that if we seek His Kingdom and His righteousness first, all of the other things we need will be added to us. We don't have to desperately pursue them or covet them or worry; we just have to seek Him and serve Him and He'll take care of us.

Remember when Jesus taught His disciples to pray? Part of it was, "...and give us this day our daily bread". This day. Not because He won't provide for us tomorrow, but because we don't even have to wonder.  He will provide for us today. He will give us the strength to make it through today. He will give us joy for today. And because He can and will take care of us today, we can be sure He will do it tomorrow as well. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Unchanging. Faithful.

I know now why we're supposed to meditate on God's Word day and night (which means to ponder it and think about it, by the way). If we keep it in our hearts and minds 24/7, we never have room for doubt and worry to slip in.

"Don't worry, be happy" seems like a simple mantra. However, happiness is one thing and peace is quite another. Happiness is fleeting, but peace....God's peace can take us through the worst of times and the best of times. I'm still trying to get there--to the place where I relay only on God, and not the state of the government or the economy or the cost of groceries or health insurance. In the meantime, I am so thankful that time and time and time again, He proves Himself trustworthy, faithful, and good. So good.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

God wants YOU!

We have had the rainiest summer I can remember this year and consequently, it is hard to keep the grass mowed. Every time Michael plans to mow, it rains or has just rained and is still too wet. Every time we have a dry day, we have other things that have to be done. We are just very busy right now and much of the time, it feels like we are being pulled in way too many directions.

Anyway, Michael had youth group tonight, so I decided to surprise him while he was gone and mow the yard. I have sneaked and mowed the yard before and he always does that whole manly, "Why did you do that? You shouldn't be out mowing the yard!" thing, but I know he appreciates it, so I like to try to surprise him. I mowed the small strip of grass we have on the left side of our driveway and started on the main front yard. I had finished one strip, when our neighbor (who I have known pretty much my whole life since we live in my childhood house) walked over and asked if he could mow the yard. I said, "Oh no, I'm just fine. My husband just hasn't had time with the rain, so I thought I'd help him out." He kept insisting and said that's what neighbors are for, so I finally let him do it (since he had a riding lawn mower that took much less time than my push mower).

Now, I can't even explain how much I appreciated the gesture. I didn't have to push the mower around the yard in the muggy heat and I know it took a lot of stress off of Michael when he saw that the grass was mowed.  We were both so thankful! You don't see neighbors doing things like that for each other much anymore. My neighbor is a nice guy and I know he knows the Lord, but I wonder if he knows that God used him tonight.

I was thinking, later, about how God uses people.

He can use us to do great things in people's lives. He can use us to change people's lives.  God used Jesus to change lives while He was here on this earth.. Think of all the miracles He did--He healed people, he fed a huge crowd with a little bit of food, he turned water into wine, provided the disciples with a large catch of fish....all very practical things. People realized that He cared about their needs, that He cared about the things they cared about. Those kinds of miracles are the kind that change lives, that bring lasting change.

Today, some people say that God is doing miracles in the form of sending gold dust raining down on certain churches, or people finding gold teeth in their mouths. Some people see "orbs" that they consider to be angels, or claim to see religious statues crying, and really all manner of wild sounding things.  I can pretty freely say that I don't consider those things to be signs of the one, true God. They also don't create lasting change in the people who supposedly see these things. Memorable, yes.  Hype inducing, yes. Life changing, no.

We can let God use us to change lives and to turn people to Him. Do you know what a person who is dying of thirst wants the most? They want a cup of water. What about a person who is hungry? Or sick? Or needs clothing and shelter? Or maybe someone who simply needs their yard mowed? God cares about even that seemingly small thing.

We can give people food, water, clothing, shelter. We can lay our hands on them and pray for them to be healed. We can give someone a shoulder when they need to cry.  We can pray for someone who really needed prayer right that minute. Those are lasting miracles--when God guides us to the right person just in the nick of time and uses us to take care of a need. Those are the kind of miracles that make people thankful and grateful to a God who cares enough to take care of us.  The kind that make people think, 'Hmm....if God cares about me that much, I want to get to know him.' Those are the kind of miracles God did through Jesus.

