A Journey of Faith

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Palm Sunday and uncharted territory

So tomorrow is Palm Sunday. It is a rememberance of the day our Savior began HIS last week before HE suffered and died for us. It is a day when we celebrate HIS entry into Jerusalem as the Prince of Peace. I was thinking about how HE did so many things that hadn't been done before, and some of the symbolism in what HE did. Born of a virgin womb, presented on the back of an unridden donkey, buried in an unused tomb. The day HE entered Jerusalem on the colt was the day that faithful Jews chose the lamb that would die for their Passover feast. The lamb was to be perfect, free of blemish. The lamb would be killed that Thursday, and those participating would remember the night that the blood of a lamb saved the firstborn from the angel of death. Now we, two thousand years later, have to choose. Will we choose to be saved by the blood of the Lamb? Will we accept the gift of salvation, the amazing gift of the covering of HIS blood over our sins? Will we allow HIM to lead us where we've never been, and couldn't go without HIM? HE shook up the faith world in so many ways, will we allow HIM to shake our worlds too? Many of the Jews at that time didn't recognize HIM as the Messiah, they were expecting a military leader that would save them from the oppression they were under from the Romans. Are we really that different now? How many of us, when we give our lives to HIM, expect that we will cease to struggle, cease to suffer? How often does our faith waver when life gets heavy and difficult? But HE didn't come as a military leader then, and HE doesn't come to us now to fix it all. Then and now HIS message was of love and peace and trust. HE came to show us the way to eternity, the way to HIS Father. So tomorrow, as we wave the palms, and sing the Palm Sunday hymns, let's remember that HE was a trail blazer, HE was the chosen lamb, the Prince of Peace that went where no one had gone before. HE can take us places we've never been before too, if we reach up and take HIS hand and let him lead us there.

LORD, thank You for sending Your Son, for sending HIM to lead us where we never dreamed we could go. Please give us the courage to follow HIM wherever HE leads us. In His glorious name, Amen.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

El Shaddai

Nothing much to say other than I love this song, and most hymnals don't have all the verses :)

El Shaddai, el shaddai El-elyon na adonia
Age to age you're still the same
By the power of the name
El shaddai, el shaddai Erkamka na adonai
I will praise and lift you high El shaddai

Through your love and through the ram
You saved the son of Abraham
Through the power of your hand
You turned the sea into dry land
To the outcast on her knees
You were the God who really sees
And by your might You set your children free

El shaddai, el shaddai El-elyon na adonia
Age to age you're still the same
By the power of the name
El shaddai, el shaddai Erkamka na adonai
I will praise and lift you high,
El Shaddai

Through the years you've made it clear
That the time of Christ was near
Though the people couldn't see
What Messiah ought to be
Though Your word contained a plan
They just could not understand that
Your most awesome work was done
Through the frailty of your son

El Shaddai, El Shaddai El elyon na Adonia
Age to age you're still the same
by the power of the name
El Shaddai, El Shaddai Erkamka na Adonai
I will praise you til I die,
El Shaddai

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Life Song

This is another song by Casting Crowns called "Lifesong" (lyrics from elyrics and video from godtube http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=JEECNNNU)

Empty hands held high

Such small sacrifice

If not joined with my life

I sing in vain tonight

May the words I say

And the things I do

Make my lifesong sing

Bring a smile to You

Let my lifesong sing to You

Let my lifesong sing to You

I want to sign Your name to the end of this day

Knowing that my heart was true

Let my lifesong sing to You

Lord I give my life

A living sacrifice

To reach a world in need

To be Your hands and feet

So may the words I say

And the things I do

Make my lifesong sing

Bring a smile to You

Let my lifesong sing to You

let my lifesong sing to You

I want to sign Your name to the end of this day

knowing that my heart was true

Hallelujah Hallelujah

Let my lifesong sing to You

A few months ago I began really thinking about what GOD wants me to be doing for HIM. In the course of those months I have done a number of Bible studies, and am taking the basic lay speaker course. In the James study, the focus was on serving GOD by serving others. The founder of our church, John Wesley, and James both taught that faith without works was a dead faith, that the way to show your faith was to do something with it. I pictured GOD calling me to leave everything behind and follow HIM to far away places, to uproot my family and leave my friends and home. I pictured HIM calling me to do things that I feel totally unprepared and unequipped to do. Would HE call me to ministry? To mission work? To go to underdeveloped countries and care for the sick and dying? But all works don't have to be huge. They don't have to be earth changing, they just have to be from the heart and for HIS glory. Does my 'lifesong' sing to GOD? Does it sound like a beautiful melody, or like clanging cymbols? Does HE smile when HE thinks of my works here on HIS earth? Or does HE sigh and shake HIS head and wish I would do more for HIS children?

