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No Heat Produces Faith, Faith Produces Heat?

Those that know me know that I love to sleep in the cold. Not like 50 degrees cold, I’m the person who keeps her window open all winter long. I froze my water bottle shut one night this winter and I have frozen a whole cup of water in my room before. Not that I like BEING cold- I like to pile on lots of blankets and snuggle under the weight of all of them. Now I have this magical thing called an electric blanket and I flip that on ten minutes before bed and then turn it off when I get in and everything is very cozy. I just like the air around me to be cold.

So ever since I moved into my apartment, my routine has been to go to the thermostat at night, flip the heat off, open my bedroom window, and crawl into bed. In the morning there is a very particular science to things. You see, while I love sleeping in 30 degree weather, I DO NOT love showering in that kind of temperature. So in the morning, I set my alarm for about a half hour before I need to shower and when it goes off, I reach over, close the window, dash out and flip the heat back on and crawl into my nice warm bed while everything heats back up. About a half hour later, my apartment is at a livable temperature and I can get up and shower. Works like a dream.

Yesterday, I did the same thing I’ve done every single morning. I dashed out, flipped the heat switch and crawled back in bed. I showered and it wasn’t until I was putting my shoes on about 5 minutes before I should be leaving for work that I thought, “Boy, it’s still kind of chilly in here!” So I checked the thermostat and sure enough: 57 degrees. I thought to myself that it sure was taking a lot longer than normal to heat up this morning but I didn’t really have time to think much about it since I had to leave for work.

It was a short but stressful day of work. Actually, it has been quite a long week and I’m ready for it to be over. Nothing big, just a lot of small things that piled up. As I walked home from work, I was freezing: it was 35 degrees and really windy and when I opened up my apartment door I was met with a blast of cool air. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Not a very good welcome home. The temperature hadn’t moved since that morning.

I played with settings on the thermostat thinking maybe I had accidentally bumped one of them and sat in moody silence on my couch in my coat and hat for forty-five minutes, listening for the heat. It would kick on but then 4-5 minutes later shut off and the temperature wouldn’t change. Finally, in a grumpy, complaining mood, I went downstairs and talked to my landlord’s daughter, who said she would ask her Dad as soon as he was done with chemo for the day. Which just made me feel worse. To be fair, they did bring me a space heater, but when you have 9.5ft ceilings, that doesn’t do much.

So I decided to go for a walk, thinking that a brisk walk MUST be warmer than sitting in the cold. Wrong. I forgot how windy it was and several miles later, I arrived home again to my cold apartment with a very cold body and hurting head. I spent the rest of the afternoon curled under my electric blanket, very grumpy.

So this morning, I got up, and (not very hopefully) turned the heat on, and crawled back in bed as usual. Still wasn’t working and it was even colder. Finally I started crying. Don’t laugh- as previously mentioned, it’s been a rough and frustrating week. And I cried out, “Lord! Can’t I at least have some heat?! I just want to be warm! I’m so freaking cold!” And right then, I heard the heat kick on in one of its fake-you-out tricks. I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes at my vent in disgust. About 15 minutes later I realized the heat was still running. This time it hadn’t kicked off like all the other times.

You know who I felt like? Job. But not Job when he is proved righteous and his friends proved wrong. Not Job when he says he hasn’t done anything wrong. Job when God says to him, “Uh, who do you think you are talking to me like that?” Yeah, I felt pretty small and I meekly said, “Thank you, Lord.” About 45 minutes later my apartment was at 70 degrees and the heat is still working. I checked with my landlord and the repairman hadn’t come out yet.

That was a pretty fast answer to prayer. Gosh, why wasn’t that my first response when I found that it wasn’t working?? Why did the prayer come out of desperation instead of being the first thought? I think that’s how a lot of believers live. Prayer is like our back-up resource instead of our first weapon. I want to be so close to God that talking to him about it is always what happens first. I don’t want it to be an after-thought. First thought, constant thought, all day.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2018 in prayer

 

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Comparing Prayers

The other day during my devotions I was searching for a particular verse in Psalms and my eyes glanced over this verse instead:

O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth.” Ps. 54:2

I didn’t really think much of it until I was scanning again and came across this one:

Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!” Ps. 55:1

And then, honestly, the thought that flashed into my head was something along the lines of, “Why in the world does David ask God to hear his prayer? That’s so weird. Doesn’t he know that God is there with him?” Verses on God’s omnipresence and promises to hear us flooded my mind. There may have been a silent scoff in my head.

