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.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Monday Musings ~ YFC Retreat

I am just getting to the blog after a busy last few days.  I wanted to share with you about the privilege I had to cook for a Youth For Christ Women's Retreat.  13 women from around the country came to the Chicago area for a long weekend of encouragement, reflection and refreshment.

I headed out to a northern suburb, Northbrook, on Thursday and met up with Molly and Nina.  I had my car loaded down with groceries, a menu and a lot of excitement. 

The women began to arrive that afternoon.  They traveled in from several different states.  There were women of every age and years of experience.  They all have a unique story.  They were weary, but joyful.  Some came with heavy hearts.  There was a lot of laughter, some tears and sharing from the heart. 

I spent my time in the kitchen, but I was able to hear from most of the women in one on one conversations.  I got to hear their hearts for ministry, their love for the Lord, their families and their passion for students to come to know Jesus.

I also got to help take care of a 7 week old baby, Joel.  Now that made me VERY happy.

I think we all have the tendency to think that God is only at work where we are and that He only works in certain ways.   He is in the business of reminding us that is simply not true!  It is so great to be reminded that the family of God is big and that He is all about changing lives all over this world.  He is so pleased when we join together with others who have the same heart for Him.  He is bigger than we can imagine and it is our privilege to see His work all around us.

I am so grateful for these women who are pursuing the Lord and His work with such energy, sacrifice, passion and zeal.  They are encouraging one another in their personal struggles and in their ministry challenges.  They are a picture of the body of Christ at work.

They blessed me so much.  I loved cooking for them and taking care of them so they could take a break and rest.  Just being around them encouraged my heart and inspired me to continue to obey the Lord in all that He purposes for me.

What a privilege to serve along side such amazing women.

Where is the Lord calling you to invest in others?

How can you come along side others as an encourager and servant?

Who inspires you?

Let's pursue the Lord together and see Him change the world around us.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Monday Musings ~ BIG love

In the midst of all the crazy happenings in the world last week, my reading took me to Psalm 36:5-6.  I was reading in The Message - so the wording really struck me.  Sometimes, reading something familiar in another translation can really shake things up!

"God's love is meteoric, His loyalty astronomic, His purpose titanic, His verdicts oceanic.  Yet in His largeness, nothing gets lost; Not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks." 

The chaos of last week is still fresh.  The complete craziness of it all surrounds us and there is simply no sense to be made of it.  Events like this shake us to the core - causing many to question God's goodness.

I don't pretend to understand why such things happen, but I do know that God is still God.  He remains on the throne and He remains in control.  He grieves at the horrific manifestations of sin in our world.  And . . .

His love is meteoric

             His loyalty is astronomic

      His purpose is titanic

                      His verdicts are oceanic

He is bigger than I can possibly wrap my mind around . . . and yet nothing escapes His notice.

He was in Boston.  He was in West, TX.  He was in hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, schools and businesses. He was in homes, apartments, condos and mansions.  He was on the streets and in the lowest of places.  He was in the many lives that were spared on those very same days.  He is with those who are injured and recovering.  He is with those that lost a loved one. 

He grieves over the darkness of the hearts that committed such crimes. (Oh how He would love to enter in and transform those hearts!) 

He is the presence of comfort and peace that surrounds so many.

He will be the strength that sustains along with the hope and 
determination that propels us to move forward.

I don't always understand, but I do TRUST.

It is not a "pie in the sky" kind of trust or sheer naivety. 

It is a HUGE trust in an even BIGGER God.

It is resting in the One who loves me and gave His life up for me.

"Peace I leave with you (My love is meteoric), My peace I give to you (My loyalty is astronomic), not as the world gives do I give to you. (My purpose is titanic) Do not let your heart be troubled (My verdicts are oceanic) nor let it be fearful (Yet in His largeness, nothing gets lost.) John 14:27 + Psalm 36: 5-6

I can rest in that.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thankful Thursday ~ In the midst

What a rough week all around.  There is such a heaviness in the 
midst of so much tragedy.  There are hard things going on 
in my extended family, in my home state and in our nation and in our world.  

It is HEAVY. 

 It is HARD to understand.


there are a lot of good things going on at the same time.

There are helpers in the midst of hurters

There are those running toward explosions 
rather than away from them.

There are friends serving in Uganda this week loving on orphans
and feeding street children.

There is news of a forever family found for a sweet orphan, Corrie, 
who has been waiting for several years.

There are men and women choosing to enter into the pain and
suffering of others to offer comfort and hope.

There are new babies being born.

There are people receiving good news.

There are weddings happening and graduations to prepare for.

There are churches pointing others to HOPE.

There is Jesus.

In the midst of life's inexplicable hardships

there is Jesus.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus and His Righteousness.

I am thankful for that HOPE.

