#YesToGod-Morning Prayer

Father God,

I thank You for this day. I thank You for each blessing You have given to me. You have shown me Your love and grace. You cover me. I know You provide all I need. You are all I need. Help me to cling to You. Help me to be aware… To be still and know… To be willing to do the things You need me to do. Help me to see with Your eyes and love with Your love. Be with me and speak to me…speak through me. It is my desire to do Your will…help me to make choices in line with what You want for my life. Guide my words and my actions…and my reactions. I need more of You…less of me. Empty me of all the stuff that gets in the way and fill me up with Your Spirit.

In Jesus’ precious name,

Amen 

Wholly Committed

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. Luke 23:46
 
When I reflected on the word committed, I imagined what it meant to be completely committed to Jesus. To be all in and never look back. I discovered how many times the word commit is mentioned in the Bible…usually in reference to a sin such as committing adultery or murder. But when I examined the full definition, I saw the word TRUST. When you trust someone to care for you, you commit yourself to their charge or care. Immediately, I felt my heart flutter as I began to see how Jesus can be that person in my life and ALL THE TIME. I really struggle everyday to allow God to have access to all of me. I don’t want to sacrifice what I want or my resources (time, energy, money, sleep).
I felt led to do some things that are out of the norm (for me). I did some things for people I know. I wrote a card of encouragement to one, I watched the young child of another so that she could go to worship, and I attended a church service that I didn’t want to go to so that I could show support to someone. I found that I was the one that was tremendously blessed in each situation. I feel that God led me to each of those situations because I had to make a choice. I chose to listen to Him. I am so glad that I did because I would have missed great things that He wanted to show me and teach me. 
As a teacher, the stress of starting back to work has hit me hard this week. The very first day, before I set foot in my classroom, I asked God to show me what He wanted me to do…right down to how I arranged the furniture. I had no preset ideas…it was very strange for me to not plot and plan. I had no expectations because I wanted God’s expectations to be alive all around me. The classroom looks amazing all to His credit and glory. It is a welcoming place where I can be His hands and feet.
I don’t want you to get the impression that this is easy for me. I had many slip ups on the way. I yelled at my kids. I snapped at my husband. Possibly even worse, I know I gossiped with colleagues. I feel very challenged to stop doing these things. It is not very Jesus-like for me to talk about people and say negative things behind their back. It is not reflecting His character when I scream and yell at the people I love. Why are these things so difficult to control? Oh, and need I say, my morning time with God…my precious quiet time…it hasn’t happened. I am playing catch up and I haven’t read the things I usually do in order to fill my heart so I am running on empty. Lysa TerKeurst wrote in “What Happens When Women Say Yes to God”, I am a woman on a journey of learning how to make sure my reactions don’t deny Christ’s presence in me. I am a woman who says yes to God not because my emotions and reactions are always perfect. No, I say yes to God because He is perfectly able to forgive me, love me, remind me, challenge me, and show me how to weather trials in ways that prove His Spirit resides in me. (p.70 Kindle edition) Her words speak to that exact place that I stand in…covered in grace…willing to go where He sends…imperfect reactions…challenged in reflecting who Christ is…showing that He is in me. I think to myself how different my life would be if Jesus had said “No, the cross will be too painful. No, I can’t shed my flesh and blood for her. No, I won’t give up my life. No. No. No.” I am reminded that He was challenged beyond anything I can ever face in this life. He bore the weight of the world…all those sins we committed were on that cross. He was betrayed, mocked, scorned, and He walked that road to save. He was willing to die…not His will but God’s will be done. At last, He committed His spirit into the hands of the Father. I never recognized how beautiful that verse really is. What an amazing model of how I should live…I should live exactly how He died! With each new day, that He gifts to me, may I die to myself and commit my spirit into His hands. May I breathe only for Him…to honor Him, to become closer to Him, to love like Him, to glimpse the greater things He has for me, to fulfill His plan and purpose in my life and those in my sphere of influence. May He find me wholly committed to saying yes no matter what.
 

 

 

Radical Obedience

Over the course of the year, I have had many “say what” moments with God. (I talked about them in my last post.) What struck me about the Bible study this week was the statement that radical obedience can be in the everyday mundane. The everyday mundane did not seem so radical to me but then I realized that anytime God steps into my life and I CHOOSE to recognize Him, it is an extreme experience. 

