Trust, the Lord is good!

Why should I feel discouraged
Why should the shadows come
Why should my heart feel lonely
And long for heaven and home

When Jesus is my portion
A constant friend is he
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches over me
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches me

Words by Civilla D. Martin, 1905/Music Charles H. Gabriel

We know God is able to deliver us. We know He will carry us through he deepest, darkest valleys. How easy it is when we are in that valley, to walk heavy hearted, feeling the weight of the world and its demands upon us, and somehow we let our weakness determine our path rather than reach for His strength to determine to walk on into His light! Why is this hard? Why do we seem to cherish our struggle? Why do we hold so tightly to what the world tells us is going to make us feel happy, safe and secure? Why? Goodness, the bombardment we are faced with every day! There is a battle raging on and on, and we can choose to be crushed by it or we can fight it and grasp to the only strength that can pull us through-Jesus! When words cannot be formed, when our hearts are broken, when our trust is shaken, and when we cannot see with our physical eyes the light at the end of the tunnel let's choose to reach up and hold on to Jesus! Catch this that I read today:

You are not going to understand why God allows storms and heartache in your life but that should not make you doubt his love. During those times when you are stopped by the furnace of affliction, the sea of trouble and the mountain of despair, remember that it is not a holding place but a resting place. God is keeping you near to his heart and revealing more of himself to you. Only there can you understand that at the end of your weakness is his limitless strength.
(Faith that Defies Understanding, http://mvbernard.com/tag/trusting-god-in-hardship/)

Psalm 28:7, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped.”

He is more than able! We are blessed beyond measure, even in this moment that would seem impossible and insurmountable! I want to know and trust and cling to the Father more today than any other day in my life. How will you approach your circumstances-with fear and anxiety, or with joy and praise for His goodness in your life? We have a Savior, and that alone is worth throwing off every care we could ever have in this life. Trust Him, fling aside the burdens that have shadowed your day today and give Him praise for Who He is and for Whose you are!

Praying for you my friend, today, and every day on this journey of life.

Peeling off the layers

I was reading my devotional this morning and it was about letting God heal us when we are broken hearted. This one line stuck me and it was enough to make me wince a little.

'Trust the Lord with everything-even with your pain.'

I had to stop and consider, have I held on too tightly to the wounds in my soul? Have I even gone so far as to hold on to my pain like a toddler with his favorite blanket? Have I allowed myself to wear my pain, my suffering like a badge? Ouch. I think it is safe to say, yes, to every one of those questions. Yes, I have let my wounds become like the clothing I wear. There are some deeper than others, and instead of completely trusting God to heal me and take it from me, I've chosen to wallow in it for awhile. What a horrible feeling, a terrible realization. And what is worse-have I allowed that to distract me from helping someone else who is dealing with a hurt of their own?

The depth of God's love and mercy for me, well, it is nearly tangible today. This past week or so, I have chosen to release a lot of "stuff" to God that I've held on to for far too long. I have grown so weary, so physically and mentally ill from the worries and burdens of this life, that I couldn't take it anymore. And, what is worse? The breaking point has come most recently in watching it manifest in our two older children. What better test of your trust in God, and just how evident your reflection of Him is than to see your worries and concerns weighing down your children. Try as we might, we can't fool ourselves into thinking our kids are oblivious to what we are experiencing. On some level, they know. We have always been open with the kids, we talk about everything we are going through because at some point they will know something is going on. We can try and shield our kids from what we going through in an effort to protect them from harm, but I am a big believer in being real with my kids and getting on their level so they can understand how both the good and the bad are going to effect them. It is a harsh world out there and I want them to be prepared, I want them to have a healthy outlook and ability to handle what is thrown at them. Let's face it-our kids are exposed to so much more than we ever were. We can candy coat it, we can deny it and paint it all like it's daisies and roses all the time, but how does that help them? I choose to make an effort to include my kids in the fullness of joy in this life and teach them how to deal with the harshness of life as well. Whether we realize it or not, we are teaching our kids all the time so all the more reason to equip ourselves and know how to respond to them when the time comes. Several years ago when Rylee was younger, we watched her go through a very dark, anxious time in her life and as time passed we saw that our sweet daughter needed some outside help. All the love and support of her family and friends, and her relationship with God were a beautiful foundation for her to draw upon, but at some point we realized that we needed some professional help. As we went through therapy with her, watched her learn to deal with her condition, and how to cope with life and all that she was battling inside, I found myself feeling so helpless and inadequate as a parent. I found myself feeling very angry, grieved for my child that it appeared God wasn't enough for her hurt. I have found myself feeling the weight of that myself for several years now, some moments more so than others. In recent months, I have been in a place of deep longing, searching to know God more than I have ever known Him before in my life. I have been seeking out time alone with Him, not just for myself, but first and foremost for Ryan, for Rylee, for Bailey, for AJ and even for Chloe as young as unaware as she is. I struggle like any parent with being able to provide everything my children really need, not in the sense of the basic needs like food, shelter, etc. but in comforting them, answering their questions, telling them with absolute certainty that it is going to be alright. I have struggled slowly but surely to peel off the layers I have built around me over the past few years, because of how "comforting" my hurt, my wounds have been to cocoon myself into. I don't want those wounds, those hurts, those struggles, to distract and prevent me from being Jesus to someone who is struggling. I want to resolve to let go of all that would weigh me down, to be at peace and rest in fully trusting my God to truly supply ALL of my needs. I want to be better because of what I've been through, and not let it define me. I want to approach each day pain-free, trusting in God who knows what is the very best for me, and not second guessing Him because what I may see or hear seems so great for me! It comes to this---I must resolve to be comfortable in a state of longing to know God more! The life long obssession with loving Him, eminating His goodness, thoughts and words of hope flowing through me and from me, knowing that no matter how that dirty dude downstairs digs at me I wil not be crushed! I will not be moved! I will stand firmly, confidently on the promises of a great and powerful God!