I am thankful for JESUS.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday Musings ~ 3 transforming truths

I have mentioned the study that I am doing, Discovery:  God's Answers to our Deepest Questions by Will Wyatt, several times.  One of favorite chapters in the study is the one we did last week.  It is on difficult circumstances.  When I think back on all the things I learned that summer after my sophomore year in college - this one stands out as a truly transforming truth.  It has impacted me every day since that time and as I read through these truths again, I realized how critical this has been in shaping my life.

Life circumstances can be very challenging.  If we are ruled by them, we buy a ticket to jump on a very LONG roller coaster ride.

I think it would look something like this.
I think we would often feel like this!

We would also experience some of this with others in our lives.

And sometimes, we would just revel in the sheer joy of it.

Being on a roller coaster can be fun, but realistically, no one wants to live on one.  How do we find a steadying influence on our lives so that we can choose to get off of this roller coaster?

My answer would be in these three facts that can revolutionize your life forever.  Ready . . .

God loves you.

God is Good.

God is in control.

Really? That seems rather simplistic!  Actually, it is very profound.  Will writes, "God is good to us and does give us things that bring us joy, comfort, and pleasure.  But He has a far greater gift for us than just giving us what we want all the time.  His gift is to transform us, to change us on the inside.  He will not give us aspirin for a brain tumor or a heart condition.  He wants to do major spiritual surgery.  He wants to deal with the attitudes deep within us -- the essence of who we are and why we act the way we do, because this has eternal significance."

Why is it so hard to trust God in every circumstance?

We tend to focus on the circumstance itself in stead of focusing on the Master of every circumstance.  We tend to say, "Why me?" instead of "What can I learn here?" or "How does the Lord want to use this to refine me?"  or "Why not me?"

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

As I have rested in the three truths listed above, I have found the words of this scripture to ring true in my life.  As I let go of worry and allow the Lord to shape those worries into prayers that are presented with a thankful heart, I experience God's peace in a profound way.  He truly does guard my heart and my mind.  His peace becomes the fabric of my life, independent of my circumstances.

There have been and will continue to be a lot about my life that I do not understand.  God promises to give me peace - but I do not always have understanding of my circumstances or the circumstances of those I love.  But -- He does promise me peace and the ability to keep trusting Him with each and every struggle.  Jesus, who is my peace, lives within me.  As I abide in Him - I am abiding in the presence of Peace Himself.

The ability to totally trust God in every circumstance does not develop overnight.  It has been a process in my life and it is still in process.  The more I trust the Lord and believe that He loves me, that He is good and that He is in control, the more I can trust Him with the next thing.  He has proven to me over and over again that He is indeed trustworthy. His love for me never fails.  I have come to rest in and even revel in His control over my life.  I can do that, because I am convinced of His goodness.

Do you see how these three things are so life changing?

What heavy load are you carrying?  What circumstances, emotions or attitudes in your life are holding you back?

Our problems are His opportunities.  Sounds cliche - doesn't it?  Nevertheless - it is true.

"In our problems, God has the opportunity to show us how much He loves us and wants to serve us, that He is in control of circumstances and that He can change our habits, emotions, and attitudes.  Give God your heavy loads now, so you can fully experience the love and peace He wants to shower upon you!"

If I could give you a gift - it would be these three truths for you to open, take in and rest in.  Other than our salvation - these three truths have the greatest power to transform your life and to give you JOY in every circumstance.  

Go ahead - the gift is yours for the taking.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thankful Thursday ~ Passion

Passion has become a bit of a buzzword.  Find your passion . . . fulfill your passion . . . be passionate about what you do . . . have passion . . . I hear it a lot.  So what does it mean?

I was reading a devotional by Matt Redmond and in it was a great definition of passion:

“Passion is the degree of difficulty we’re willing to go to achieve the goal.”

Hmmm . . . that doesn't sound like a fleeting emotion.  It sounds much more like a serious committment!

 Take a look at Hebrews 12:1-3

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
I am grateful that the Lord created us in His image so that we, too, can be passionate people, like our Lord.  His passion for us took Him right to the cross.  I don't know about you, but I just get weary sometimes.  There are hard things going on around me and I can get discouraged and even lose hope in some situations. This passage reminds me that Jesus died so that I don't have to give in to discouragement or hopelessness.
Matt Redmond goes on to say:  "A freedom song is never far from the lips of a worshipper of Jesus. We are the forgiven- those set free from the chains of well-deserved sin and shame. And we are the living- those raised up to life again in the power of Christ. These are not just empty religious mantras we sing. They are living, breathing truths that shape every moment of our lives. And because of that, our cries of freedom will never grow old, or become stale. 

