Life is all about change. When you trust an unchanging God - you have the ability to embrace change and trust Him in the midst of it. Join me as the Lord leads me through a new phase of my journey.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Rain

It seems that in our country right now - there is either flooding or drought.  We have driven through both in the past week and it is truly amazing.  When we arrived in Durango, we found that it had not rained in 2 months.  The people here were desperate for some rain.  There are wildfires in New Mexico - not too far away.  Rain is needed desperately to put out those fires.  Fireworks are banned for the 4th and there is a "no burn" edict.

Considering how long it has been since it rained, it is amazing how green things are here in Colorado.  The hills look green and the trees are beautiful.  You know why?  They have deep root systems.  The winter snows soak the ground at a deep level.  The root systems of the trees soak it up and store the moisture.  They draw on those reserves when needed and they grow.

Seems like my Thankful Thursday is turning into a Thursdays Thoughts . . .  but hang in there with me.   In our spiritual life, we all go through seasons of drought.  If you haven't, you will.  It is inevitable.  In times of spiritual drought, we feel a lot like the Texas summer landscape.  Dry, brittle and not so lovely!  God may seem far away and even the most beautiful worship song or powerful scripture seems to just bounce off of us.  We are not experiencing those spiritual highs and mountain top moments.  What do you do when you are experiencing drought in your spiritual life?

*Know that you are not alone - this happens to everyone and it is not permanent
*Continue to practice sprititual disciplines - Read the Word, Pray, go to Worship, Fellowship with believers 
*Be real - be authentic - share your struggles with someone - more than likely they will know exactly what you are feeling
*Know that God is as near to you as He was in your highest spiritual moment - He is unchanging
*Know that a critical part of deepening your faith is learning to walk in faith even when the "feelings" are not there
*Know that just like those trees, times of spiritual drought take your roots deep into the ground 
*Drought will not last forever - and when the rain comes, it will be sweet indeed

Our faith is based on facts, not on feelings.  How God feels about you and His promises to you are not based on emotions - they are based on His character and the sacrifice of Jesus.  Know that if the Lord is entrusting you with a dry spell, you are very special to Him.  He knows that you can be entrusted with a tough, dry season that will sink your spiritual roots deep into His love, His strength and His faithfulness.  He knows that when the rain comes, you will be ready to take off and serve Him with a new appreciation, a new energy and a new purpose.  

It started raining here in Durango this morning.  The first significant rain in two months.  It smelled wonderful and looked beautiful.  We are grateful.  After a time of drought in your spiritual life, you too will experience a shower - even a rainstorm of God's presence.  He is Good.  He is Faithful.  He Provides.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday Thoughts: Church

My Monday was great - I went on a hike and after that, I was useless!  I couldn't put a string of thoughts together so I decided to wait until this morning to write.  I had several ideas rolling around in my head, but I settled on this one.


That word brings up many different thoughts depending on who you are and where you are in your life.  I know - I've been there!!  Here are some possibilities.

*Church - stiff, strict, stuffy, boring, hypocritical, exclusive, too long, outdated, not for me, I'm not good enough, you have to dress up, everyone will be staring at me, the preacher yells, I just don't fit in . . .

I believe that those phrases are often spoken.  Sometimes there are negative experiences from the past or maybe even your parent's negative experiences.  Sometimes it is just an impression that you have from someone you know, a commercial you saw or simply your own thinking.  Church just seems like it is for someone else - not you.  You know that you are not one of those "good" people.  Perhaps you have been hurt or disappointed by "the church" itself or by someone in a church.  Maybe you are just afraid - afraid you won't like it or afraid that you will.  Maybe you are afraid that something will have to change if you buy into this.

Well - as someone who grew up in church from the baby nursery on - I can tell you that I have had several of those thoughts over the years.  It has been a growing process.  The Lord has done a lot of work in my life over the years and He has used things outside of the church (Young Life, Bible Study Fellowship) to make significant changes in my life.  He has also used the church in a big way.

