How to Grow In Grace

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Last year was a hard year but a good year.  And by the great grace of God, I have come out a better person because of it.  “Better?”, you ask?  Yes, not just better as a survivor of some horrible event, but thriving as a “growing in grace” kind of person and better because of what I experienced.  Here are few lessons I’ve gained:

1.  Acceptance:  Often we think that we are in control of our lives.  I’ve found that we can certainly own our lives to an extent but then there are some things, events, or occurrences like death, cancer, or accidents that you wrestle with but in the end have to accept.  No one likes to submit to what can’t be controlled.  However, one of the hard truths about life and death is that every person alive needs to accept what life hands them.  For instance, death has a place in everyday living.   Get used to it because death insinuates itself at the most inconvenient moment.

2.  Trust:  Since we are talking about death, along with dying comes the mourning and grieving process.  My friend once texted me (after I made a “faith” move) with a three-worded message:  “Trust the process”.  These words are sound advice.  The process of trusting is hard in itself and requires a deep faith but to accept what you can’t control and use self-control for what you can’t accept is truly the essence of living by faith.

There’s a process to learn faith in the deeper parts of life, like trying to understand life and death itself.  I believe death is one of life processes where understanding only comes in the grieving and you have to give space for mourning.

3.  Agreement:  One of my close missionary associates once said to our team, “How about we just agree with the Lord!”  My eyes met another team members’ confirmation to understand that the Lord was definitely opening our eyes and unstopping our ears in one accord (agreement) in a power-filled lunch.  Whoa, what an impartation!

Jesus actually said to do this, to agree with his teaching in John 8:31-32  “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Agreeing with the Lord means holding to the teaching of Jesus for the purpose of true freedom.  There’s no going your own way AND the way of culture.  You can own your life by being accountable for your actions but you have to trust the leadership of spiritual mentors in your life to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  It’s when you hold to righteous teaching then you will make progress and experience freedom on a whole new level.

4.  Leadership:  To grow in the knowledge of God by faith you have to live within the teachings of Jesus.  He started with a small group of willing people who were seeking some direction in their lives.  At the end of his ministry, Jesus had a band of brothers who were well-versed in the disciplines of learning, teaching and evangelizing.  Believers often skip the fact that this training was difficult, or intense, or challenging.  In all actuality, they were with Jesus as He walked, taught, and touched lives.  We have been given the same opportunity to be among those who are looking for a relationship with Jesus and we can easily lead them by the way we live our lives.  We can lead with what we know about Jesus and how He has touched our life.  Share that…it will take you far in leadership.

5.  Influence:  To be under the influence doesn’t mean the same anymore.  I’m not talking about drinking alcohol or smoking pot.  I’m speaking of the spiritual influence of total submission to the Holy Spirit.  The fact is once you examine the life Jesus lived he was led by the same Holy Spirit that we have access to.  He was all man and all divine.  You might say, “A perfect life was easy for Jesus!”  Yes, He lived a perfect life.  He butted up against sin many times but never did; was tempted by Satan himself, and He was tormented as He took a confident stand for all mankind!  For the entire time Jesus walked the earth, he was walking in his own humanity but totally submitted to the influence of the Holy Spirit.  We, as believers weren’t given a junior version of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit that empowered Jesus is the same Helper that believers submit to.  Want to live a sinless life?  Go ALL IN unto the power of the Holy Spirit and be a person of influence under the Influencer.

What I’ve learned has been gained by applying the Biblical teaching into my everyday life.  Life is a good teacher and we have the choice to respond to every occurrence or situation.  But when it comes down to the end of the day, we all have to reconcile our responses and experiences under the lens of faith.  This is living the Christian life as a disciple of Christ.  It’s full of power, disciplines, and experiences that will help you Home.  There’s nothing like an encounter with God that will meet you where your history has left you.  There’s more beyond what we know, I am grateful and am all in the growing in grace.