Lord, please help me to serve you in all I do. Please open my eyes to the needs I can help to meet in Your world. Please help my life speak of You in ways that lead people to You. In JESUS' name, Amen.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Friends and pastors

So someone said something yesterday that has been rolling around in my brain, wreaking havoc. I was taking part in a course to become a lay speaker at my church (I know, right... me? Hmmm!) and we were talking about pastors and how they are subject to a great deal of stress. So this person sited a study that found that most pastors don't have many friends. I can't even say how sad that makes me. I don't know lots of pastors, but I do know a few, and they are, without exception, amazing people. I have so much respect for people who make the choice to dedicate their lives to serving GOD in that way. It is such a huge responsibility, and I can't imagine how hard it must be to balance all they have to do, and stay healthy- not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. And to do it all, not feeling like you can lean on those around you for support? I can't even imagine. I know they must have friends (really, the pastors I have known are too friendly and caring not to have any friends), I'm guessing that the point was that they don't have close friends in their congregations. I understand that there is a need to have boundaries, and that if you are in a position of authority that there needs to be a seperation so that the job can be done effectively, it just makes me feel lonely for them. I know that personally I count on my friends for so much. Even if I don't confide why I am having a bad day or whatever, they are there to support and encourage and love me. And, as much as I love and respect our pastor as our pastor, I love and respect her as my friend and as a Sister in CHRIST first. Her identity isn't primarily 'Pastor', it is fellow Christian. So it made me think, what do we do as congregants? How do we help our pastors feel that friendship, that love and support and encouragement, without putting them in a position that makes their jobs harder? Is it possible? I know that, in our family, we make an intentional effort to support our pastor. We pray for her and her family. We gift her occasionally with little things, send her notes, whatever is on our hearts to do to bless her... just as we do our other friends. I really believe that it is our duty as people in her congregation to support her, but also I believe that we should do what we can to make all our friends feel special. Because, well, they are! They are a blessing from GOD.
So today, say a prayer for your pastor. And tomorrow, and the day after, and every day. Pray that they will feel GOD's peace, and strength, and comfort. That they will feel the Holy Spirit and respond to GOD's prompting. And that they will know true friendship and all the blessings that come with it. And do something to show them how much you appreciate them.

LORD, I pray that our pastor, and all pastors, will know how much they are appreciated, and loved, and respected. I pray that they will be blessed by us as much as we are blessed by them. Thank you for their godly influence in our churches and in our lives. In JESUS' name, Amen.

"Jesus looked at him and LOVED him"

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

This was the reading at church today. As I listened to it, I was struck by the order of events. Notice... the man asks JESUS a question about obtaining eternal life, JESUS reminds him of the commandments, and when the man declares that he has in fact followed them, JESUS looks at him and loves him. HE doesn't point out that this man has in fact fallen short. HE doesn't wait to see if the man will follow HIS next set of directions. HE simply loves him. HE looks at him and sees someone who HE loves. Even though the man has fallen, even though he may not recongize that he has fallen, even thought JESUS likely not only knows if and when the man will fall again, but whether or not he will choose to follow HIM, it doesn't matter, JESUS loves him. How many of us can honestly say that we look at those in our lives and simply love them? How many of us look at those around us and mentally list the ways they have disappointed us, or what they can offer to us and how they can or do bless our lives? I know I am too often selfish in my relationships with others. There is that person who doesn't often have a kind word- do I avoid them, or do I love them? What about that one who treats a friend of mine so very poorly that it makes my blood boil- do I confront them, or do I love them? Or the grumpy person who makes me uncomfortable- do I grumble back, or do I love them? JESUS loved. HE loved the tax collector, and the thieves, and the women of ill repute. HE loved them whether they 'looked' like they deserved it or not, and they felt it. HIS love changed their lives, and changed the world. Where would the world be if Saul had not been loved by JESUS? Where would we be if JESUS had not looked past what Saul was doing and seen who he was? A child of GOD with the potential to rock the faith world with the spreading of the word of GOD. Where would the world be if HE hadn't called Zaccheus down from the tree, or 'drawn a line in the sand' when defending the adulterous woman, or sent out HIS power to the woman suffering, or cast the demons from the man possesed, or healed the daughter of Jairus, or brought Lazarus back from the dead; the list goes on. HE changed their lives with HIS love, and because their lives were changed, the world was changed. Who will we affect with our love, if we just look at who someone is, not what they are doing? What change will come in the world because we look at them and love them, showing them the love of our GOD?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Happy Weather