I have had the privilege of being a part of a lot of different churches over the years as I have grown up and moved around.  As an adult, I've been in some great churches that have challenged me and encouraged me.  Some of these churches went through some very hard times too.  I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly.  After all, churches are made up of people and people make a lot of mistakes.

First Baptist Arlington - this was the first church that Alan and I really belonged to when we got married.  Our young married department was so central to us building a marriage based on our faith and developing friendships with other couples.  We had teachers over the years that truly poured themselves into us and invested in our growth.  We lived in Arlington three different times, so this church as been key to our walk with the Lord.

Westchester Baptist Church: when we moved to Ossining NY as a young couple (our girls were 3 and 5) we found a little Baptist church to be a part of.  It has about 50 people.  We learned so much while we were there - about ourselves and about our God.  We learned to "do" church.  Everyone had to be a part to make it work.  No sitting on a back pew being anonymous!  We grew up a lot from this experience.

Karl Road Baptist Church:  we moved to Columbus, Ohio and found Karl Road.  We were there 6 years and what an important 6 years it was!  We spent most of our time working with the youth.  I had the privilege of being the youth director for 3 years.  Our time there with students was priceless and we made life long friendships.  Between church and Bible Study Fellowship - I was pushed beyond what I thought I could do and be - and as a result I grew tremendously.  I will always be grateful for that experience!

The River Church:  when we are in Colorado, we attend The River Church.  We love this church.  It is a Four Square Gospel church and it is full of life and energy.  The pastor, Dwight Saunders, is an amazing man of God who is so authentic and so real that we are just drawn to him.  He is a great speaker because he speaks from the heart.  He shares all of his life - the victories and the struggles.  He challenges us to love Jesus more deeply and to seek after the Lord with all our hearts.  We never leave a service without being changed by the message he brings.

Destination Church:  this is our current church in Chicago.  It is a church plant (or start up if that makes it clearer) by New Frontiers.  We have been a part of it since August and we have been immeasurably blessed.  There were about 35 when we went in August and we average about 55 now and have had up to 80.  It is fun to be in on the ground floor of a church and see it grow and develop.  The people are amazing and Matt Sweetman, our pastor, is fantastic.  He is a young man with incredible depth and maturity.  He is humble and very real as he shares his walk with the Lord.  We have the opportunity to grow and to serve and we love it!!

So - here are a few questions:
*Are you currently involved in a church?  
God created us to be in relationship with others and to be part of a community of believers.  Solo Christianity is too hard.  We need each other.  If you are not a part of a church, I encourage you to check one out.  You need to go beyond just attending a service and be a part of some kind of small group - get connected!

*Is church all about meeting your needs? or is it about serving  the Lord and others?

*Are you hesitant to attend a church because you are not "good" enough?
Well - join the crowd.  None of us are good enough to come before God - but fortunately, He does not require that.  He only asks that we come as we are and in faith and trust Him to make us the people He desires us to be. 

*Have you been burned, hurt or disillusioned by the church or someone in the church?
First - I will just say that I am so sorry.  I wish that nothing like that ever happened but we are sinful people and we make mistakes.  On the other hand, God is holy and He is always GOOD, always GRACIOUS and always JUST.  If we only look to people to see what God is like, we are bound to be disappointed.  We must look to God Himself, learn of His character and then we will see glimpses of Him in people that are doing their best to follow Him.

*How do I find a church?
These days, it is so much easier to check out a church before you ever attend.  Just about every church has a website that states their beliefs, their programs and what you can expect when you check it out.  I believe that you will be pleasantly surprised at how welcoming and kind the people of God are.

Churches are not perfect - not at all, actually.  To me, that is quite a relief because I am far from perfect myself.  I need to join together with others who are struggling with life and yet are all striving to be more like Jesus.  I don't know what I would have done without my churches over the years.  They have been there for me when I got married, had my babies, lost loved ones and went through a lot of changes.  There is a heart connection with all of those people, even if I don't live there anymore.  

You can choose to stand back and be critical of the church - or you can choose to jump in there and make it a better place.  A church is not a building - it is a group of people that loves Jesus.  

You are the church.  
What will your part be in this great story?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Mountains!