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Count It All Joy Through Gratitude

joy swing

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  John 15:11 (NIV)

My last post was about joy, counting it ALL joy, and the gap in between our dreams and reality.  At least finding joy a habit was my intention.  I realize this week gratitude is directly connected to the golden thread of relationships, happiness, and abundance in life. If you’re like me, you can read a post about joy and think it’s all pink and rosy every day.  I hear you saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll be more grateful.  It might work for her but she doesn’t live out in my life.  It won’t work for me.”

Oh friends, it’s time to stop kicking the tires on this life and embrace it for all it’s worth.  Let’s all go bravely forward and count it all joy.

I like to go beyond a nice idea or a concept.  It’s one idea to live with joy but it’s a whole new way to live with God’s joy.  I’m all about application and gathering the tools of creativity, words of gratitude, love, applied discipline, to understand and get a hold of the way the concept works in your everyday life. Until you practice and witness your own shifts and awakenings, none of this makes much impact.  Have confidence by faith!  Joy is attainable and is a good idea.  Do you follow me so far?

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11 (ESV)

The Bible is a great start to instructing us how to live and how to count everything for joy, but it’s not the whole letter of the law.  You also have to apply joy to your life.

What does living in joy look like?  It’s daily looking and adopting God’s ways into your life. I encourage everyone to keep a gratitude journal. Be grateful when God teaches you how to live.  It’s a way to bring His character into our weaknesses.  For me, when I feel left out or last in line, I go to my gratitude journal and make a list of all the ways I am blessed.  Believe me when I say this, if you think you aren’t blessed to live in the land of the free and home of the brave, travel internationally to suffering and oppressed nations.  You will notice the difference immediately.  Gratitude journals can turn whining and complaining into thankfulness and appreciation.

So, what is a gratitude journal?

A gratitude journal is a blank notebook where you write lists for which you are grateful. Every night, before you go to bed, you take about three minutes to write down a list of five things (or any do-able number).

Some days, you might be feeling particularly abundant, and those five things just fly onto the page.

Some days, it might feel like you can’t think of even two things. Then you remember how you have a roof over your head or food to eat. Next, you remember your cat (again) and you have hot water to get clean and drink.  No matter what you’re feeling, find time to write down at least five things every single night.  And they don’t have to be new and different.

My experience is when I write out what I’m grateful for, those items add joy to my day.  I become more in tune throughout the next day. It’s like turning on an inner-switch, and sets your awareness to look for joys to journal each night. So you might be driving out of your neighborhood in the morning, and catch the flash of a cardinal in the sunlight, and instead of blowing it off, you stop and notice it for a moment. You take it in. And you make a mental note to include the bird in your gratitude journal. Then, when you’re having lunch with a co-worker, she grabs the check and pays it. And not only do you thank her, but you make a mental note again (I carry a small notebook and pen in my purse). Your day becomes a basket where you collect things. The joy habit soon comes to life!  In essence, you become a joy and gratitude magnet. And oddly enough, cool things start to find you. But you have to learn to be grateful now for all what you already have.

When you really try this, you will see how your joy increases.  You see, Jesus is joy and anytime you notice the things He put in your path to bring joy or a smile to your face, His intentions change your intentions.  Now not everything in this world is joyful.  Believe me when I say, you can choose how you see the things of this world and how to respond to the world around you.  When you feel the smile of Heaven, it makes a difference in your soul.

I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!  John 15:11 (NLT)

(Notice I posted a joy verse in different ways to help you see how grateful I am for reward of seeking joy in all things.  Gratitude shapes your perspective!)

When You Need a Reminder

names of God

I quickly wrote a note in my little notebook for thoughts, the one I carry with me at all times just in case, as not to forget something important.  Earlier I had been talking to God about a turnaround in my life.  It occured to me God never turns around.

