Thursday, August 30, 2012

writing: my journey so far

The end of my two month experiment with a different way of posting on my blog has come. It's been an interesting experience for me. I haven't had deadlines to write things by since I finished college, but this has been a bit of that (except the deadlines are more flexible than a paper due date).

To be honest, it's been a challenge at times to write these. But, it's also been a good time for me. I love to write, so I've enjoyed setting aside regular time to do so. As someone who disliked writing assignments in high school, I never thought I would write anything for fun.

There was a point in my life where I wondered how people could love writing. I definitely enjoy reading, so I was glad people wrote things, but I didn't really understand how they could enjoy it. Then in my third year of college I discovered that when it was about things I actually cared about, writing was something I liked to do.

I didn't really ever think it would go beyond those college assignments. But after I made a few comments on some blog posts on the blog for the young adults group at my church, I was thinking about that differently. The young adults pastor at my church asked if I would be willing to post on a regular basis on the website. My first thought when he asked was, "Not a chance!" Thankfully, that's not what came out of my mouth. I said I would think about it instead.

I did say yes to doing that and in the process my love for writing grew. I quickly realized it helped me to make sense of the various things I was thinking about, if I worked to put them together in a way that made sense to another person.

That is ultimately what lead to this blog and the things I write on it. I've gone through seasons with my writing here. But it's never been something I was able to quit doing because I enjoy the challenge of it. These last two months have provided a bit more of a challenge with the regular schedule, but it has served to increase my love for writing.

For now, I will continue with a similar schedule to the one I've had for the last couple of months.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

never alone

Last weekend I ended up with a couple of lines from a song we sang at Women of Faith stuck in my head. They have stayed in my head since then. I don't know the name of the song they are from. But I have heard the song before.

Never once did we ever walk alone. Never once did He leave us on our own.

There's a great truth about God contained in those words. God never leaves us alone no matter what we're walking through. He is there with us when we don't know He is. God doesn't leave us to figure it out on our own.

That doesn't mean God won't allow us to try it on our own if we insist. He won't force His way on us. But, He will be there waiting for when we choose to allow Him to guide us.

I don't know about you, but I need this reminder that God doesn't leave me to walk on my own obviously in the bad times, but I need it in the good times too. When life seems to be going wrong and things are hard, this is a truth I can cling to. But when life is good, I can start feeling like it's all me that is making that happen, but then I am reminded that I don't walk in those times either. I'm reminded to praise God for His goodness to me.

I've realized this in the last couple of years as I've stepped out into doing things God has asked me to do. It's been a good time in my life, but as I stepped out I needed the reminder of the truth that God walks with me in that too.

So, what about you? What do these words mean to you today in the midst of your good time or your bad time?

Never once did we ever walk alone. Never once did He leave us on our own.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Galatians 1:10

A couple of days ago I started reading in the book of Galatians. I wasn't really starting reading with any thoughts that God had something to say to me in it. But God often has other ideas when we dig into His Word.

It's something I'm learning to appreciate about God and about studying His Word. No matter how well we think we know it, God still teaches us more and speaks to us in different ways through His Word. The more time I spend in His Word, the more I see and hear. It really is something that keeps me coming back.

Anyways, back to Paul's letter to the church at Galatia. Paul jumps right into His reason for writing this letter - reminding the Galatian Christians of the gospel and calling them back to it. At the end of this comes a verse that jumped off the page at me. Galatians 1:10 says: "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ."

I tend to be a people pleaser - if there's something I can do that will make or keep another person happy or gain their approval, I'll do it more often than not. So when this verse jumped off the page at me, I knew I needed to listen to what God was saying to me through it.

Paul is reminding his readers that following God doesn't mean we will always be approved of by others. The gospel message and the sacrifice it requires won't necessarily make that possible. We can't be trying to win the approval of others as followers of Christ.

God's approval is the approval we should be seeking in our lives. His approval should be our goal. God's approval is what matters. This is what Paul is saying in this verse - that He is seeking God's approval above that of any men.

What about you?
Whose approval are you seeking?
Do you need to make changes in whose approval you are seeking?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Women of Faith: Part 2

A couple of days ago I wrote a bit about my time at the Women of Faith conference in Spokane, Washington. Since then, I've been thinking about it more. And processing what it is about Women of Faith I enjoy so much.