After two long days of driving - we have left the city behind and headed to the mountains of Colorado.  I had never driven through Iowa and Nebraska - so that was a new experience.  It is always fun to see other parts of the country.  I saw A LOT of farmland.  There were many beautiful farms that are green from spring rains.

I am a bit of a country girl at heart.  I spent a lot of time on my grandparents' farm as I was growing up.  There were acres of farmland, herds of cattle, sheep and goats, horses, chickens and an assortment of other animals that came and went.  There is just something very peaceful about being on a farm.  That love is still there.

After driving through all the farmland, we began to see the mountains!  YAY!!  I have a huge love affair with the mountains.  I can feel my heart leap and my soul sigh when I arrive at our place in the Vallecito Valley near Durango.  I get to look out my window at the mountains and listen to the water running in the creek behind my house.  There is still some snow on the mountain tops.  The sun is shining - the sky is big and blue - the temperatures are perfect.  I think I can do this for awhile.

I am thankful that the Lord allows me to spend time in the busy, big city and He allows me time to spend time in the peace and quiet of the mountains.  I love both places - my heart and life is invested in both places.  My purpose doesn't change - only my scenery.  The Lord is very present in both.  Don't you love that?  

Flourish where you are today.  Embrace what the 
Lord has for you and be thankful!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tuesday Thoughts: Is there an app for that?

Is there an app for that?  A very common phrase these days.  It usually refers to the latest app on an iphone to do something fun or fantastic!  I hear this all the time and when I heard it the other day, is just struck me how it was really a spiritual concept that we have to catch!

We are privy to so much information these days, particularly in the spiritual realm.  We go to church and listen to sermons, do Bible studies, listen to podcasts and read lots of books.  We take in a lot of good information.

My question for you is ~ Do you have an app for that? 

If we simply take in good information, we really haven't achieved much.  What we need to do is apply what we have heard, been taught and read.  We have to take those truths that we wrote down and even got excited about and flesh them out in our life.  The scriptures must come alive as we interact with others.
We are the modern day Bible story.

What is the Lord asking you to apply?

Are you fat with spirtual knowledge but 
lean on living it out?

Do you have the app for that?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Interruptions

Today I am thankful for interruptions - what???!!!??? 

Most of us wake up each morning with a plan for the day.  Some plans are very detailed and much needs to be accomplished.  Maybe you even have a date book where all the lines are filled in and you can check off each task.
There is nothing wrong with that!  In fact, some degree of planning is necessary or life would be completely chaotic.   I at least wake up with a general idea of what the day will look like.  But . . . 
Often, the best days are the days where nothing that I planned actually comes together.  There is that unexpected phone call, a cancellation of an appointment, a lunch date or a divine appointment that the Lord has made that suddenly comes up - running into a friend somewhere or meeting someone new.
Yesterday, some planned things happened and they were good.  I ended up with an unplanned dentist appointment to get my teeth cleaned.  They had an opening and called me to see if I could come in.  I had a great conversation with the hygienist.  She remarkably remembered a lot of what we talked about last time - one of them being my church.  She asked me about it again and we had a great conversation.  I'm inviting her to a new series we are doing.  I got to go to dinner with my friend Ali and on the way home, I got a call from a friend who was sick - had gotten off the train at my stop and needed help.  We went by and got her - brought her home and had an unexpected girls night watching Tangled and letting her rest.  She spent the night and felt much better this morning.

Part of being a follower of Jesus means being open to interruptions.  In fact, a lot of ministry comes from interruptions to our plans and orderly days.  Flexibility is a must!  What?  For some of us, flexibility is natural and we can go with the flow pretty easily.  For others, just the thought of that gives you a knot in your stomach!  
I have to say, that at the end of they day, even if my list isn't all checked off - if I have had the opportunity to help someone, love on someone or have an unexpected conversation, that is more than enough for me.  I want to be able to follow the Lord's leading on any given day.
You won't catch these opportunities if you are not sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading each day.  When you hear those whispers - stop - and listen carefully.  Don't dismiss something because it seems inconvenient.  These moments may be the best moments of the day.