He doesn’t need to, but we do.  (Turnaround wasn’t what I wrote down however) 

The Bible is full of stories and reminders of who God is.  It lists many names of God as He is known by those who walk in relationship with Him.  Some names are hard to pronounce and many we don’t talk about.  I found a list of them in my Bible and it reminded me I don’t use them all near enough.

So I was praying for a turnaround in my perspective to see God in a new way.  Often don’t we view God from our own limited perspective?  I will go first and say I do.  I forget He’s got the panoramic view set on our lives.  I forget He holds all the details in our lives safe and secure in such a timely and orderly manner.

Recently, I boarded the Atlantis simulator at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida.  I remembered how God keeps my world on it’s axis. There’s a God who cares when my world goes off kilter and wants to set things back into a right perspective.

We have a God who cares and I don’t want to forget.

He holds panaramic view my world, and I stood back (well actually strapped back at high G-forces) and remembered His amazing creativity and endless pursuit in my own life.  But then it hit me once again, He hadn’t moved and I’ve been the one who been on the run.  So why is this such an “aha” moment?

I realized once again of God, that He doesn’t have “aha” moments.

It took a jolt like a g-force to remember God’s power, or rather to remind me of a powerful and effective way to live is to remember who God is over the things I tend to forget.  You see, often when growing in our faith we forget where we have come from or how much we have grown, and tend to just think of ourselves as one who needs a TON more positive changes.

God reminded me my walk with Him was just where He wanted me to be.  (Confession: I want to jump ahead to the mountain top moments full of “aha” moments and skip the valleys where the real reminders are learned).

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve not arrived but still have overcome a lot of strongholds in my life.  Those hindrences used to hold me back and keep me at a distance from God’s best.  So what’s the big deal about “Aha” moments with God or what catches us by surprise?

The note I wrote was “What if I remembered who God is instead of what I’ve forgotten.” I often find myself remembering what I have forgotten, instead of all He has delivered me from.  When I am grateful for the freedom He has brought into my life I am reminded of God’s providence.  When I affirm God’s over arching good character, He has a way of affirming His good character in my lifeline.

Remembering the goodness of God is definitely a good thing.  He keeps my world spinning right.  I must forget the wrong things which tend to lead me astray.  I want to remember His good words to me over the lies I tend to believe about me.  I want to remember how He’s changed me and my life for the better, not what I have lost in the overcoming.

Someone once said, “You learn by doing.”  I think I’ll remember the doing of God in my life over my “undoing” to get to where I am.  When you focus on your wrongs, it tends to have a negative affect on your life.  When you focus on the positives, it builds up your self-esteem and character.  Not in a puffed up kind of way but in an honorable way.  The benefits of His becoming real and evident in life helps you walk taller, be kinder, live intentionally and love, the most positive way.

When you remember the good, it helps.  When I remember God, I’m reminded I must increase my perspective and I must decrease my small thinking.  When I remember who God is then I am reminded who I am.  When I know who I am, then I know how to live.  When I live with focus on the positives I can help others remember who God is and what He has done for all of us.

Let’s all remember God more, and forget the former things to make more space for Him to set our worlds back in line with Him, renew our perspective on what life is all about, define our purpose and add some g-force to our minds to see Him more clearly.  The most important thing to remember is:  because of Jesus, remember God is a matter of enjoyment. May our relationship with Him not be settled around issues of conflict, pain, sin and sacrifice but around freedom, celebration and delight.

Yes, God is our deliverer and saves us from trouble. But before all those wonderful things, He is our friend, our Father, our good, good Pappa. This connection is rooted in pleasure of intimacy through a one on one relationship. He is a wonder to behold, a power to be feared, a mystery to be explored but chiefly He is a person to be loved.  I want to remember how to love Him like He loves me.

Yes, let’s all remember God.  And don’t forget to strap in, it’s a wild ride!

In each and every season

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“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”  –Corrie ten Boom

Ever found your soul just down right parched?