I'm one of those people who will take pretty much any opportunity that comes my way to go to a conference, retreat, or seminar. As long as something about it interests me a little bit I'll do my best to make sure I can go. I guess you could call me a "conference junkie." I just love to learn and now that I'm out of school this is a good way to do that.

But there's something about Women of Faith that feels different than most of what I have attended. Like I said a couple of days ago, there's something unique about a hockey arena full of women praising God together. I love that and it's even greater because you hear the voices from those sitting across from you in the arena while you sing. But even that is not the main reason I love going.

As I think about it, my mind keeps going back to waiting in line on Friday night for the doors to open for us to get in. As we stood there, we have conversations with the women in line around us. They were strangers, but there was something more important in life that we had in common that brought us together. It wasn't that we had really deep conversations - we talked about where we were from, how many times we had come to a Women of Faith conference. But that conversation flowed because of the connection we shared as sisters in the family of God.

It didn't matter that some of us were from Canada and most of them were from the USA, or that some of us were from cities and some were from small towns, or that some were married and some were single, or whether anyone had kids or grandkids. What mattered was that we loved God. What mattered was more important than the things you see from the outside.

The reminder of how diverse the family of God is in this world is something I love. And Women of Faith, for me, is just a small reminder of that. Earthly things aren't what matter. Spiritual things are the important things that draw us together. As the family of God we need to cross the lines we draw and come together as a family.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Women of Faith: Part 1

I spent the past weekend in Spokane, Washington at a Women of Faith conference. I went with my Mom and we had a great time. The conference had some great speakers and amazing worship. There's something about singing praise to God in a hockey arena full of women. It really is a beautiful sound to have all voices together. And when that worship is followed up with great teaching from the Word of God there really isn't a better way to spend the weekend in my view.

On Friday night, Sheila Walsh was one of the speakers. Her message that night really stuck with me. She talked about how God uses broken people - despite their past, their circumstances, or any shame Satan may try to foist on them. Sheila Walsh spoke about Zacchaeus the Tax Collector in Luke 19:1-10. She stopped and focused on Jesus' words in verse 10: "For the Son of Man cam to seek and save the lost." (NIV). The definition of Greek word for lost in this verse stuck with me: "ruined, devastated, broken beyond repair." That is who Jesus came to find and bring salvation to.

I would say that covers most of us. We find it easy to think that our past, our circumstances, or our shame make us broken beyond repair and therefore unusable by God. But that could not be further from the truth. Scripture is full of examples of God using people who were, from an earthly perspective, broken beyond repair. That should give us hope that God can use us too.

I don't know about you, but I need this reminder often in my life. I can look back at my life and see all sorts of things I've done that should mean God can't use me, but they don't. I have circumstances in my life that sometimes make me wonder if God can really use me, but they don't. I have dealt with and still deal with shame that makes me think something makes me wrong as a person, but that doesn't stop God. As I keep following God into what He has for me, the reminder that God uses broken people is one I continually need.

"God can do amazing things with a broken heart if we give Him all the pieces." (Sheila Walsh)

God takes our ruined, devastated, broken beyond repair lives and uses them for His purposes and His glory.

"For the Son of Man cane to seek and save the lost.: Luke 19:10

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Nehemiah 4:16-18

I've spent my summer in a study of the book of Nehemiah. Even though I've long since passed these verses. I've found myself continuing to come back to them. At first, I really didn't know why I kept coming back to these verses. They didn't really seem to be ones that had an application to my life - at least not at first glance. But as I thought about them, God began to speak something to me through them.

"From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows, and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon with the other, and each of he builders wore his sword at his side as he worked." (Nehemiah 4:16-18)

On the surface, not the usual type of verses I get something really practical out of. But as I listened for God to show me what He had for me in these verses, he began to speak something that really was more practical than I thought these verses could be.

These verses are about the very practical reality of the Israelites rebuilding the wall under Nehemiah's leadership and how they responded to opposition they faced. The opposition threatened to completely destroy their progress on what they were doing. But they responded by making plans for how they would face the opposition and still keep doing the work they were to do.

The same thing can be true in our lives. And it seems to happen often. We are going about doing what God has called us to do and things are going well until Satan attacks. When those attacks come things change. We can't go about things the same way we always have. We learn to go about what God has called us to do while at the same time being ready to defend ourselves from Satan's attacks. Like the Israelites did things differently "from that day on" we do the same thing.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

study it for yourself

As someone who reads a lot and listens to a lot of speakers and teachers it is easy to begin to just believe what those people say is the truth. Especially if they are people who are good and well-respected in Christian circles. In lots of ways, we're brought up in the church to believe what people who speak, teach, or write have to say.

