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The Idols of Life

If you don’t live in Ohio (or northeast US for that matter), maybe you don’t know that we had a wonderful, huge snow storm come through this weekend. It was great. Everything was closed, no traveling, the works. Which for someone who LOVES snow, that means that I spent the days with friends: sled riding, watching movies, playing games, and making waffles. It was superb.

It also meant that all the churches were closed on Sunday so my best friend and I decided to watch a sermon online. The one we watched was about idols. The argument was that although people may have a variety of “surface” idols in their life (aka: food, money, kids, clothes, cars, you-name-it), they all boil down to four “core” idols. Have to say, I couldn’t really find a whole lot of Scriptural backing for this idea but the logic was okay.

The first idol he mentioned was Comfort and the second was Approval. As he explained I really examined my heart and thought, “Nah, I don’t think those apply a whole lot. Probably sometimes.”

The third idol was Control. As soon as he said that word, I look at Natalie and said, “Weeeeelllll, this has been great but I just remembered that…” Yeah, I didn’t get away with it. She pulled me down and said that if she had to listen to her idols I had to sit through mine. *sigh*

We both know. I like control. I’m very organized and structured naturally and it gives me a feeling that I can control the world. One of the things he mentioned in the video is that people with this idol often will do everything because they would rather do it themselves and be SURE it will get done than have someone else do it. Ouch, man. That hurt. I literally winced.

And the problem with this idol is the blatant lack of trust is displays. A lack of dependency and trust in the Lord. Like somehow I can do things better than he can and I know better than the Creator of the World. But I don’t. And boy did God have to YANK that control right out of my hands in order to teach me that! These last couple of years have taught me just how little control I have. (And how much he DOES have!)

Sometimes I need a good smack…err…reminder that I’m not in control and of Who is. And of how grateful I should be for that!

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Prov. 19:21

P.S. The fourth idol was Power. 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2019 in sermons

 

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Before I Say Yes

Guys, I’ve fallen off the bandwagon. Totally. In fact, the wagon is so far ahead of me that I’m now running behind trying to catch up, gasping for breath. What wagon, you ask? The NO wagon.

I don’t know about you but opportunities to serve and help out are like flies on a hot day. They are swarming around me. And by nature I’m very much a YES! person. That word jumps into my mouth before I can choke it down. But over the past couple of years, I’ve had to watch it. My body and brain have been through a lot and I’ve had to step away from a lot of commitments. I learned to say NO.

Until recently, that is. Christmas came around and suddenly I found myself doing all these things. New Year and my schedule is packed. How did this happen? I ask myself. Ah, I fell off the NO bandwagon. Let me be clear that all of these are GOOD things! All of them! Some of them were asked of me, some I volunteered for, and some nobody volunteered for so I…ummm… volunteered for.

An idea that’s pretty popular in my church (and I think a lot of others too) right now is to “say YES before God asks you.” I first heard this phrase in relation to missions. And I get it- really, I do. I understand the heart attitude it’s driving at. The attitude that gives up what you desire in order to obey the Lord. The attitude that made Isaiah say, “Here I am! Send me.”

But sometimes, the RIGHT answer is NO. This is a rarely taught concept in the church. I was telling my schedule to someone the other day and he said to me, “You know you don’t have to save the world every month, right?” That really stuck with me. It is okay and sometimes RIGHT to say NO to good things. I would rather do a few things excellently than all things half way. Or more accurately, I would rather do a few things excellently and not have to take a week to recover every month because I’ve drained myself of everything I have.

The more I thought about this, the more I thought it would be wise to have a plan. A decision-making plan. So I literally wrote one up the other morning. It’s pretty simple:

Before saying YES:

  1. Have I prayed about it?
  2. Does this honor and glorify God?
  3. Does this move me towards my life goals for this year?
  4. Does this conflict with any previous commitments and/or work schedule?
  5. Is the THOUGHT of this already stressing me out?