The question was posed: is there something that God might be leading you to give up either permanently or for a season?

Immediately, the words slander and gossip jumped into my mind. I also added gluttony. God challenged me this week with a few circumstances. I have been struggling with a family relationship. I was ready to give up and became very angry at this person. I heard a whisper, “blessed are the peacemakers”. I don’t consider myself a peacemaker. In fact, I seem to create more problems or blow my existing ones way out of proportion. I also tend to focus on the negative. I became very anxious while reading about the fruits of the spirit. I have always longed for people to see Jesus through me…my heart’s cry was to be a light so others would want Him and seek Him. But, I haven’t led too many people by example and I had to ask myself if I exhibit love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If I have the spirit in me, then these fruits should be evident (and way more often than their antonyms!). I wanted to just write FAILURE on my forehead but God showed me that it is never too late to change. Each of these fruits have been areas of my life where I needed to improve and before I react to a situation or a person in a situation, I can think through what my response would look like if it came through the filter of God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in me.

Recently, I felt that someone judged me and it tainted their view of who they believed I was. It led to a conversation about how we should not do things that would cause our faith to be questioned. The words “do not conform to the world” rattled around in my head. My perception may be very wrong, but what if the world has overtaken the church…the church (i.e. the body of believers) I am active in. I feel my church is unloving and I am apart of it. I see many things that do not seem to line up with what would please God. I have argued with myself about what my role is when it comes to this issue: Luke 6:42 says, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.'” I know I have fallen short so I do not feel that I can ever remove that speck when the plank seems to keep getting bigger. Here are my challenges of the week: 1. I received a phone call asking me to not bring my children to a musical ensemble practice (that I as well as other adult members of my family are involved in) because they are a “distraction”. Now, there is more to this story but I am trying to keep it short. My pride begs me to never go back and my nature of “keep everything bottled up and do not face the people from this church group by process of avoidance” is winning. My mind and heart are clouded with my hurt and I cannot yet see what God has planned in this. My choice seems to be down to two options: stay in musical group in an effort to worship and serve OR quit the group without resolving anything. I don’t like either idea. 2. I have a bad attitude toward the services that are going to be taking place this Sunday. It is difficult to describe the circumstances but I feel like I should not participate at all. I fear that in either choice (to participate or not), I will be stooping down to a level that is not of God. Both of these instances caused me to process my emotions in a means that is probably more like slander and gossip even if it is conversation with the people I call family. It still doesn’t make it right. What do I do to ease my pain? I eat extra portions of food leading to gluttony. I have made myself physically sick in the process which corresponds with my twisted emotions and that raw place I feel in my soul. So, the fact remains that within the last few days, I have received direct confirmation of the three things I need to give up.

This confession, leads me to the specific steps I need to take to fulfill this area of obedience in my life. The first thing I did was pray that my immediate response would be of wisdom and God. Next, I asked for prayer from several people I could trust. I prayed again for God’s guidance and a change of attitude. Then, I listened and looked for encouragement/confirmation of specifically how I should react. I kept coming across Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs.” Another translation says, “Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love makes up for all offenses.” I think back to being a peacemaker. My spirit becomes calm and I know that two wrongs definitely never make a right. I still do not have all the answers but God has pointed me in the right direction…one of love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I just need to keep my focus on the One who is all of these wonderful things.

Learning to Say Yes

My promises to God were empty. My prayers were a reflection of my guilt and shame. They were offering up my will, not listening to His. Over the course of two and a half years, God prepared me and changed me.

God said trust. I said, I would much rather have another word to focus on this year. That word insults me…who am I to trust? Gradually, through scriptures, God warmed my heart to the idea that trust does not come easily to me and so I embraced the word. It grew on me but it didn’t stop there. No, this was just the beginning. I said, God show me how to trust You better. What do I need to do?

God said, forgive others AND ask them to forgive you. One particular area of forgiveness was beyond difficult so I decided to be obedient with the easier ones first. I procrastinated about the “hard to forgive and forget” one. I tried to stuff it down and ignore it but through dreams and patterns of thought, God said, listen to me…trust. So I reached out to this man and God started the healing.

One year later, God said, you need to tell him you forgive him and tell him you accept his forgiveness. Arrange to talk to him. I said, I don’t want to deal with this issue. I feel like I drudge everything back up just when it is forgotten. God said, tell him with words from your lips. So, I typed that I had something to say and gave my phone number. He called me and we spoke forgiveness. God filled me with hope. 