Three years ago I was in spiritually dry place that I couldn’t quite speak about. It was a particularly difficult time in such a personal way.  God dealt with some issues that left me looking upon Him and the faithfulness that only He is.

I sensed God’s comfort in the stillness and knew that He was good even though it was hard to see forward into all that season held.  God comforted in one of the lowest places of faith and where His encouragement helped beyond words.  I remember everyday my heart was breaking…open.

God’s faithfulness is a quality that endures in every season.

I found comfort in speaking only a few words during prayer time but I had assurance and a sign from heaven that my cries were heard with His open and listening heart.  I was unaware of the preparation that God was working in my life.  Even though I was seeking Him in many ways, I had my moments where I wanted to give up and give into weakness.

But yet my trust in His faithfulness endured through a hopeless season.

When you seek, believe, trust and obey in each season, God’s faithfulness will lead you.  I’ve been thinking about David’s faith and I am so amazed at his endurance through all those up and down years of rule and reign as king.  From the outside, its looks like just a few hard years to develop such a strong, rich faith legacy that is captured on a few pages of Biblical history.  It took all of his life to seek, believe, trust and obey God’s ways and walk in the way of faithfulness and devotion to the Lord.

To live in God’s ways I’ve found no other way than to depend on His faithfulness throughout every season.  You know it’s easy to say that God is faithful when you aren’t staring into the face of cancer, house fires, and death.  It’s easy then, but when life brings uncertainties, trials and afflictions, you have to gather up the memories of faithfulness to bolster the hope and faith to get through.

I believe life is full of opportunities to develop deeper ways to know God.  What would happen if we asked God to reveal Himself in everyday and in every season?  Would it remove us from having problems all together?  Would each and every season be smooth sailing or as clear as glass in regards to decisions we make?

Our lives are full of moments and seasons that encourage endurance, perseverance, and faithfulness by seeking God’s face.  Living in the problems, trials, and struggles teach us about faithfulness.  If your season is dry right now, remember these things to help you find God in them and enable you to cling to an abiding faith in your journey:

You are not alone, God is with you and knows your needs before you do.

Believe God for who He is, a God of His word.

When you can’t see His hand, trust His heart of love FOR you.

Obedience to God by faith pleases God.

Dry seasons are hard, long and sometimes lonely, but I wonder if we would learn any other way.  In knowing that I am not alone, it lifts my hope to meet my faith.  Belief in God, coupled with trust, removes fear.  Experiencing His love by way of trials brings me closer to Him over any other method.  My faith is enriched each and every time I trust in God’s ways and as I walk in obedience.

God wastes nothing in your faith-building process, there’s strength to be received every season.  So consider this, in season and out of season:

Your need to control takes a back seat to His omnipotence.  Your need to understand is protected by His peace.  Trust in Him and fully surrender to His plan as He weaves His beautiful tapestry for your life.    You too can trust in the name of the Lord our God in every season.

The Promise That Parted a Chocolate Sea

chocolate buffet

I gasped when I saw it.  I didn’t remember that much chocolate could exist in one single buffet line.  I was mesmerized by the shiny and sweet-looking goodness.  The lines to scoop up plates and platters of the decatant desserts were endless and filled with eager chocolate connoissuers.  I wanted to be in those lines twice over.  I wanted it all.

Worse yet, I was willing to hide that I wanted it.  Who would know if I actually jumped in head first?  Consumption of every square inch of all that light and fluffy cake? No problem.  There was such a desire to take a dive right in front of that guy who looked like he need to wait at least five minutes to let his food settle.

Ever want something that bad?

Y’all don’t know what it’s like.  You don’t know the depth of food temptations that reaches the soul.  You couldn’t know or realize the intensity of it, unless you have been there and are fighting to stay free of it.

My grade school principal didn’t get it either.

The day that Mister announced my weight to the entire 20-student class of my private school was the most humiliating and demeaning set of numbers a chubby girl could endure.  I’m sure China heard his voice that day.  I SO wanted to jump ship and drown in a sea of pity.