Today I am thankful for interruptions - for divine appointments and the difference they make in my days.  I love the way God works.  Will you be open to an interruption today?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday Musings - Identity

Have I mentioned how very much I love my church here in Chicago?  I love it a lot and just loved being there yesterday.  Matt made a statement yesterday that really stuck with me.  

Identity determines behavior.

Interesting, isn't it?  When I think about this, I know without any doubt that my identity is in Christ.  That being said, my behavior should reflect that.  My decisions should be guided by that.  My speech should suggest that.  

Am I loving, kind, caring, genuine and thoughtful?
Am I looking for opportunities to serve others?
Am I selfless or selfish?
Am I mindful of my friends and neighbors - looking for opportunities to love on them, encourage them and honor them or am I caught up in my own stuff?
Do I go to the Lord with my decisions and ask Him what He thinks or do I make my decisions and then ask Him to bless them?
Do the decisions I make reflect my beliefs and my values?
Are my words encouraging, truthful and kind?
Do I speak about my faith and my walk with the Lord in everyday conversations?

Well - the truth is - I sometimes choose obedience and I sometimes fall flat on my face.  I wish I would be 100% consistent in my behavior and I am certainly striving to get there.  Every day is another opportunity to grow, to learn and to live it out.  There is forgiveness, mercy and grace when I fail - but I do know who I am.  I am a child of God - a follower of Jesus.

What is your identity?  Is it in your Lord - or is it in your work, your family, your possessions, your physical appearance or your own accomplishments?  How does your identity determine your behavior?  How do your behaviors reflect your identity? 

If your identity is based on anything other than who you are in Christ, you will never really know who you are.  All these other things in our life shift and change - only Christ remains the same.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  
2nd Corinthians 5:17

Because of Jesus, we all have the power of the Holy Spirit to live out our identity.  We can not do it on our own.  It is beyond ourselves. You may want to ask yourself the same questions that I asked myself - or you may have your own set of questions.  Let me encourage you to go through that process.  We need to ask ourselves some good, hard questions from time to time.

Be encouraged - be challenged.  If Christ is your Savior, you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you.  Your identity is secure.  As you allow Christ to live in you and through you - you will reflect that identity in every aspect of your life. 

Trust the Jesus in you. 


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thankful Thursday - One child at a time

I have had a busy day with a lot on my plate, but the best part of the afternoon was going up to Hamilton to paint.  I'm working on Sherlock Holmes right now.  As I was painting this afternoon, I had the privilege of overhearing some of the 8th grade students being interviewed for a project that one of the teacher's is working on.  I heard 5 different interviews.  Here is what I learned:

*These students have a very different experience than what I am familiar with.  Most of them spend 1 - 2 hours getting to school using trains, buses and walking.  Most of them get up at 5:00 in the morning to get ready and get to school by 8:30.  

*School is their place of encouragement - not home or their neighborhood.  In fact, most of them spoke of their neighborhood as a dangerous and violent place.  They are so thankful that they can get to Hamilton (this is not a fancy part of Chicago) because they feel safe.

*They spoke of their education as being important and good.  They all mentioned how much their school has improved since they got their new principal - James Gray - two years ago.  One boy said that since Mr. Gray came, everything about the school is better, including the teachers.  

*They were asked how they saw their future - Without exception, they all saw their futures as bright.  They all aspire to go to college.  They are all excited about High School.  Isn't that amazing and inspiring?

*They were all thankful for the opportunity to go to school and for the teachers that have made a difference in their lives.  

I just wanted to cry listening to them.  I'm already asking God what He wants me to do to help.  How can I make a difference for these students?  

It is such an uphill battle for them.  I didn't have to overcome these kinds of things - my children didn't have to overcome these kinds of things.  We were not surrounded by violence or scared of gang activity.  We had a short drive to school - not a long string of public transportation that took an hour or more.  It was humbling and awe inspiring to listen in.

These students make me want to be better - to do better and to make a difference.  For that, I am very thankful!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday Musings - About that attitude . . .

