Instagram Happy

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I love social media. I enjoy the way I can feel in some way connected to high- school friends I haven’t seen in decades. I love to see the joyful things that are happening in my friends lives like engagements, weddings, new jobs, moves across the country, babies, new puppies….you name it, I love it! I’m a secret cheerleader for so many of my friends…my real life friends and my social media friends.

There are so many positive things that I experience especially when I need a little pick me up. I laugh at stupid cat videos, enjoy the scriptures and sermons people share, I love fun videos that show people’s talents and interests, and all kinds of fascinating things that help me to learn more about my friends and the world. If I’m honest sometimes I scroll so much my fingers hurt and I’ve dropped my phone straight on my face more than once when it’s late and my electronics are keeping me up when I should be sleeping. Can you relate?

On the flip-side, I’ve also found myself comparing my own life and happiness to others. In my most emotional moments after a break-up, during a long period of unemployment, while I’m still waiting for a prayer to be answered, and even sometimes when I’ve had a busy week and didn’t make plans for a Friday night and find myself home alone…again…..it’s in these moments I’ve found myself scrolling….scrolling and crying. As happy as I truly always am for my friends happiness, it’s painful to see others living parts of life I wish I had. Have you been there? Comparison…..it’s a harsh spirit that can take over if we let it.

I love the way Galatians 6:4-5 reads in the message on the subject of comparison:

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with our own life.

I often have people comment on my Instagram when I run into them and haven’t seen them in a while. They mention how happy I look, how I’m all over the place enjoying my life, my single life, they are always genuinely happy for me. And honestly, for the most part I’m happy. But, my Instagram is just my highlight reel people! Do you know how many pictures I take to get that perfect selfie? Well, I’m actually pretty good at taking selfies…lol, but still sometimes it’s 3 or 4 pictures, sometimes it’s 10 or more and if there isn’t good light I’m using a filter or an app to fix my wrinkles, or pimples, whatever imperfections. I’m taking the picture from above to avoid the double chin. I’m searching for the perfect angle so I can have the most flattering shot. It’s not totally real, ya know? I think we really do know, but we forget.

I ran into a friend recently after I’d had a particularly draining day and they mentioned how happy I looked on Instagram. I said, “Yeah, I’m Instagram happy” Knowing that though I’m generally happy they have no idea what actually goes on in my life. People see what we choose to share with them. It’s like we’re writing the movie of our own lives with no outtakes. Honestly, outtakes are some of the funniest (and probably the most embarrassing) parts of our story, but not everyone gets to see it. It’s for a select trusted few. instagram happy

We aren’t posting pictures of ourselves crying or how crazy we look before coffee. We aren’t talking about how poorly we sometimes manage our money and wonder how we will make it to the next paycheck and still faithfully tithe and feed ourselves. We don’t always discuss weight loss and exercise (unless we are doing it well) we aren’t talking when we feel deep loneliness, heartbreak, or unanswered prayers.  It’s ok…it’s nice to be encouraged and see the highlight reel, just remember that there is another side. Protect your heart.

Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it

Proverbs 4:23 NIV

Keep your heart with all diligence, for our of it spring the issues of life

 Proverbs 4:23 NKJV

Protect your heart not only from what you read and see on social media and from the comparison game (or unhealthy judgment), but also know that the deep pains of your heart should probably be saved for your close trusted friends out of the harsh eye of the public. Aka, don’t air your dirty laundry on-line. It’s not gonna  bless you. Let’s just say….the best advice is not going to come from the comment section. Not everyone in your comment section is for you, but Jesus is. Talk to your friends who know Him and know you. Be sure to talk to them off-line.

In a world of “reality TV” ha! And airbrushed photo shopped pictures make sure you know what’s REAL life and not just someone else’s highlight REEL you are wishing was your life. Love who you are. Know that you’re not alone when you’re hurting. You are beautiful and you aren’t perfect cuz ain’t nobody perfect but Jesus and that’s how it’s supposed to be. Now, give yourself a hug, take a deep breath and keep on steppin’!

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Call Me Marah

 

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Have you ever experienced something that is so difficult and painful that you lose perspective and have a bit of memory loss of all the ways God has shown up for you in the past? When your current situation and struggle is suddenly all you can see? All you can focus on? The Israelites felt that way. After hundreds of years in slavery in Egypt, God sent Moses to free his people. Miracle after miracle was performed.  Moses’ staff turned into a snake and then back into a staff, 10 plagues came and overtook the people and the land while God’s people were kept safe and unafflicted, a fireball gave light in the sky, the Red Sea was parted and over 600,000 people safely crossed on dry ground to the other side before the waves came crashing down on the Egyptians. The Israelites sang a song of praise and Victory! (Exodus 15:1-21) But, then the thirst set in. They travel for 3 days into the dessert without water. Their current situation overtook them and they forgot about the miracles that had happened just days before. For goodness sake, they had just crossed the Red Sea and watched their enemies be swept away in the waves before their very eyes and yet they began to grumble and long to be back in Egypt, back in captivity, in SLAVERY! Isn’t that  just like us? How soon we forget when we are hurting, when we are thirsty for refreshment, for a new season to begin. Suddenly, all we can see is our problems and they became so large to us everything else is blocked out.