Again, here was another demeaning amount of desserts set before me.

The nerve of people making chocolate into a flowing sea in a place where to get away from it I had to jump ship…literally.  I just stood there all numb like and such.  The powerlessness I felt in that moment was transcribed as a chocolate trance to find the end of the line and jump on board.  My heart was on hold and my desires were captivated.  I.wanted.every.lick.of.it.

I remember that fateful day when Mister boomed my weight to the world and my desire was then immediately anchored to my dark chocolate history.  OOOH the milky sooth coos from a chocolate milk carton of comfort was overflowing with each imagined dip of satiny goodness.  So I just….dove into my shame and swam in a sea of guilt and blame.

I almost choked back the tears of how wonderful it all tasted as a third grader.  That memory came back to me as I stood in line on that floating chocolate boat.  For a second I wanted more and more comfort and then something shifted inside that made me quickly drop the idea of just a skewered pineappley dipped chocolate treat.

I saw myself (in my mind) at 244 lbs, (my weight at the beginning of my weight loss journey) and I realized that I didn’t want to go back.  Even knowing that one treat would not add over 100 pounds back onto my body, I put the plate down.  I remembered where I used to be, I remembered how I got to where I am today, and I remembered all the work and tears it has taken me to get to where I am.  And I thought of how God wants more for me over my selfish desires.

I remembered why I started this journey in the first place, plus my promise to invite freedom into my life over lusting desires.

I remembered Mister.  That day, in the third grade, I traded my self-esteem for a lie that returned in a failed way of comfort for my hurting inner being.  What I didn’t know then (because I was a child), was that I believed a lie as truth.  It was in the third grade that I chose to let food have it’s way in me.

Once I stood there and saw the endless chocolate river I remembered my “why” and that I became a power-filled overcomer.  I thought of all the lust that has been cut out of my life.  I also remembered a promise that was made between myself and God.  I vowed that I would stay pure in the area of my desires for unnessary calorie choices.

I haven’t always kept my end of the bargain but He has.

The self-esteem that I lost as a third grader rose up strong, renewed and wouldn’t be sabotaged again.  You see, I could have eaten as much as I wanted to and gotten away with it but I am the one who has to live with me after I put the empty plate down.  I have to answer to God about that action, since He is my accountability partner.

Remembering this convenant action with my Rescuer helps me keep this promise true:

Hebrews 8:10 “This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Isreal after that time, declares the Lord.  I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

When I saw the brown river, all I could think of was my convenant with God that was written on my mind and heart.  Afterall, I am His “people”.  I remembered that obeying God was giving Him permission to control my desires in every area and having self-control in my choices.  I also remembered that I didn’t have to hand over my permission to a chocolate power anymore. Suddenly or not so quickly, I lost my desire to give my tongue to a lie once again.

Even chocolate with all it’s alluring power that flows in a river can’t break a promise between you and God.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about breaking a food rule, life is too short to keep my own list of wrongs when it comes to food rules and food was put on this earth to enjoy.  I’m relying on my relationship with my Deliverer that gives me strength and shows me out of every temptation known to man, even the ones dipped in chocolate.  Nope, I ain’t got time for that!

When You Are Disappointed

disappoinment

“Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and prayerful always.”  Romans 12:12

There are times when life is full of one disappointment after another.  Or so it seems.  Disappointment comes in all shapes, sizes, and at different times.  There’s worry, fretting, and anxiety.  When reality actually shows up and doesn’t meet our expectations, it often leaves us with the lack of contentment.  Disappointments are hard to navigate through, so here are three heart-hitting questions:

  1. Are these just your unmet expectations?
  2. Have you forgotten to be thankful for what you do have?
  3. Is there something to change to turn your disappointment into a God-appointment?

Ever been disappointed and said “me too?”

Usually after self-examination, it’s best to look for what God is teaching through the unmet expectations.  Asking for wisdom and anticipating His better good, plan and purpose helps get you back on track.