God said, teach a high school girl’s Bible Study on “So Long Insecurity”. I said, you know I have struggled to read this book because of my insecurity. I teach little kids not big ones. What can I possibly offer these girls? The very thought of this study makes me more insecure…isn’t that ironic? God said, teach them. I did. It taught me more.

God said, you need to manage your time better. Why spend time on facebook when it discourages you? So, I became determined to surround myself with all things positive and Christian…my Facebook newsfeed was filled with postings of scripture. I “stumbled” across Melissa Taylor’s Online Bible Study Facebook page. Information about the next study was posted. They were going to read “Unglued”. I had heard the author (Lysa TerKeurst) speak on the radio and enjoyed her down to earth, very real message. God said, join them. I said, I don’t know if I will have time. Between being a wife, a mom, a teacher in a full-time position, and teaching Bible study, plus all the other ministries I am involved in…well, when am I going to read and do the assignments? I joined the group and have grown so much. This current OBS is the fifth one and I am so blessed to have the opportunity.

God said, start a ministry for young adults. I said, I am not able to do this. I cannot lead a group of young adults and can You define “young adult”…I think You know I am not in my twenties so to the “young adult”, I am old! God said, it is a group for after high school. I said, give me a name for the group and I will do it. God gave me a name and a scripture. He offered grace and pressed upon me that if I had been a part of a small group experience at that age then I may have not made the attention-seeking choices and mistakes that I did. I said, okay…I am willing.

God said be disciplined. Get up at 6am and spend time with me. I said, You know I am NOT a morning person. I would much rather do it at the end of my day. He said, I died for you and you can’t get up at 6? I said, well I could try but that thirty minutes of extra sleep is important to me…I am too tired. Through God’s intervention, my kids woke up at 5:55…enough to stir me and then they went back to bed. This went on for two mornings. By the third morning, I woke up wide awake at 5:55 on my own. I said, Okay…I get it. I am up. For one month, I met Him first thing in the morning and my obedience was rewarded by Him filling me up so that I was less exhausted and more focused on Him throughout the day.

God said, share your testimony. I said, I cannot share it because I need to protect the other person’s reputation. I would not wish to hurt him more. God said, you can write anonymously. I started this blog in the comfort of the Online Bible Study community. God said, write your testimony. An email appeared in my inbox asking for stories of how God used something Satan meant for evil and harm. My story seemed to fit the description of what the author was looking for. I felt led to write and the anxiety-filled reality is that my story could be published. I realize that even if it isn’t, God wanted me to write it. If it is published, I will never know how my testimony touched the lives of others. I may never know how this blog influenced others but I became open to using my writing for God. I write what He leads me to write. I trust He will use it as He sees fit. 

God said, go to the wedding and I will remind you of My promises which are full of truth. You will see the man who reminds you of your past but I will be with you. I said, I really do not want to go. Satan always fills me with how I am not good enough. I don’t want to feel that way when I am doing so well trying to be in You. I don’t want to sense my guilt and shame again. Plus, this meeting will prove whether or not I have truly forgiven him. I am not ready to see him in person. God said, Prepare with me now and learn My truth. I will be with You. I will remind You that You are mine. I went to the wedding after months of prayer and reading God’s Word. He was faithful…I am a new creation. I am a child of God. I can keep my mind on all things pure. God is good and never changes. He works all things for His glory…for my good. God also showed me the value of the man for he is a child of God too. We made a mistake and that mistake does not define us. God defines us. God defines me.

God said, send an anonymous note to the man. I said, I cannot do that. It is not my job to keep in touch with him. We have forgiven. Can’t this be over? You are the writer of my life so can’t you edit this part…can this man just not be apart of my life? Pick anyone else…not me. God said, send a note to him. I said, I will pray to see if this is really of You. How can I tell? I feel conflicted. I don’t want to do this! What does the note need to say? God said, wait with me. I waited. Several days later, God said, write Ephesians 4 and send it. I read the scripture over and over. I said, what will this mean to him? God said, send it. I did and felt immediate relief in my spirit.