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On the 3rd day there is was….in the distance….an Oasis! They were thirsty for that water. That sweet refreshing water that would solve the dehydration and pain they were experiencing. We can live 40 days without food, but only 3 days without water. They must have been hurting, practically delirious in their struggle, weak, and longing to be delivered……….But, to their utter dismay when they arrived in Marah (which means bitter) they couldn’t drink the water.

How often do we put our faith in the, “thing” we think will solve all of our pain and make us happy? How often do we lean on the hope of that job, future husband or wife, baby we long for, healing we’ve prayed for, debt to be cancelled, to help us be delivered from our season of suffering? How often do we think, “if I could just have ________ I’d be happy”?

As the Israelites grumbled, longing for their return to Egypt where they were comfortable and familiar with their captivity, God showed Moses a piece of wood and told him to throw it into the water. Moses obeyed what probably seemed like a silly request and, BOOM!  the water turned from bitter to sweet and they drank and were refreshed. The answer was not in the water, in Moses, or in the stick….the answer was in the complete dependence and trust in God’s love and provision for them. Then God showed them 12 more springs and 70 palm trees and they rested. We just never know what God has right beyond our suffering when we trust and obey Him.

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Recently, I found myself alone walking along the Huntington Beach pier. I had just finished a work event on a Saturday and was far from home, but the day was drawing to a close and I wanted a taste of the weekend before returning home. If I’m being honest, I was just a bit bitter watching couples kissing, holding hands, laughing, and snapping photos. I’ve learned to enjoy my prayer walks and, “dates with Jesus”, but I struggle to push past the longing to be hand in hand with my love….the one my heart longs for.  As I walked along praying, smiling and taking in the fresh ocean air I was aware of God’s presence, but my physical aloneness. Alone in a sea of people is often harder for me than alone in my own home. I was determined to enjoy myself and not miss the joy of the sunset. Toward the end of my journey I stumbled across a vendor who was packing up her merchandise. We quickly got wrapped up in a great conversation and I no longer felt alone. A stranger had blessed me with companionship.  As we exchanged names she told me her name was Marah. She mention the story of Moses and the water that became sweet, but God instantly brought another story to mind….The story of Ruth.

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Ruth (which means friend) was the daughter-in-law of Naomi (which means pleasant). Naomi had a husband and two sons. When all of them died she was devastated. She asked to no longer be called Naomi, but instead to be called Marah (which means bitter). She told Ruth and her other daughter-in-law Orpah to return to their county and family because she had nothing to offer them and no way to provide for them. Orpah wept and hugged her mother-in-law goodbye to return to her county, but Ruth clung to her and decided to stay.

Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried may the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me

Ruth 1:17

Naomi decided that she had nothing left to offer. She had no husband and no sons. Woman in that day could not own property and without the covering of a husband they would struggle to live a normal life. What Naomi didn’t know was that God would not allow her to go on alone, He would send her Ruth as a companion and friend. What Naomi didn’t know as she renamed herself from sweet and pleasant to bitter, was that God would not allow her to stay in that place. What she didn’t yet know was that God not only had the answer for her, but He was the answer to her pain and suffering. Ruth would meet Boaz who would become her husband and kinsman-redeemer as was custom in that day. Boaz would step up to marry his relatives widow and accumulate the land. Boaz fulfilled the promise when others who should have wouldn’t . Naomi and Ruth would be provided for. What Naomi didn’t know in the mist of her despair and bitterness was that Ruth would give birth to a son and she would become the great-grandmother of King David and the great-great-grandmother of Jesus the savior of the world!

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Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous through Israel. He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.

Ruth 4:14-15

Sometimes, it’s difficult for us to see past our circumstances to really trust and be fully dependent on God’s plan and His perfect timing. So, often we want to figure things out on our own and when we don’t see the answer, we don’t think there is one so we sink into our own bitterness and despair. God’s answers and provision don’t come in our understanding and in our timing. I can’t imagine the Israelites thought throwing a stick into the water would allow them to drink or that Ruth thought laying at the feet of Boaz on the threshing floor would eventually allow her to be in the blood line of our Savior! After the Israelites had their Oasis with 12 springs and 70 palm trees they still had 40 years in the desert, but the promised land was there waiting for them at the end of their obedience.

Trust God! Life is a journey of many seasons, but through each one there is a loving God who never leaves you and is always fighting for you. Trust God because He is a loving God who can be trusted.