We cannot save ourselves, we cannot save our children, but we can turn it all over to the One who can! He is ready and waiting to welcome us into His arms, free us from our pains, our struggles, our darknesses and love us into His glorious light! Here's hope:

Psalm 34:8 NIV Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

Psalm 147:3 NIV He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

I know that You are for me....

I know that You are for me,
I know that You are for me,
I know that You will never forsake me in my weakness.
I know that You have come now
Even if to write upon my heart….
To remind me of who You are!---Kari Jobe, “You are For Me”

Are you weak today? Are you in need of a fill, mind-body-spirit feeling depleted? Life is tiresome isn’t it? I have read countless stories, spoken with and shared heartache with dear friends, and experienced it ourselves personally: what we can only interpret as an unexpected, devastating blow to our so-called “life plan”. This has been an on the edge of our seats kind of year. We took the leap, moved to Missouri in search of a better job for Ryan and a fresh start for our family just a little over a year ago. As we enter year 2 in this new season, we find ourselves in an exciting yet nerve wracking season. God is good, all the time! He has provided for our every need, every step of the way and at times just in the last moments when we thought we just might not meet a particular need. We knew coming out of what Ryan experienced in Indiana, the struggle to find a good job and decent wage for him, that the road to recovery would not be a quick and easy one. Recovery, particularly from job loss and an extended period of temporary or minimal paying jobs, is a long, hard process. We have been watching and praying over the past month or so as God has opened several doors for new opportunities for Ryan.

We are experiencing a mixture of emotions today, and I have to admit we are shaken but not completely crushed. God has provided an amazing ministry opportunity for Ryan as part time Worship Pastor at The Crossing Church in Springfield. We are thrilled, humbled and blessed to have been provided with this position of service and ministry. More recently, this past week has brought another answer to Ryan in the secular work world. The doors to two different positions at MSU closed as they chose to go with another candidate and passed on Ryan. There is a struggle then, between two things—the blessing, the joy of seeing God’s provision in one way, but the anxiety and stress of uncertainty in another area. The reality of our situation, is that we are still in recovery financially. As we approach another year, a new school year, the rising cost of living for our family with four growing children, and we see what our needs are and work our budget to the bone trying to figure out how we can make what we have work just a little bit longer---we can choose to do one of two things:

1. Panic
2. Pray

Go has called us, loves us, and desires for us to approach Him with confidence, with a bold and eager attitude to simply throw every care we have down and trust him fully and completely! Do you know what freedom there is when we choose mentally and physically to say,
“I will not be consumed by the things of this world! I will not be overwhelmed! God is MORE than able! He will provide and provide ABUNDANTLY! Lord, we need You, and we trust You to take care of it ALL!”

The song “You are For Me” has been flowing in my heart and mind for several days now. He knows me, He loves me, He wants and desires for me to praise Him, sing to Him, honor Him at all times! Can we say that when trouble comes, our first reaction is to praise Him? Probably not, because our natural reaction is to recoil, cry out “Why!” and “Help me!” So, what if we did something different? What if we choose to in that moment, immediately praise our God for being Who He is even when we have no clue why something has happened? These are difficult days for so many of us, and as I type this I am thinking of a number of sweet friends who are seeking, desperately seeking what God would have for them to do today. I know you are struggling my friend, but I know your struggle is unnecessary! I know, that somehow, in some way, my God will supply precisely what you need. I say that not only for you, but for me as well. I don’t know exactly how, but I know that my God is more than able—and that knowledge alone must be enough, because I want Him to count me faithful and obedient at all times. I am inspired to make a choice to approach these difficult times, moments of uncertainty with far more hope than I’ve had in the past. Make no mistake, we are in a battle daily, throughout our day, and if we allow human nature to win, we are giving Satan a victory he does not deserve. Take heart and have hope!