Most passions in this world come and go. We’ll get excited about the latest trend or some new idea, and that’s great. But in all likelihood that enthusiasm will fade over time, be extinguished by some obstacle or another- or be replaced by another passion altogether. This should not be so when it comes to our salvation. The song of the saved must outlive and outburn all other passions. For we were dead, and now we’re alive. We were condemned by our shame, and now we live eternally, forgiven and free. The heart that knows these things can make it through even the darkest night with that fire still burning brightly on the inside.

Passion is way more than an emotion or a feeling, though it may involve these things. It is far more than bubble, sparkle, or excitement. Passion is a gritty kind of love, a tough and optimistic enthusiasm that overcomes negativity and inconvenience to make it through to the end. Of course, the best ever example of this is the passion of Jesus Christ at the cross. Devoted to His Father’s will and spurred on by love for the world, Jesus took the agony of Calvary upon Himself.

Hebrews 12:2 puts it so powerfully:

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning it’s shame…”

This is true passion. Let our lives and songs be marked by more than just a temporary effervescence or excitement. Let us burn with a holy, enduring passion that day after day brings glory to the One who set us free."  Thank you, Matt!

Today - I am thankful that I have a passionate Lord who loves me with a sacrificial love and gives me the ability to live for Him with true passion.  I am grateful that when I am weak - He is strong.  I am grateful that when I am discouraged - He is hope.  I am grateful that when things don't make sense - He has a plan.   I am grateful that when things get hard - He is my perseverance and strength.

Maybe your feel like your passion is a small flame.

Maybe your passion is burning full force .

Be willing to give the Lord what you have and allow Him to fan the flame.

I am grateful that my life burns with a passion for Jesus and I pray that my passion for Him will be ever increasing as I press on through the difficulties of life to know Him more.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Monday Musings ~ It's not about me

I have been reading about Paul and I discovered that he was one of the first to say, "It's not about me."  Jesus was the ultimate example of that - but this passage in Acts really jumped out to me when I read it.

When we heard that, we and everyone there that day begged Paul not to be stubborn and persist in going to Jerusalem.  But Paul wouldn't budge.  "Why all this hysteria?  Why do you insist on making a scene and making it even harder for me?  You're looking at this backward.  The issue in Jerusalem is not what they do to me, whether arrest or murder, but what the master Jesus does through my obedience.  Can't you see that?"  Acts 21:12-13

There you go - Paul's "It's not about me" statement.  I love his perspective and attitude here.  His chief concern was obedience - not safety.  His chief concern was the life of Jesus and His purposes - not his life and his agenda. He would later say, "To live is Christ, to die is gain."  He had the proper perspective all along.  His eye was always on the "upward call of Christ Jesus." 

I know his friends were well meaning.  They knew that hardship and possible death awaited Paul.  Who wouldn't want him to stay away from such danger? 

So - this brought a question to my mind . . .

Does my concern actually discourage someones obedience?

WOW - that truly made me pause and consider my responses to others.  I think it is hardest with my own children and then with my spiritual children.  I don't doubt that their safety and even their comfort can blind me to their call.  I don't mind hardship for myself, but I really don't like to see it for those I love.  I do believe that I need to rethink that!

Each pathway looks different.

I want to be an encouragement to others to follow His call on their life - even if it brings hardship and suffering with it.  I want to be willing to follow His lead without regard for my safety or circumstances because He is 100% trustworthy in all things.

After all, the safest and most secure place to be is in the center of God's will -- even if it doesn't look like that from the outside.  Our extreme comfort and ease can be a very dangerous place.

Jesus' obedience took Him to the cross. Paul's obedience took him to prison and eventually led to his death.  The beauty of both is what God accomplished on their journeys.  We have salvation because of Jesus' obedience - we have most of the New Testament and some of the richest words of Scripture because of Paul's obedience.  His example of living all out for the Lord challenges me every day.

I want to live my life with such abandon.

How about you?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Thankful Thursday ~ My hope is secure

I am sitting in my den in Colorado, looking out at the geese and ducks on the creek, the blue sky and the mountains.  I could just end my post right here!  I am so thankful to be here! 

One of the things that I love about being here is that I really don't have any kind of schedule or obligations.  I can have long, lingering quiet times and plenty of time to work on Bible study and just listen to the Lord.  It is one of the Lord's best gifts in this place.

I am always on the look out for new studies that I can use for small group in Chicago.  I came across a study called "Stuck" by Jennie Allen.  I did the first chapter of the study yesterday and I already LOVE it.  As the Lord would have it, it is a perfect companion to the study that I am currently doing with a group - Discovery:  God's Answers to our Deepest Questions.  I love it when God draws me to His truth in many different ways - continually reminding me of those things that are essential to my faith and my life.

At the end of this first week, there were a few questions that were just so good to think through and actually right down my answers.  I want to share them with you and ask you to think through your answers as well.  I was giddy with JOY when I got to the end of this and I hope you will be too!