This has been SO helpful for me already! Freeing really! The first two are musts, the third is almost a must. That fourth is negotiable. My schedule is flexible but I want to stay committed to the things I’ve said YES to first. The Bible actually has a lot to say on following through on your word. (Eccl. 5:5, Matt. 5:33-37, Num. 30:1-2) So that’s important to me. That last one is a big one for me. Stress is a huge thing for someone with epilepsy and constant headaches. If just thinking about committing to something is giving me more stress, it’s probably not a good idea to do it. I’ve found the stress doesn’t go away, but usually increases. 🙂

I want to be wise with the time and energy that’s been given to me. It’s not endless (believe me, I KNOW.) So if I say NO to something you ask me to do, you can know that I’ve thought it through and prayed about it and it’s almost NEVER because I don’t want to do it. I just can’t always say YES.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2019 in growing

 

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Pressuring Missionaries

Almost every week at my church we have what we call a Ministry Minute. They can be about all sorts of things like missionary updates, outreach opportunities, community events we are helping with, etc. It’s to make sure everyone is aware of what is going on and how they can be involved. But recently we’ve started doing something really cool: we’ve been able to Skype our overseas missionaries during that time and get their updates directly from them. It’s super neat. Way to go, Tech Team!

A couple of Sundays ago, we were Skyping a couple in Spain (ok, just how awesome is that?) and a thought occurred to me as they were telling us ways that God was working through them.

We expect a lot from our missionaries. I was sitting listening with this huge smile on my face and suddenly I felt how much pressure these people must feel from us. (My smile probably whipped right off as I worked this out in my head.)

But think about it. Missionaries come back to the States to either raise support or they may be on a break but everyone everywhere wants to know what God is doing and how he’s working. You know what? What if they are in a spiritual desert?? What if they feel like they are preaching to stones and NO ONE is responding? Would they feel like they could be honest with us?

Also, do we ask people in our own church those questions with the same earnestness? Do you want to know what the Lord is doing in your friends’ lives just as much or are you only interested in the far away?

I’ve been thinking this over and been feeling a little bit more compassionate towards the missionaries I know this week. The more I thought about it, I realized it really applies to anyone working in ministry! They aren’t Jesus. They are people who need to be loved and encouraged just as much as you and I and are often far away from everyone they know. Maybe pray a little more for them as Christmas comes next week.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2018 in church

 

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Living With and Without

Hey did you guys know life gets busy around Christmas? Nope? Just me? Okay well then I apologize for not posting but I’ve been enjoying the season and being busy serving where God puts me. Annnnyywaaays..on to the today’s post!

If I could go back and meet any one Bible character it would definitely be Paul. (Jesus being exempt from this theoretical question, of course.) I love Paul. His testimony, life, example, writing…everything. I love his rhetorical and sarcastic questions in Romans (he cracks me up) and his love for all the saints. Yup, he’s my favorite.

In Philippians 4, Paul talks about how he has learned to be content in whatever situation God has him in. He has learned to live with plenty and to live with nothing. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I’ve been thinking about finances. (I work at a bank for goodness’ sake, people!)

I never really worried much about money in the past. I always had more than I needed and I lived what I considered simply. In 2017, when it became clear to my doctor and I that I needed to take a break from working, things changed. It meant I needed to move into an apartment and (gasp!) actually pay for housing. It meant no income until I could go back to work. It just meant a lot more expenses in general. And I was prepared but it was still a little nerve wracking.

There was one Sunday I never want to forget. It was right before I was going to be done at the Farm and I was having a really rough time emotionally, physically, mentally- all of it. I had just finished up a conversation with a lady who meant well but was stressing me out with details that I didn’t have yet. I just wanted to trust that the Lord had things figured out that I couldn’t answer yet and that wasn’t good enough for her. I walked around the corner and (in my usual, fake fashion) I flashed a smile at one of the elders of my church as I started to walk by him. But he didn’t let me walk by. He pulled me around and I realized it was a group of elders there. They didn’t ask me if I had everything figured out; they put their arms around me and prayed with me. And that wonderful man is now in heaven getting some reward for calming and encouraging a discouraged heart at that moment.

But at some point, I did have to think about money. It just wasn’t then. God SO blessed me that I had plenty saved so that I didn’t “have” to worry during my rest time. It was still in the back of my mind that I didn’t have any incoming money, just outgoing, but I knew how much was there and I kept an eye on it. 

In general though, I don’t spend a lot. But I found out that when finances got tight, I didn’t get to spend money on the things I loved doing. Random baking adventures for my friends kind of stopped because suddenly butter looked really unnecessary. Not that I COULDN’T have bought it. It was more evaluating the need.