But sometimes I wonder if we're missing an aspect of it. I wonder if there is one important question we should be asking ourselves with everything we hear or read. A question that helps us to learn what we heard for ourselves.

Growing up I was often encouraged to take something I had heard or read and check it with the Scripture passages used and Scripture as a whole for myself. Not in a way of not trusting someone, but with an attitude of wanting to see it for myself on the pages of Scripture. There is something to seeing and reading it for yourself on the pages than just hearing someone else talk or reading someone else write about it.

All of this has left me with a couple of questions I find myself continually asking about things I hear or read:
  • What do the passages of Scripture this person is talking about say when I read them myself?
  • As what I'm hearing them say what Scripture says?
I've found asking myself those questions means I really take the time to learn what God may be saying to me. In my life, they really have been questions that have helped me to grow in my walk with God. I would challenge you to start doing the same thing yourself if you're not already.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

God's guidance

"Seeking God's guidance is not being passive and letting circumstances dictate. It's about seeking wisdom, exercising judgement, meditating on Scripture, praying and taking responsibility and initiative." (John Ortberg)

That's a summary of some teaching I heard in a video series by John Ortberg a few weeks ago. It started me thinking about how I seek God' guidance in my own life. What does it look like? Does it fit with what Ortberg says here? Or do I see it as something different? What does Scripture say?

As I thought about this, I was reminded of the prayer of Solomon when he first took the throne of Israel. 2 Chronicles 1:10 records his request for wisdom, "Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?" Solomon asked for wisdom so he could do the job God had given him to do. He knew he needed God's guidance to lead Israel.

I think that part is something we're good at. We know how to ask God for wisdom - for guidance. But I think we often struggle with the next part of it. We ask and then sit back and wait. But if we look at Solomon's life, we can see that after he asked, he went about doing something to govern and lead Israel. He took action after his prayer and through the rest of his life.

I think that's where we can sometimes struggle - I know I do. We ask and then we wait for God to miraculously do something and we let circumstances dictate our lives. Sometimes God might move miraculously to our prayers for guidance and wisdom. But, I think most of the time, God's guidance comes as we move forward in little ways. As we go about doing what seems best, God gives us the guidance we asked for along the way.

And that's where what Ortberg had to say in the teaching I heard by him is so true. We don't let circumstances dictate what happens in our lives. We pray and then we act in accordance with what Scripture says and what we know to do.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Exodus 4:2

In Exodus 4 God is calling Moses to lead the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt. Moses is looking for excuses not to do it. Moses asks about what to do if the people don't believe him or listen to him when he shows up to tell them God has said he, Moses, is to lead them out of slavery. God's response stuck with me when I read this a while ago. In Exodus 4:2, God asks Moses a simple question: "What is in your hand?"

Moses had a shepherd's staff in his hand. There wasn't anything special about it. It had been used in his job of looking after sheep, just like any other shepherd's staff. But, God was about to take that simple, ordinary staff and use it in a powerful way.

Exodus 4 goes on to tell us that God told Moses to throw his staff on the ground. When Moses did so it became a snake, and when he picked it up again it once again was a shepherd's staff. God was taking what Moses had to offer and using it for His purposes.

Maybe God wants to do something similar with us. I know God has been asking me the same question lately. What is in my hand looks pretty ordinary, but am I willing to allow God to take it and use it?

So, those are the questions I want to encourage you to ponder today:
What is in your hand?
Are you willing to allow God to take it and use it for His purposes and His glory?

Thursday, August 9, 2012


I was watching a rerun of an episode of CSI:NY the other day and was struck by something one of the characters on the show said. I've been thinking about it since then. They were talking about the need or desire to belong.
"Some people will do whatever they have to to belong - even if it almost kills them." (Detective Mac Taylor, CSI:NY)

We all want to belong somewhere. We have a need to belong somewhere. We can fill that need in many different ways - some good and some not so good. But, not matter who you talk to they want to belong somewhere.

We can belong in our families or with our friends. We can belong to a club of some kind. We can belong to sports team or to a band. There are many places we can belong.