Who are you, Lord?
You are my strength.  You are the Author and Perfecter of my faith.  You are everything to me and apart from you, I can do nothing.  You are my greatest LOVE.  You are LIFE.  You are my Savior, my Friend, my Lord.

What do You want from me?
You want me.  Period.  You want the freedom to make me like Jesus.  You want me to offer up myself as a living sacrifice for Your handiwork to be displayed in me and through me.  You want my whole life - my whole heart - my soul - my mind - my all.

Where do you go to find life? to find God?
I go to God to find LIFE.  There is no life outside of Him.  I find Him in everything around me and as He dwells within me.  His presence is everywhere.  I only need to call His Name to find Him right there all along. 

God inside of you changes everything.  Is He there?
God lives in me.  I have accepted His gift of salvation.  I am saved by grace alone.  I am a child of God -- loved and cared for by Him.  He is in the business of transforming me into the image of Jesus thru the indwelling Holy Spirit and all the circumstance of my life.  I know His Voice.  I am assured of His love.  He is my JOY.  He is my PURPOSE.  He is my LIFE.

We should be 100% sure our hope is in Him alone.  I am so grateful that I can say that with confidence.  I am completely confident that the Lord will accomplish that which concerns me.  I am confident that no matter what comes my way - He is beside me and He walks each step with me.  I am confident that I will dwell with Him for eternity when this brief time on this earth is over.

My hope is secure.  

How about you?  

If your hope is wavering . . . if you are not sure you belong to the Lord . . . I'd love to chat with you about it!  That secure hope is yours for the taking.  It is a gift.  Your name is on the tag. 

 Will you reach out and claim it?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tuesday Catch Up

I took a bit of an unplanned vacation from blogging last week!  It was a fun filled, crazy week.  Alan and I had planned on leaving Chicago a week ago Sunday and driving part way to Texas - arriving at Heather's by dinner on Monday.  A HUGE snow storm decided to move right across our route - so we delayed leaving until Monday.  We had a very long, very difficult drive through Illinois.  The interstate was actually shut down in several places, so our drive to Texas took 18 hours!  We left Chicago at 6 am and arrived in Tyler at midnight.  ONE LONG DAY - but what a reward!

 I got to spend the next two days in Heather's classroom with her Headstart kids.  They are an energetic, fun loving, happy hearted group.  I love being with Heather and watching her teach.  She is an amazing teacher dealing with some pretty difficult situations.  She handles it beautifully and those kids are truly getting a head start for kindergarten readiness.  I loved every minute of it!  We also got to hang with both Heather and Cooper - just enjoying sharing a meal and being together.  It was a very sweet time.

Heather teaching her precious kiddos.
 Wednesday afternoon - we headed to Waco to my parent's house.  Alan got to go to the NIT game and see Baylor win.  I got some good hang out time with my Mom.  We went to see my grandmother the next morning.  She had been in the hospital with a severe case of bronchitis but was back at her assisted living facility doing rehab so she could return to her own private apartment there.  Did I mention she just turned 96?  She is recovering well, although recovering from anything at 96 is difficult.  She is getting stronger and it is good to see her improving.  I admire her so much.  She is a great woman of faith and someone who has loved me so well my whole life.  It was good to see her.

This is not the most flattering picture of either of us -- but I cherish it all the same!
 We left Thursday afternoon to head to Ashley and James' house.  We got to spend some great time with them.  We went to their Easter Service on Saturday night and Alan's parents met us there.  We all went to dinner after the service.  It was a great time.

All dressed up for Easter!
 On Sunday, we drove over to Allen TX to see my brother and his family.  I had not seen my brother for a year (he lived in Australia and then began doing a 28 days in the states, 28 days in Angola, Africa)  We were never back in TX at the same time!  It was so good to see him.  I can not even put into words how very much I love my brother.  My parents  came up also - and then Heather and Cooper surprised me by driving to Allen!!  I was VERY surprised and VERY excited!!  It was a great day of celebration.

Best surprise ever!!!

Great Heather time
Loved getting to see my baby brother.

My great niece, Sophie, on an egg hunt!
We took off for Colorado yesterday and made it here by about 8 pm. We have put over 2000 miles on the car - but it has been more than worth it!

So - I sit here this morning looking out at the mountains and I am one happy soul.  I love Easter and celebrating my living Savior.  Two of my dear friends lost their fathers this past week.  One funeral was actually on Easter and one is today.  It is so hard to lose someone we love so very much, but both of these women are holding on to the promise of eternal life - health and wholeness - peace and the presence of Jesus - as they celebrate their Dad's lives and grieve their loss.

Isn't life always like that?  Such joy and sorrow intermingling in a single day?  I do not know what I would do without the HOPE that Jesus gives me.  He walks with us through the dark and difficult days and He fills us with JOY in all circumstances.

Happy Easter, dear friends, because we can celebrate Easter every single day when we belong to Jesus.