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.---Psalm 121 NIV


A Heart Set Apart

I have been anticipating this blog entry for several days now. The excitement, the expectation at this time, this very season of our lives, is almost tangible for me. I get a bit of a tingly feeling, flutter in my soul to think about what God is doing. I can't see it, or hear it, but I sense He is allowing the next best thing to unfold. For several years now, Ryan and I have struggled, walked and at times, crawled through some very dark moments. God placed a call upon our hearts for ministry a long time ago, but we were hesitant in answering it right away. When we did, we were helpless, completely at the mercy of His will because we knew deep down, the time was ours and He had a ride ahead for us! Little did we know the twists and turns that ride would take, but oh, how He has taught us, walked with us and carried us through! The joys of seeing the fruits of our labor for the Kingdom, and the agony of watching what we thought were best laid plans crumble right in front of us. Do you know what resounded in my heart, in my soul, through my joy and through my sorrow? God Is Good! No matter the circumstances, no matter what we saw happening in our own perspective, He came through. He delivered, He provided, He comforted, He restored.

Next Sunday, October 13, we find ourselves once again in a position to begin a new season of ministry with The Crossing Church of Springfield, Missouri. I can honestly say, looking back over the last two years, seeing the hard work, the painfully hard work we had to put in to endure what we thought was a "wilderness", waiting for God to provide the worship ministry job Ryan had been wanting so desperately, wondering how many more closed doors we would have to face......somehow, beyond what we could see, God had a plan then, and He has a plan now. Yes, it is hard not seeing it in its entirety, but where would the lesson be if we could? God has His reasons, and it is usually because we have a lot to learn. How often we find ourselves being such poor students.

Today I found myself studying the phrase, this thing that came to mind, "to be set apart". We are to be set apart. In its purest definition, the Hebrew word 'kadosh' translates to holy or sanctified, the Greek equivalent is 'hagios'. Important to note in the understanding of this phrase "to be set apart" is that we cannot choose it, God must designate it. Did you get that? Let's break it down to better understand what exactly it means to be "set apart".

First, through Declaration. He calls us to a specific vocation, to live in a certain region, to marry a certain someone, and so on. Whether you want to recognize it or not, there are elements in your life that you have been called to right now. What is probably making some of you question this right now, is the fact that you are unsettled where you are in life and in fact you are feeling a nudge in your gut that this is the moment when you realize you can turn it around. You are much more than you allow yourself to be, and God has a great purpose and plan for your life. Don't put it off, I encourage you to begin finding the path He has for you. Don't give up, go after your dream, follow your calling!

Second, through isolation. I have experienced the necessity of this more than once in my life. The greatest hindrance to our walk with Christ, growing my fully and completely in Him is how busy and distracted we've become. There is something to be said for stepping away, giving up some of the things in our lives and being still, being quiet, meditating on Him. It is hard to be quiet, to listen for long periods of time. In this day and time, there's such a push for everyone to make their voice heard, rise above the hum of all the other noises going on around us. Have we ever stopped to consider our best form of preparation for being "set apart" is to be alone with God? So I encourage you today, take time out of each day to be quiet, be still, listen. God has something to speak to you and you don't want to miss it. Find time to get away for a retreat with your church, and leave all of the world's distractions at home. Be filled with Him. Know Him more.

Third, through Dedication. We have opportunities time and time again in our lives to dedicate a number of things to God, as an act of our commitment to be set apart. We have witnessed this as we have joined with churches in building and dedicating new structures for ministry, the dedication of our children and witnessing the dedications of so many children in our church families, mission trips and missionaries commitments to service, the blessing of new homes, and the list can go on. We make it a point to physically commit what is important to us and as a result we have a tangible reminder of a very spiritual decision we have made. This is a powerful tool we can use to teach the love of God to others.

Fourth, through Commemoration. The decision to remember something before God, a prioritization and action. Committing to pray without ceasing for God's will to come alive in someone's life, asking God to fulfill the promises He's made in the Word, specifically asking God's presence be made known in and through a difficult situation in someone's life and giving Him glory at a time when someone else may be experiencing God's abundant blessing.

(Scriptural Concepts: Set Apart, "P'nei Adonai: Resources for walking in the presence of God", http://penei.org/concepts-set-apart.shtml)

By choosing to live out this phrase, "to be set apart", we can live a more abundant life, the kind of life God has always intended for us to live. God uses people, events, dreams, visions and even His own quiet voice to remind us we are to be "set apart". This past weekend, I experienced an awesome example of this, seeing our church come together selflessly and raise the funds needed for our missionary friends in Nigeria to build a well. A well that will not only provide water for the physical thirst of those who come to their church, but "living water" for a spiritual thirst to know the love of Christ!

We are to be set apart, we are the light of the world, and we have an amazing opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people we pass by every single day. Don't miss it!

Hebrews 12:14 NLT Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.

1 Corinthians 6:19 NLT Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself...

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