Our good, good Father really does know you best and the best for you.  No matter how many disappointments emerge, there is always hope.  There are times to surrender your need to understand to override the doubt.  There are times when we don’t need to understand, but just obey.  There are times we need to trust more.  Often, God’s purpose isn’t realized until a later time.

There’s a little project on my heart right now that is finally birthing life.  It started with a simple thought but took a lot of hard work to pull it out and off.  Bearing the fruit took guts, courage, and a whole lot of prayer, but loaded with hope for the next generation.  It also came with many disappointments along the way.  I just kept focusing on God’s purpose.

I’m grateful that God had a purpose and a promise in it all.  We have a Savior that is in the business of reconciliation and hope.  Jesus never promised it would be easy.  While walking this earth, even He encountered many trials and troubles, but He died so we could be overcomers of disappointment and have joy and gladness in all things.  Disappointments often don’t feel joyful or make you glad, but the purpose may still be for your benefit.  I’ll never forget,  in the middle of searching for answers, those great conversations with the One who holds the plan in His hands.

So grateful that His love is undeniable and His peace is unspeakable.  We have a good, good Father and nothing is wasted in His purpose for you.  People can disappoint you but God never will.

 

Once upon a fair

ferris wheel

Losing weight is one battle but maintaining a 100 + loss is a lifestyle I refuse to give up on.  I’ve worked hard to get here but also it takes hard work to stay here.  There was one county fair I remember I wanted to eat everything in sight.

It’s fair time and that brings all kinds of fried food images to my mind.  There was a year that something happened where I knew I would never want to go back to my old way of unhealthy choices plus God gave me a more determined way to live healthy.  I got nauseated on a merry-go-round ride.

I saw a reminder of how chained I was to food at one time.  As the painted ponies and I were spinning fast, my eyes stopped at one of the carnival workers.  She had just sat down to a plate of sugary fried food and a giant thermos mug-full of Mountain Dew.  I had to look away.  There was something about seeing that mound of fried goop that make me feel sick plus the fast propulsion of the horses.

I immediately came under the conviction of the Spirit.  “See what happens when you open your life to this idea?”  Now don’t get me wrong I know God blesses us with good food to enjoy but I had an eating problem and God knew it.  There are many pitfalls along the way of losing weight for sure, so that’s why it’s important to practice wise choices.

God gave me a “warning” that I will always remember.  My appetites really do go that deep for me.   If you know that about yourself then why would you tempt yourself with even the thought of it all?  You wouldn’t.  Next God cemented the deal with this verse I had read earlier that day:

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.  But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these…from your lips.”  Colossians 3:5, 7-8

I used to walk alongside a funnel cake but now have removed them from my life.  Because I now make good heath choices, that I have gained so much freedom by putting my focus on pleasing Him in this area over my past wrongful behavior.  I am grateful for His kind plate spinning to freedom.  I’m living free from a bondage of food.  That doesn’t mean I don’t think about it however.

There are things in this life that cause us to slowly spin away from God.  For me, food was one of those things.  But now those ideas are behind me and today finds me grateful for His goodness.  He has helped me be successful in the freedom from food.  Thinking about funnel cakes gets me to notice them, but I am learning to take a positive spin on my actions instead of letting my feelings dominate my actions.

It’s worth the effort to let God draw you back to where you need to belong.  Getting over habitual sin is liberating when you realize that God wants so much more for you.  I set my mind on NOT being tempted plus I have to guard myself against those old thoughts.  In my dependence on God, comes my independence from an issue that used to weigh me down.  That’s God at work, and that’s my best life of freedom from a lifelong stronghold.

It does get better but it’s not always as easy as you would think.  When I’m grateful for this deliverance, it helps me over the hump of wanting something I know I shouldn’t have.  What sin do you need to let go of?  If it’s habitual, how do you deal with it?