But, the problem comes when we don't feel like we belong anywhere. We go looking for a place to belong. And when we get desperate enough to belong somewhere we'll do almost anything to belong to a group of some kind. We also run into a problem when we look up to a group and want to belong to that group at any cost. Sometimes it may not truly be a group that's worth belonging to, but we have a desire to belong to it and we'll do whatever it takes to belong to that group.

I think this is the kind of looking for belonging spoken of in the quote above. But, I also think we often get to place of belonging at any cost to groups we maybe shouldn't when we feel like we don't belong elsewhere. And that's when we can end up making choices that may almost kill us to belong.

The church should have a better answer to this need for belonging than our world can and does give. We should be the place where anyone can feel as though they belong. We should be welcoming other people in. We live in a world where "people will do whatever they have to to belong - even if it almost kills them." So maybe we need to make our churches a place where people can belong and where that sense of belonging can be the catalyst for life change.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Beauty is prized in our culture. Or, at least, some version of it is. We're told that certain things make us beautiful. And often, those standards of beauty make us feel like we can never be beautiful because we can never look that way.

But, Scripture tells us something different about God' standard of beauty. In God's eyes we're all beautiful. And that's a truth that is life-giving in the midst of our culture.

I was listening to a song the other day that spoke to this. It's been stuck in my head since then and I think it's one where we need to hear and learn to believe the ttruth in it.

Beautiful - by MercyMe

Take the time to listen to the lyrics to this song.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

2 Peter 2:11-12

It was back in high school at a youth conference where I first really noticed these verses. They were the theme for the event and they have stuck with me since then.

"Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your souls. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us." 1 Peters 2:11-12

The translation that they used for the youth conference said "aliens and strangers" instead of "foreigners and exiles." And they gave us each those temporary tattoos with the words "I'm an alien" on them. That's one way to get the attention of a bunch of high school students.

In the years since that conference, these verses have become some of my favorite verses in Scripture. Not so much because I think they're better than other verses, but because they have become the guide for how I live my life. To me, they succinctly describe how we are to live as followers of Christ.

We are to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against our souls. We have to choose to turn from our sinful desires and seek to be satisfied in things that are pleasing to God. This may not always be the easy choice, but it is the choice we're called to make.

The reason why we choose to abstain from sinful desires is because the way we live our lives is watched by people around us. When they watch our lives they should be pointed to something beyond us because we live differently from the world around us. This doesn't mean we never have to talk about our beliefs, but people should see the difference because of how we live.

Friday, August 3, 2012

how do you treat the Word?

Nehemiah 8:1-9 records the Israelites that returned from exile gathering within the newly rebuilt walls of Jerusalem to hear the Book of the Law (the Word of God) read aloud. As I read this, I was struck by the importance placed on this by the people's response to the reading of it. It was clear that this was considered something important to them.

These verses in Nehemiah record that all who could understand gathered and listened attentively (vs. 3). We're told that they read it from daybreak until noon (vs. 3). Ezra, the priest who was reading it to the people, was on a platform built for the occasion so that all could see and hear him (vs. 4-5). The response that the Israelites had to the reading of the Books of the Law is also recorded:
  • the people stood up as Ezra opened it (vs. 5)
  • the people worshipped God (vs. 6)
  • the people wept as they listened (vs. 9)
This wasn't something taken lightly by anyone involved.

As I've thought about this event as recorded in Nehemiah, I've found myself reflecting on how I treat the Word of God in my life. Unlike the Israelites in this time, I have the ability to own and read the Bible myself. I don't have to wait for the priest to read it aloud.

Looking at my bookshelf, there are eight different Bibles on it. And then, there's the two I use more often on the end table in my living room and on the kitchen table. And then there's all the translations I can find online with my computer or my phone. I have lots of access to God's Word. Really, I have no excuse for not picking it up more often when I have all those options available.

But, the reality in my life is that I still don't give God's Word the place of importance it should have in my life. I'm more likely to pick up one of my other books to read when I have some extra time. And the times I do pick up my Bible, it can just as easily be to cross that requirement off my list rather than be because I actually want to read it.

As I've reflected on these verses in Nehemiah, I've found myself challenged to treat God's Word differently. I need to value it in my life. I need to make it important in my life. I want to have a response to it like the Israelites had here. When I read Scripture, I want my heart to respond.

 What about you? How do you treat the Word of God? Do you need to place a greater value on it?

My prayer as of late has been for God to increase my desire for His Word and soften my heart to what He has to say through it. It's my prayer for you as well. If that is your desire, can I challenge you to pray for it everyday?