What is it about spring that gets our hearts racing and our blood flowing? It was only a few short weeks ago that we got over a foot of snow, yesterday and today have seen temps in the seventies and eighties. As the temperatures rise, so do my spirits. It's like GOD's peace is flowing into all the cold spots that are now warming. Every day I look out in my garden and see new flowers trying to show their faces. Crocuses are everywhere, and the daffodils and tulips are beginning to break thru the soil. My windows and doors are open, letting in the fresh air (and some pollen unfortunately... asthma, yuk!!) This is my favorite time of year. Everything is fresh and new and clean. At night the 'peepers' are out, and my window is open just enough to let in a hint of the fresh, clear air outside. It's not hot enough to limit activity, and warm enough to forgo all the hats, mittens and jackets that just seem to slow us down. In our house, it's time to start going barefoot (though most of my ducklings would be content to go barefoot year round, Mama Duck says shoes are necessary if I can see any snow, EVEN if that snow is deep in the woods. Gotta have boundaries doncha know!) It's at this time of year that I feel GOD most clearly, in the newness of HIS world, the beginning of the cycle HE has carefully planned out.

LORD, thank You for the beauty of this season, with it's new life and promise. Thank You for the fresh, warm air, and the flowers and the sound of birds and 'peepers' serenading us. Thank You for bringing us thru the cold drearyness of winter to marvel again at the wonders of Your creation. In JESUS' name, Amen

Friday, March 16, 2012

Funeral thoughts

So today I attended the funeral of my great aunt. As a kid I spent many Christmas and Easter dinners at her house with loads of extended family. I have good memories of playing outside on the swingset, and holding baby cousins (all of whom, I might add, are now taller than me!). I remember hot cross buns, card games, and roller skating in the driveway. Today as I listened to the people who loved her reminisce about how much she meant to them, I realized that I didn't have that kind of memory of her, and that, more than her passing, made me sad. The most vivid memories I have of her personally, are as an adult. She was a schoolteacher, and I chose to homeschool my kids, and she (very vocally) disagreed that that was an exceptable choice. I regret that I let that disagreement color my memory of her. Listening to her family and friends today, I saw a totally different picture of her.

As I sat there in the church, I wondered, whose memory of me is colored by a disagreement we've had? Who would remember me, if I died today, as one who thought poorly of them because of opposing beliefs? Would the people I love know that I loved them despite a difference of opinion? Would they know that I cherished them simply because they are a child of GOD? I pray that I will get better at treating others in my life with love and respect, regardless of how I feel about their choices. And I will try harder to stop letting what I think others think of me color my memories of them.

RIP VMR July 1922-March 11, 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sibling stuff

Spring is here! The warm weather is upon us, and has drawn all of my kids out to play (while Mom was attempting a quick nap). Following is the conversation that I heard thru the open window:

(ducklings 1 and 3 were attempting to hide a huge, very cool rock from duckling 2)

duckling 1 "go away"
duckling 2 "what are you doing?"
duckling 1 "go away!!" (louder)
duckling 2 "but we want to play with you"
duckling 1 "go away or we'll chase you" (followed by the sound of running feet... bare feet mind you)
duckling 2 "yeah!! we're playing" (followed by more running and lots of laughter)

I love spring :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Strange Thing...

So a strange (but neat) thing happened the other day. My oldest son brought the mail in, and there was a card in it from a lady I haven't talked to for, I don't know, maybe 5 or 6 years. We kind of use to work together (I was a nanny and she was their weekly housecleaner). The card said "Just a short note to let you know how great you really are. Hello great person!" Hmmm. Now, it was really a nice and very sweet surprise, but I have to say it leaves me just a little confused. We got along well, so that part isn't a surprise, but I wonder why after all these years. Whatever the reason, what a cool thing! SO, it inspired me to let some of the people in my life know how much I appreciate them. After all, if someone I haven't talked to for half a decade could lift my spirits with a simple note, shouldn't I do the same for those who impact my life everyday? After all, the Bible says we are to lift each other up, and encourage them. And I am tired of feeling weird about saying nice things....so, I am going to try to do it more often. Maybe with practice it won't feel so weird!!

So tell someone today (and every day) that you appreciate them, and that they are important to you!! GOD Bless :)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Romans 5:3-5

The following is something I wrote a few weeks ago. One of the Bible studies I am doing is made for Lent, and the topic for the week was Restlessness, and we were suppose to read Romans 5:1-2, and I got a little carried away and read thru verse 5, and then started thinking. And thinking, and thinking. This is where I went...