God said, pay for your pastor’s lunch. I said, well I am really not a generous person. What lesson is in this choice? God said, he does so much for you and your family. He serves me and he is eating alone. Pay for his lunch. I didn’t argue too much longer. Surprised by my own response, I paid for the lunch and spent the exact amount I had with me…God provided and it left me with an amazing feeling all day. Little did I know this would prepare me for something bigger.

God said, send another note to the man…an invitation to the weekend to remember conference. I said, Lord…you know I cannot do that. I hurt this man’s marriage and there are obvious trust issues between him and his wife. If I do this, it could hurt their relationship even more. Plus, you do know that helping marriages is an emerging passion of mine and my husband. If we volunteer at this conference, surely they will see me and they will know it was me who sent the invitation. How can I be anonymous? God said, send it and trust me. I wrestled with this for a week and emailed the conference leader to ask how should I go about inviting someone without offending them. People often get offended because they think the conference is for hurting marriages but it is for all marriages. She suggested just sending a flier. I resolved to send the flier begging God to change His mind and if it must be done to use someone else. God said, the conference is covered, pay for the man and his wife to stay at the conference. Pay for their date night. I said, You do know that You are suggesting giving them over 200 dollars. I have other people I would rather send to that conference and financially we can’t do it for them. For two weeks, my past haunted me. I cried out to God to show me that this was from Him. I talked with my pastor. I talked with my husband. I expressed all of my concerns. It became not about the money but just that it shouldn’t be my place. I wrestled and struggled and finally, through two blog posts and lots of prayer, I printed the flier explaining the conference. I sent 250 dollars in an envelope marked “funds to cover your hotel stay” and dropped it in the mail. I felt such an amazing feeling inside. I cannot even describe the peace and calm. It was unlike anything I have ever felt. That was about a month ago and God has blessed me with summer jobs and our finances didn’t take a hit. 

God is an amazing God. I crave that interaction with Him now. I would like to get to the point of my faith being superior over my humanness… to accept the task when He gives it to me instead of always questioning Him. He pushes me beyond my comfort zone and I trust that whatever it is, He will use it to better His kingdom. Even if I make a mistake with the assignment (I am always concerned that I tweak it to make it easier for me), He will use it. He will push further. I crave the next lesson and at the same time, I want to be content in praising Him right now. I sometimes fear what will come next because it has been difficult. But, it is so exciting. I am growing in Him. I will rely on Him. Whatever He brings me to, I will do. I will say yes.  

#yestoGod

No Greater Love

Listening to Christian Music Radio this morning, I heard the hosts discussing Jesus… what it means to accept Him as Lord and Savior. One voice exclaimed, “He loves us…He loved us first and is pursuing us and there is no greater love than this.” The words “No greater love” floated around in my head and pierced my heart and soul. My mind drifted back to images…portrayals of the real Jesus…questioning what it must have been like for Him and those around Him. A video of Mary hearing Jesus cry as he fell onto a hard dusty street. He looked to be about three or four and as she scooped Him up into her arms, suddenly it flashed to the carrying of the cross and her eyes met His. A clip of a woman who was wiping up the sacred bloody ground where her Savior had just walked and then a view of a memory of Jesus as He drew in the dirt and caused her accusers to drop their stones and walk away.

Watching such things, how could tears stay in their place? I felt them trickling down my cheeks.

It made me remember how just a few weeks ago, two hundred precious children filled a sanctuary for Vacation Bible School. It was hot and crowded yet no one uttered a sound as a man, dressed like Jesus, carried a cross down the center aisle. The same aisle that I walked as a bride and to dedicate my babies. My focus shifted to that of the face of my daughter and children near her. Mouths agape and eyes filled with confusion…awe. My husband was chosen as an actor in this scene. He was near the throne, at the altar. As the leader spoke about how sin separated us from God, my husband moved further and further away from the throne. Jesus continued to struggle with the cross. He took it past the sinner and up to the throne. He placed it there and turned to face the sinner. There was no condemnation. There was only grace and mercy. God’s plan. God’s gift of love walked back to the sinner. He put His arm around him and took Him back to the throne. Soon the altar was filled with crew leaders representing each of us as sinners and Jesus embraced them as well. Jesus made a way for our relationship with God to exist. Again, tears welled in my eyes. As I saw this scene unfold, suddenly I felt so loved and cherished. He died for me and He is very much alive, helping me to live. He is greater. There is no greater love than this.