This year, as I looked at coming off my Dad’s insurance, panic came into my mind. I knew there would be a 3 month gap between coming off and when my work insurance kicked in and I was honestly scared. I prayed and worked my butt off to organize because in case you forgot, meds are REALLY expensive. And just when I thought I had it all figured out that I could get a 90 day supply before coming off insurance, that fell through.

Do you know what I learned? To be content with and without, in every circumstance. Over and over again, I have to remind myself that God has ALWAYS supplied my every need. Sometimes that’s been through other people saying, “Hey, I’m going to get that for you. I know you CAN but I don’t want you to have to worry about it.” And that’s really humbling, folks.

But wait, there’s more. I’ve had money show up anonymously in my church mail box. I’ve had my medications drop in price for NO REASON. To the point that the pharmacists can’t figure it out! This last time I went to get my most expensive med and it wasn’t ready yet. She looked at me hesitantly (they always do) and asked if I was aware of the cost. I said yes and confirmed it. When I came back 20 minutes later, it had dropped over $300!!! I just stared at her. She had no idea why. I’m convinced God creates computer glitches in my favor. That’s literally not the first time that’s happened to me.

Maybe this post sounds to you like a plea for help or money. Oh no, it’s not. It’s an exclamation of praise! And it’s an encouragement. I know a lot of people that worry about finances. Sometimes it’s still a mind struggle for me and I rehearse God’s faithfulness to myself. I’ve never been in need. And I’ve certainly never been in need to the extent that Paul was!

It’s also a reminder to continue to be generous even when you don’t have much. I remember hearing a sermon as a kid on finances and my pastor said as an example that the first check he writes out every week is the one to the church. And I remember thinking, “Huh? What’s the big deal?” Yeah…I get it more now. The temptation is to let that be the last thing because it’s not necessary like a bill and THAT’S exactly why you put it first! I’ve been blessed to remember that this year. I’ve gotten creative with how I choose to bless others. Sometimes, all people really want is a listening ear. It doesn’t cost anything to go to the nursing home and read your Bible to an elderly lady and listen to her story. There are ways to give that involve money and there are ways to give that don’t; both are vitally important.

Anyway, I think I’ve rambled on enough tonight. What has God taught you about finances and trusting him through it?


 
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Posted by on December 13, 2018 in contentment

 

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Tradition! Tradition!

I’ve always been a sucker for good, old musicals. Oklahoma, Singing in the Rain, The Sound of Music, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and the list goes on. Yup, I’m one of those people. So a couple of weeks ago, when I noticed that Fiddler on the Roof was on Prime, I put it on my watchlist. 

But everyone knows you can’t just jump into a 3 hour movie without forethought. It didn’t take me too long to decide that it wouldn’t be a waste of my life to watch it again and plus I’d probably only watch the first half anyways….yeah….I watched the whole thing.

There are a couple of things that really stood out to me this time. Which is saying something considering I grew up on that movie. My sisters and I would sing those songs on car rides and while we did dishes. Harmony and everything. I have it memorized to the point that I left the room for a minute just as the line came up, “We’ve been waiting for the Messiah our whole lives; wouldn’t this be a good time for him to come?” And I called out from the other side of my apartment, “He’s already come, Motel!” (Yeah, I talk to movies when I’m by myself.)

But back to life lessons, people. I was SO struck by how much Tevye talks to God throughout the whole movie. He’s literally in constant communication about every single thing. I’m not saying he always has the best attitude but I’m saying it actually really convicted me to look at my life and see how it compared.

Also, when I watched the scene before the Sabbath it suddenly reminded me of church. They are rushing around crazily to get everything done before the Sabbath comes. They are arguing with each other, shouting, everything is chaos. And then suddenly it’s like, “Okay, hush, it’s the Sabbath now.” Whoa. Have you ever had a Sunday like that? Have you ever had a crazy morning where nothing goes right, you fight on the way to church, and then get to church and pretend like everything is perfect? Yeah, me too.

And lastly, I got a huge chuckle right at the beginning of the movie. Tevye is, of course, explaining the basis of the whole story line: TRADITION! He explains about the traditions and then says, “You may ask, ‘How did this tradition get started?’ I’ll tell you!…..I don’t know. But it’s a tradition!”

And I laughed because there are SO many things in our churches today that are like that. Things we do simply because that’s the way they have always been done and no one even remembers why. BUT IT’S A TRADITION! And sometimes you can look at Scripture and see why a certain thing is done and other times it’s not clear until you try to change it. There may or may not be a reason. I’m thankful to be a part of a church that is becoming more open to new ideas little by little.