So I became a little curious and started looking up verses JUST in the Psalms on asking God to hear and very quickly was overwhelmed. There are so many! To name a few: Ps. 4:1, 61:1, 5:1-12, 130:1, 102:1, 143:1-6. In fact, it almost seemed that most of David’s prayers started out that way.

Suddenly I realized my arrogance in contrast to David’s humility. Of course he knew that God was omnipresent. Who couldn’t know that and still write Psalm 139?? I think David simply had an understanding of who he was and who he was praying to. How dare he (I) assume that the God of the universe would attend to his every summon like a genie in a lamp? So he asked.

That was such a bizarre thought to me. I don’t think I’ve ever asked God to hear my prayer before. Have you? Since looking all those verses up though, a lot of my prayers have started out like David’s. I know it’s not mandatory, but it’s a very simple, humble, and dependent way to start out my prayer time.

 

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2018 in prayer

 

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Recent Thoughts on Bologna

Bologna has got to be one of the most disgusting deli meats around. I just don’t understand why people buy it. Why, with all the other good meat out there, would you stare into a deli case and decide, “Hmmm, well that bologna sure looks good! I think I’ll take a pound of that.”?? It’s kind of slimy and it smells weird and doesn’t taste good. MAYBE…if you have to eat it…you can fry it and make it edible.

You may ask where all these seemingly random thoughts on bologna are coming from? Some of you probably know that right before Christmas my doctor cleared me for work again. Although I’ve still been very tired and have constant headaches, I haven’t had any seizures since December 9th (Praise Jesus!) and so she gave me the ok to work as long as it wasn’t anything dangerous. When I asked for clarification, she told me not to go out and decide to be a lifeguard or anything like that. OH, ok.

However, with the privilege to drive still months off, my options were pretty limited. So I applied at a local, family-owned, IGA grocery store that is a 3 minute walk from my apartment and was hired right away. I’m currently part time because I wanted to start out slowly and see how it goes but he will bump my hours up as soon as I say the word.

At this store, each employee is moved from department to department so you pretty much get to work everywhere. I’ve worked in the meat room on grinding and packing, I’ve been cashier, AND in the deli. Which brings me back to bologna.

Did you know that bologna is actually one of the hardest deli meats to slice?? It is VERY slippery and so when it hits the blade, the whole meat tries to spin and instead of a clean slice of meat you get a shred of bologna. Turns out, no one in the deli really likes to slice bologna because it is hard. I found this out my very first day in the deli and promptly named that horrible meat my nemesis. But I thought to myself that surely not very many people actually order that stuff with all the other great deli meat that we sell.

Well, one day last week, it just so happened that I was in the deli all by myself because we were a little short on staff. It was probably only my third time ever working in there. The first person of the day comes to the counter and I cheerfully ask, “What can I get for you?” What do you think he said? A pound of Eckrich bologna. I had to clamp my mouth shut before something popped out like “Seriously??” or “Are you sure?” I gave a very fake smile as I pulled the meat out of the case and carefully unwrapped it, looking desperately around for someone to help me out of this situation.

It was as I was standing there trying not to drop a huge hunk of slippery bologna on the floor that I prayed what seemed to me the silliest prayer ever: “Lord, please help me slice this bologna. Please don’t let it shred.”

Did you know that slicing deli meat is actually very nerve wracking? Some people are very particular as to the thickness of their meat and they stand there and watch you with every slice. I placed the bologna on the machine, still praying, and turned it on. My first slice came out so perfect that I cried out loud, “Haha! Thank you, Jesus!” like a little girl. I’m not quite sure what my customer thought but I kept praying as I sliced and I only had one that shredded. Whew. I felt like I had run a marathon.

All that to say a couple things: 1. No prayer is silly and prayer does work. 2. Next time you are at the deli, do yourself and the employee a favor and order some salami instead.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2018 in work

 

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Refining Gold

I always tried to be a helpful child when I was younger. I liked to make people happy so was usually eager to be accommodating and obedient. Sometimes I took this method a little too far. For instance, when I was about 5 or so, I remember coming home from an evening church service with my family and I heard my Dad say, “Did I leave the stove on??” Always one to be helpful, I eagerly exclaimed, “I’ll check!” and placed my hand flat on the burner before anyone could stop me. Turns out, it was on and I burned my hand and learned a good lesson.