Well, I was really thinking about what to write and the Lord just kept bringing this to mind.  I'm going to admit that it wasn't really what I wanted to own up to - but I want to be obedient to what I'm learning in hopes that the Lord will use it to encourage someone else.

I have had a really bad attitude about a situation I've been dealing with for quite some time.  Outwardly - I was handling it pretty good but inwardly - I was NOT.  I wanted to be okay with that.  I mean, at least I appeared to be handling it well :-)  But . . . 

"Watch over your heart with all diligence, 
for from it flow the springs of life."  
Proverbs 4:23

"All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, 
but the Lord weighs the motives."  
Proverbs 16:2

" . . . for God sees not as a man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."  
1st Samuel 16:7

Bottom line - just because I am going through the motions doesn't mean that I am being obedient to the Lord.  My heart needs to be in the right place.  This is not easy - even knowing in my head how very much the Lord has forgiven me and doesn't count my sin against me - I still find this hard.  I know that's ugly - but it is the truth.  I think that I was pretty attached to my bad attitude about this particular thing.  I even kind of liked it.  I didn't really want to let it go.  I honestly didn't want it to get better.  I felt justified in holding on to it.

I had been struggling with this for a good long time, but last Thursday, the Lord just said to me loud and clear - 

Chrisann - that attitude is sin and you need to admit it, confess it and let me help you overcome it. 

I kind of looked around the room wondering if anyone else heard it too!  It was that clear!

So, I am taking it one step at a time.  Imagine a mile long strip of some really great gripping velcro that is securely attached being pulled about 1 inch at at time. You know that sound - ssssssscccccccrrrrrriiiiiipppppp or something like that.  My sinful attitude is being ripped out a small stretch at a time.  I had babied it so long that the tugging and pulling is difficult.  I've lived long enough to know that it will be worth it.  

I want to be like Jesus - I really do.  I want to reflect Him accurately.  I want to shine with His light.  I want to love others like He does.  It is going to take some velcro ripping action and a whole lot more.  It is a process and I am willing to allow God to work on this until my last breath.  I can be stubborn about it, but I really do want it.  It is painful sometimes.  It is always humbling.  Let's face it - the reshaping of a heart is not easy.

You want to join me?  
Is there an attitude in your heart and life that 
is not glorifying to God? 

Maybe no one else even knows about it.  Maybe like me, it is your little secret!  

Are you willing to allow the Holy Spirit to transform that bad attitude into one that is like Jesus?

I encourage you to do so.  You will not be sorry.  Here's to all of our hearts looking more like Jesus.  If you want prayer in this area - just leave me a comment and I promise to pray for you.  You don't need to tell me any details - just that you need prayer about an attitude that you are harboring that is not Christ-like.  Will you pray for me?  I would really appreciate it.  I long for the "me" to disappear more and more and the "Jesus in me" to be more and more evident.  It all starts with the attitude of our heart.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Extra Rooms

When we were looking for housing in Chicago, I really wanted to have three bedrooms.  There were a lot more choices if you just had two bedrooms, but I just really wanted to have three.  Why - you ask?  A couple of reasons - I still wanted both of my daughters to feel like they had a room at home and I wanted to have room for people to come visit us.  I'm so glad we went ahead and got the extra room.

This month, our precious friend and neighbor, Alison, is staying with us.  Her husband took a job in Minneapolis and he is already there.  Alison needs to finish out this month at her job but had to move out of their place.  So - we get her for the month of June!  I'm so glad we have that room to offer her - to be her home even for a short while.  So how about that other room?  One weekend - our sweet friend April will be here - another weekend a couple friend of ours - Casey and Derrek will be here.  I love that we have room and can open up our home to so many people.  This will happen again and again in the months to come.  I love that.

I always want my home to be a place of ministry.  I also want to have a room that is available for anyone who needs it.  So today - I'm thankful for my guest rooms and the people who fill them. 

Where do you need to make room?  In your life - in your heart?  Are you welcoming?  Does the Lord have full run of your house?  Allow Him to fill it with love, laughter and people of His choosing.  You will not regret it.