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perserverance; perserverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because GOD has poured out HIS love into our hearts by the HOLY SPIRIT, which HE has given us." Romans 5:3-5

This makes me think of a math curriculum I looked at for the kids once. It used a 'spiral' aproach to teaching and mastering math skills. The child would learn an new skill, practice it, then learn a new skill while still practicing the first. New skills would keep being added while still practicing the previous ones.
I think sometimes we forget that our faith is not a straight journey, but more of an ever-climbing spiral towards GOD. We want to believe, and experience, that once we have done the suffering, we move onto perserverance. And because we have 'done' perserverance, we now have character. And if we now have character, we get hope-like it's the grand prize in the race we have just completed. We imagine that along this race our suffering has disappeared, fallen off like a discarded sweater on a warm day. We want to have no more pain, or worries or fears-after all, we have completed the equation right? But it isn't that easy. There is a lot of suffering in this sinful world. Each time we experience it we have to make a choice. Do we cower in fear, wallow in our misery, see our suffering as divine confirmation that we are unworthy of healing? Or do we grab ahold of the peace and grace and strength HE has freely and lovingly given us? It is so easy to see suffering, especially prolonged suffering, as unfair and unnecessary. We pray for healing that doesn't come, at least not in our timing, and think GOD has forgotten us, that surely HE has better things to do than listen to our whining. But HE says we are HIS precious, beloved children, and each one of us is important enough to HIM that HE even knows how many hairs are on our heads. I love my kids more than life, and I don't know how many hairs are on their heads. Goodness, I can't even keep up with how many foods they like!
The Bible says that 'all things work for good for those who love the LORD and are called according to HIS purpose.' Surely this goes for suffering too. Surely the GOD who created the Heavens and the Earth with HIS voice can work even our suffering for HIS good.
I think when we forget about, or can't see, GOD's providence, it is easy to become restless. It's easy to get sucked into thinking that we are doing something wrong and missing out on HIS will somehow. It's easy to fall for the lies of the enemy and believe that we are unloved, unworthy, even unsaved. But GOD says that we are sealed by HIS Holy Spirit, and that we are engraved on the palms of HIS hands, and that our names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. We are HIS.

Small Things

“The fruit of silence is prayer,
The fruit of prayer is faith,
The fruit of faith is love,
The fruit of love is service,
The fruit of service is peace.” – Mother Teresa

I love it when I find something like this, that perfectly 'speaks' to me. That Mother Teresa, I can't wait to meet her in Heaven. What a woman. I read something the other day about her, that she served others tirelessly because, to her, she wasn't serving people, she was serving Jesus. That the leper whose wounds she was bandaging, or the poor one she was feeding, or the dying child she was cradling; they weren't a leper or a poor one or a child at all, they were her Savior in the flesh, and she was serving HIM. I believe it was also her that said "we cannot do great things, but we can do small things with great love." Isn't that what being a Christian is all about? Loving each other, caring for each other, serving each other as if we were serving our Lord and Savior?

I have spent a lot of time reading a blog I found lately. It's called Momastery (www.momastery.com ), and the lady who writes it has a great sense of humor, and a deep faith. She wrote something that makes so much sense, yet is so simple that I wondered why it never occured to me before. She said that the way to get to know a mom is to care about her children and treat them well, and that it was the same with GOD. The way to know HIM, and draw closer to HIM is to care about and for HIS children, and treat them well. Do small things with great love. Because we are all in this together, and we are all HIS.

Precious GOD, help us to see beyond ourselves and see thru Your eyes. Help us to do small things with Your great love. Help us to remember that our way to You is thru love, and faith and service to Your children. In Jesus' name. Amen

Friday, March 2, 2012

Do It Anyway

I found this poem today. Someone read it in church years ago and I kept it. I don't know what the title is, but it was apparently written by Mother Teresa.

People are often

unreasonable and self-centered.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind,

people may accuse you of ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

If you are honest,

people may cheat you.

Be honest anyway.

If you find happiness,

people may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today

may be forgotten tomorrow.

Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have,

and it may never be enough

Give your best anyway.

For you see, in the end,

it is between you and GOD.

It never was between you and them anyway.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lent and Bible Studies

We are a little over a week into Lent and it feels... different this year. In the past I have given up sweets and snacks, and I did this year too, but I also have been doing other things as well. I have given up playing computer games (I didn't realize how much time I was wasting playing on the computer until I had to find something to do to fill that time... ugh!). I have been spending more time with the kids (cause, you know, I don't spend enough time with them already. I am with them 24/7, but to hear them tell it, they never get to spend time with me). And I am spending a lot more time reading my Bible and doing my Bible studies. I am currently doing James: Mercy Triumphs by Beth Moore and Mosaic: When GOD Uses All the Pieces by Shane Stanford. They are both REALLY good, which means they ask really hard questions, and make you examine yourself in ways that are painfully honest. I don't like to examine myself in ways that are painfully honest. BUT, I am glad I am doing both of these studies. After all the 'turmoil' I felt last fall with the medical stuff, and the emotional stuff I went thru (more on that another time perhaps), it is time to do some deep searching and let GOD work on me and in me. I know if I submit to HIS will, I will be a better mother, a better wife, a better friend. I know that if I humble myself and let HIM take control, I will be a better person for it. I know that if I let HIM chisel away all the unnecessary baggage I carry from the past, I will be a more effective witness for HIM. So please keep me in your prayers that I will just let go and let HIM do HIS work in me. Thanks :)