I was thinking about that story recently as I heard someone referencing a verse in the Bible that talks about God refining us. There are actually quite a few verses on the topic and I got to wondering how hot a refiner’s fire was anyway? I’ve been around a lot of fires and sometimes I turn my oven up pretty high…how hot does a fire have to be to melt metal? So I did some research. Turns out that to melt gold a fire has to be anywhere from 1600-2000 degrees F. Whew! (Guess I won’t be doing any of that in my kitchen…)

And the more I thought about it, I realized the huge significance of those verses. One of my favorites: “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.” Prov. 17:3 The parallel drawn here is pretty clear as the author compares the method of refining metal to how the Lord tests and refines our hearts. Suddenly it became apparent to me that it’s not a pleasant parallel. The more I read about refining, the more I realized that I didn’t want that done with my heart! It’s hot and it hurts! It’s not a fun process and that’s why it’s so important to have God’s perspective and not ours. Right now, I just see the temporary pain and loss but according to God’s Word:

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:3-7

All that to say this: every year I pray for a specific thing that I want God to teach me that year. In 2016, it was compassion and we all know how that turned out. This year, I prayed for the Lord to give me a richer prayer life. You know what happened? I moved to an apartment by myself, I was under rest orders from my doctor, and wasn’t even able to read my Bible for a while. My only resort was to talk to God.

I know what I want to learn in 2018 but I am actually terrified to pray for it. I have truly seen that God answers prayers but not in the way I expect and I am afraid for this one. I’m not sure I’m ready for the heat of this fire. I want to learn true and full contentment in Christ. I want him to be my life and the fulfillment of it. Right now, I often feel restless and discontent because I want my life to be how it was before. I want my old life back and the more I realize that isn’t going to happen, the more upset I become and I don’t want to live like that. I want to embrace the life God has given me even if it’s not what I would have chosen for myself.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions but on January 1st, that is what my heart will be crying out and what I will continue to pray for the entire year. Would you pray with me?

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2017 in contentment

 

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When You Don’t Feel Like It

Warning: Honesty Alert! This post may contain elements of honesty that are unfamiliar to regular church goers and may come as a shock to you.

When I was about 10-11 years old, I started doing devotions on my own. My family did devos together but suddenly one day, I decided to do my own also. I grabbed my Bible and my Lisa Frank notebook, sat down, and started reading. I read through Genesis in 5 days. If you don’t know, Genesis has 50 chapters. Not bad for a kid, right? I loved it and was hungry to learn about the Lord and read his Word for myself. So I kept going. For years, I read through the Bible in a year and in multiple versions to compare them. In the last two years my devotions have taken more of a meditation aspect.

But recently, I simply haven’t felt like doing devotions. (crowd murmurs) I really don’t think this is an uncommon problem in the church; I just think that most people aren’t willing to admit it. After all, it sounds terrible. How can you not want to spend time with your Savior, the One who gave his life for you?? I’ve been a part of my Young Adult group for over 4 years now and every week there is always at least one person who asks for prayer that they make their devotions a priority. But they make it sound like their schedule is so busy and they just need to set aside the time. I certainly have the time; but no motivation.

So what do you do? What do you do when you wake up and literally don’t want to do your devotions or pray? I think the temptation is that you shouldn’t force yourself to read God’s Word. Tell me you haven’t said to yourself before, “Well I’m not going to get anything out of it anyway.” And we use that as an excuse to go about our day without spending time with Jesus.

Let me ask you something. Do you believe that God’s Word is living and active? Do you believe it can work even when your heart is cold? Trust me, I know the heartbreaking feeling. You sit down with your Bible and feel nothing. You don’t want to read it, you don’t want to talk with the Lord. But you want to have the desire to do them!! I have literally sat and prayed, “God, I don’t want to do my devotions today and I am so sorry. Please forgive me for having a cold heart. Please, PLEASE, help me to learn something from your Word anyway.”