I want God to use show me the need and help me to take care of it.  I want to be His hands and feet. I want to see Him change lives for forever!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Living under grace

It's another Monday! The first day of the work week after (hopefully) relaxing a little bit on the weekend. Or maybe working hard on all of those home improvement projects we couldn't do during the week. It's tempting to write Monday off and spend it recovering from Saturday and Sunday, instead of hitting the ground running. (As I write this, I am taking a break on the couch.)

I feel like we, as believers, sometimes treat our lives like a whole string of Mondays--except, instead of using the excuse that today is Monday, we use the excuse that we are "under grace". Any mistakes we make or anything we do that we know we probably shouldn't, we kind of pat ourselves on the back and say, "It's ok. We're under grace. God's got it covered." In doing that, we tend to cheapen grace. How, do you say? Well, think of it this way. Let's say you wanted a new computer, but you needed to save up the money first. So, you worked hard, maybe did some extra jobs, scrimped and saved--and finally you purchased that new computer. On the other hand, let's say you wanted a new computer and someone bought it for you as a gift. Which computer would you treat the best? Would you abuse the computer that was a gift--would you drop it and let your children pull all the keys off the keyboard and spill coffee all over it and say, "It's ok. It was a gift, so it doesn't matter" or would you treat it just as precious (or even more so) as the computer you worked hard to earn the money for.

Before Jesus came, we had to earn our salvation. We had to work hard and do every little thing just right. Then Jesus came and gave us this wonderful, free gift (if we accept it). So, the question is this--do we take his free gift and keep doing whatever we want and treat his sacrifice like it doesn't even matter, just because it was free? Or do we treat it with the respect and reverence it deserves? To do this, we have to live holy lives. We have to live purposefully. We can't just live mediocre, aimless lives and think that grace is going to cover it. We have to be intentional in every little thing that we do. We have to read His Word and know how He wants us to live.

So, after that pep talk to myself, I'm going to get back up and continue my Monday--serving Him and showing Him how thankful I am for His grace. Will I mess up? Probably. Inevitably. But I pledge to not use grace as an excuse for living my life the way I want to, instead of living it the way He wants me to. Who wants a life full of Mondays, anyway? ;)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Are you for real?

Being authentic. It's one of today's mantras for life. The world says that being authentic means being true to yourself. Being real. "I need to FIND myself." Being whomever YOU want to be. Saying whatever the heck pops into your head. Wearing whatever you want to wear. It's all about you.

To us, as believers, being authentic means being who God has called us to be, instead of who we want to be or who the world wants us to be. When we give our life to Jesus, our life is no longer our own. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, "You are not your own, for you were bought with a price." Now, some people might think that sounds really unattractive. 'We've been bought?! Like slaves?!' Yet before we were bought by God, we were slaves as well--to a much different master. Romans 6:16 says that we are slaves to whatever we obey, whether it be slaves to sin or slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." I would much rather be a slave to righteousness and take God's free gift.

If we're doing whatever we want to do with no consideration for what God wants, we're not being authentic. We might think we're being true to ourselves--being who we're "meant" to be--but we're not being who God meant us to be. It's kind of like if I started dressing up like Batman everyday. I could go around all day, saying, "This is who I really am! I feel so free because I'm being who I'm supposed to be. This is the real me." Everyone else realizes it's just a costume, just a cover up. It's not authentic at all. That's why there are all these people going around dressing alike, acting alike, talking alike. They think they're being authentic, but they are really just being like everyone else.

God hasn't called us to be like everyone else. He's called us to be different. As believers, we're still unique from each other. We all have different gifts, different personalities. He made us that way. What counts is that we use what He has given us for the kingdom of God. And THAT is being authentic--taking all the things He has given you and using them for His glory. Being exactly who He's created you to be. The way we dress, the way we talk to others, the things we say, the music we listen to, the things we watch, what we spend our money on, where we spend most of our all matters. And since your authentic self is found in Christ (Philippians 3:8-9), you won't find it unless you spend time with Him and get to know Him. Only when you find yourself in Him will you be real. Only then can we be authentic.