Sometimes I need to remember myself that change is okay. Feel free to remind me anytime. I’ll try to be like Tevye and examine to see if it’s something that really matters or not.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2018 in movies

 

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Birthday Cookies

Today is my birthday. I woke up this morning at 5am with an unusually bad headache. Like really splitting to be honest. I did not want to be awake and I did not want it to be my birthday. I certainly did not want to get on stage at church this morning for the ministry minute I was scheduled for and excitedly explain how Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes work.

I had made a point of telling Natalie that I didn’t want a point made of my birthday. Honestly it’s been a stressful month. Coming off your parent’s insurance when your work’s insurance doesn’t kick in for a few months is hard and there are a lot of details to figure out. I wasn’t happy about the day and in fact, had pretty much forgotten my birthday was coming up.

But I don’t like to be grumpy when other people are trying to celebrate so when my Sunday School class sang me Happy Birthday, I smiled and thanked them. And I did the same for every sweet person that wished me well. And I successfully got my ministry minute pulled together (with some awesome volunteers!) and smiled the whole time.

I got home from church and tried to give my attitude a stern talking-to, but the screaming pain in my head just made me lay on the couch, wishing I could enjoy the beautiful day outside.

And then suddenly, I got the urge to bake some cookies. I know that sounds weird but I haven’t baked anything for no reason in a while and I (almost in a daze) got up and started getting out the ingredients. It wasn’t until a few minutes later, when the dough was finished and I was getting down my cookie sheets, that I saw what had happened.

I looked down at the dough and realized I had just made the cookies from memory. My memory. I had remembered. This is my Dad’s family recipe and I’ve had it memorized since I was at least 10 but the last time I tried to make them, I had to call my Mom because I couldn’t remember it. And I hadn’t made them since.

Yeah, I know. It probably doesn’t seem like a big deal to you. But it was to me. And I was so thankful that I burst out crying like a little baby.

This has been a hard year. Harder than most people know. And as I sit here typing, I know my problems aren’t all gone (still have a whooper of a headache.) But I am thankful for what God has taught me and for the fact that he is continuing to lovingly teach me.

Even if it’s with cookies.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2018 in encouragment

 

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A House of Prayer

I had a new revelation at church this week. Cue the flashing lights and trumpets! Everyone leans forward in their chairs! Because, as we all know, everyone wants to learn about new stuff! But what I actually mean is, God did NOT reveal something other than his Word to me, he revealed something about his Word as it relates to my life. Sorry to disappoint. 🙂

Anyway, the past few weeks, I have felt really BUSY at church. My brain has felt scattered and cluttered, filled with things I need to do while I’m there. I usually walk to church and on that short walk, my mind starts coming up with people I need to talk to when I’m at church and I start planning how I’m going to fit it all in. For instance, this Sunday alone, I had 4 people I needed to talk to about different ministry things, I needed to connect with the other Young Adult leader about some things, I’m the secretary of a committee and needed to confirm a meeting for this Wednesday, AND I had a meeting right after service. It’s a lot to fit in if you count trying to find all the people and talking with everyone else you bump into.

And the problem is, IT’S ALL GOOD STUFF. And it all does need to get done. But by the end of church I was frustrated because first of all, my list wasn’t complete, and secondly, there were other people that were hurting at church and my heart WANTED to talk with those people but because of my “to-do list”, I didn’t have time.

And that’s when my focus cleared up. Verses from Matthew and Mark quickly popped into my head and I realized that I had made church a place of business instead of keeping it a place of worship and prayer. Once my “have-to” stuff became more important than ministering to those that needed it, God quickly convicted my heart. And I’m so thankful he did!

I also realized that there was absolutely no need for those things to be done on Sunday. In my mind, I just always say, “Oh, I’ll see them at church and talk to them then.” BUT I DON’T NEED TO! Why in the world do I have phone calls, texts, and emails if I’m not going to use them?? I don’t NEED to push everything to Sunday because it can be done before then. What I need to do is restructure my mind to think this way and diligently plan ahead of time.

Ok, so maybe this wasn’t a new revelation for you at all. But it was for me. And now I have a list of things to do before Sunday gets here. I’m sure things will still pop up on Sundays but that’s ok. I’m praying my mind and heart will be able to focus a little bit more on the reason I go to church this coming week.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2018 in church

 

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