I think there are benefits to doing your devotions, even if you don’t feel like you have an amazing time with the Lord every day. I also don’t believe our faith is based on emotions (thank the Lord!) and if you decide not to do your devos just because you don’t think you will learn anything, you’re probably playing right into Satan’s hand. It seems to me that most of the things that are good for us in life are difficult at some point and take work, such as exercise, healthy eating, or perfecting any skill.

So my advice (to myself) is this: don’t give up! It may be hard for a while. It may feel forced for a while. No matter what you are feeling, tell God about it. Pray, pray, pray for God to give you a fierce love for him that drives and motivates you!

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2017 in Devotions

 

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Stop Reading the Bible

Someone in my life recently challenged me to stop reading the Bible. So I did. About two weeks ago. Hang on; before you grab your copy of God’s Word and come smack me over the head with it, hear me out.

For probably 5-6 years running, I did the Read-Through-the-Bible-in-a-Year thing. I love plans and things that are organized, so it was great. You do your reading for the day and put a nice little check mark beside the line and Bam! you are good to go! Devotions done! And at the end of the year, you feel really accomplished because you have finished the whole Bible! Tada!

But let me ask you something. Have you ever been reading the Bible (or any book, for that matter) and you read a chapter and then realize you have NO IDEA what you just read? You read every word on the page but wouldn’t be able to tell the person sitting next to you what it was about. Yeah, me too. I’m not sure how that happens but it does.

So now let me tell you the second part of what my friend said to me. What he actually said was, “Stop reading the Bible. Start meditating on it.”

There are quite a few passages in the Bible that talk about meditating on God’s Word. The most convicting one for me being Joshua 1:8:

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

What would our lives look like if we actually meditated on Scripture instead of just reading it? If we kept it in our minds day and night? It reminds me of how the Israelites were commanded to keep God’s law before their eyes and hearts all the time:

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deut. 6:6-9

I think when we start to meditate on Scripture is when the above passage becomes a reality in our lives. It becomes a normal thing to speak of God and his Word instead of it being something that we do at church. His Word permeates our lives and hearts and we are filled with him.

So my devotions have changed. Instead of reading whole chapters a day, I’ve starting reading a couple verses, sometimes even just one (you do have to keep context in mind.) And I meditate on it. I read it over and over and I pray over that verse. Depending on the verse, I might pray for God to make it a reality in my life or in the lives of my friends and those I love. I pray for God to make his Word clear to me and to keep me in it always. I’m getting so much more out of my devotions now. I find myself thinking about Scripture way more often than I used to.

So my challenge for you also then is this: will you stop reading the Bible?

 

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2017 in Devotions

 

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Answered Prayers

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I haven’t for a long time now, but I do usually pick something in my life that I need to work on and pray for the Lord to help me in that area.

On January 1st of 2016, I asked God to make me a more compassionate person. I realized that I rated very low on the compassion scale and I wanted to be more tenderhearted and sensitive. You see, I’m usually a get-over-it, you’ll-be-fine kind of person. So I prayed and asked God to teach me how to give more compassion to others in 2016.

Did you know that God doesn’t think the way that we do? You probably did. Actually there is a verse that goes with that,For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LordFor as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Well, in MY mind, God was going to make me more compassionate by sending someone to me that really needed compassion and mercy and I would suddenly acquire tons of compassion and have this wonderful opportunity to show it to them. I had it all figured out. But as the verse says God’s ways are not my ways.

Instead, he made it so that I was the person who needed compassion. I needed the people around me to be sensitive and tenderhearted and compassionate. I needed people to care for me, encourage me, and show me gentleness and comfort.

And that’s when it hit me. I didn’t know what compassion was before. If God had done things my way, I wouldn’t have known what to do because I didn’t know how to comfort someone or show them compassion. I needed all those people to teach me and show me first before I could learn to show it to others. I desperately wish I could have learned another way but I know that God’s will is perfect and he is always good.

I am thankful that God placed those people in my life to be living examples of compassion. So you see, God really does answer prayer. I have learned so much about how to comfort others who are going through a difficult situation. I definitely still have a lot to learn and I still pray for compassion often but I am thankful that God didn’t do things my way. I am thankful that his thoughts are not mine and his ways are higher than mine.

 

(You are currently reading a post in a series called The2016Story. If you have jumped in in the middle and would like to start at the beginning, click HERE.)

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2017 in The2016Story

 

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