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Spiritual Dehydration

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Years ago when I was in college, I went on a church retreat to Angela’s National Forest. We decided to go exploring one day so we headed out in a few cars with some of our youth leaders who weren’t much older than us. Someone got the great idea to go spelunking, which is cave exploring. One of our leaders located a cave on a map and we set out to find it. This was long before the days of smart phones where information was ready at your fingertips. No one really thought about the fact that we had no supplies to go spelunking, we didn’t have so much as a flashlight to find out way. We brought no food or water and I don’t think we even bothered to apply sunscreen or grab a hat, but there we were at the top of a steep hill eager to begin our adventure. The hill was so steep we all began to move pretty fast with very little effort. We were laughing and having so much fun that before we knew it we hit the bottom and began searching for the cave. Quickly realizing we had no gear and no clue where the cave actually was, or what we would really do if we found it…… we turned around too assess our journey back to the vehicles. We hadn’t realized that in our excitement we had made our way down about 4 very steep hills and couldn’t even see the road anymore. So, we began our climb. We were all getting pretty tired and thirsty and then it dawned on us…..we had no water. Among the 15 or so of us one person produced one small bottle of water and another person brought out a small apple. The climb was not easy and some points I felt like crawling. We were all so thirsty. I’ve never been so thirsty in all my life.

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After each hill we were promised a cap full of water and a small piece of apple. It tasted like heaven to us. The exciting thing was the knowledge that there was a case of water sitting in the cars at the top of the hill. When I finally reached the top, though the water was warm from sitting in the blaring sun, it was the best water I’ve ever tasted. I had never longed to quench my thirst so much.

God reminded me of this experience recently. I was just waking up and I began to do what I do every morning……..I sat on the edge of my bed and drank a glass of water. I had been praying for something to share with our team at church. As I drank the water, I felt the Lord impress something on my heart. I heard that still small voice say, “Why do you drink this water each morning?” After thinking and praying for a few moments, I realized it was because during the night I get dehydrated. I wake up thirsty and need to replenish! I felt prompted to go and do some research on dehydration. Here’s what I learned:

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When we become physically dehydrated it begins internally and we aren’t even aware of it at first. Our bodies are made up of 65% water so hydration is pretty important. We can begin having issues with as little as 1% dehydration at 10% it becomes a medical emergency.

When we lack the necessary water in our bodies our brain tissue decreases which reduces brain volume and affects cell function. Our brain stops working properly. Our mood, memory, and attention are negatively affected.

When dehydration begins our cardiovascular system stops working properly and we have issues with our heart. Our kidneys begin to not function properly. We eventually will be unable to urinate and get rid of waste.

We can begin to have headaches when we lack water. Our eyes and mouth become dry which impairs our vision and ability to eat or digest food. We may experience muscle cramps and our joints don’t function properly. We eventually stop sweating and are unable to regulate our body  temperature. Lack of water keeps us from delivering oxygen throughout our body and will eventually lead to death. By the time our brain tells us that we are thirsty we are already dehydrated.

I’ve felt different levels of dehydration throughout my life. I know that when I’m very dehydrated……when I’m really thirsty, it takes more than one glass of water to feel better and function properly. The best way to fight hydration is to drink water throughout the day, everyday. We can’t skip water all week and just drink on Sundays. Do you see where I’m going here?

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I want to suggest that many of us struggle with Spiritual Dehydration. It starts on the inside and we aren’t even aware of it at first. Our brains are affected and we can make proper decisions. Our mood is negatively affected. We lose our patience with our self and others. Our attention is lacking. We stop focusing on God and begin putting all our focus on the problems in our life and they become larger and larger the more spiritually dehydrated we become.

Our eyes become dry and we stop seeing God as our answer and stop turning to His word to give us hope. We stop seeing people through God’s eyes and begin to view them through our own negative, cloudy, spiritually dehydrated eyes.

Our kidneys stop functioning and we can no longer get rid of the waste. The crap in our lives people! That’s what I’m talking about! When we stop filling ourselves up with God we can’t get rid of the garbage and we become toxic to ourselves! But, when we are full of….IT, instead of God we think it’s everyone else who is toxic! Isn’t this the truth? We begin to lack good judgment.

Our hearts stop functioning properly and we can’t love like we should. We begin to lack compassion and forgiveness. We can no longer regulate our temperature and we get angry too easily. Our muscles stop working properly and we can no longer move in the way God asks us to, but by this time we have really just gotten use to take God’s commandments and his word as, “suggestions”. We think we can fill up on God on a Sunday and it will keep us going all week long, but the truth is….. we are drying out. We are dying a slow spiritual death.

The good news is this…we can solve dehydration by drinking water and we can solve Spiritual Dehydration by drinking in the living word of God! Taste and see that the LORD is good!

But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh bubbling spring within them giving them eternal life John 4:14

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May we thirst for God, but let keep ourselves daily in his word. The memory of my trip down the mountain and the great thirst I had on the way back up reminds me of how good it is to taste that water. I want to long for God like I longed for those tiny cap-fulls of water on my trek up the hill, but God always has a car full of water waiting for us on the top.

You God are my God earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you my whole being longs for you , in a dry and parched land where there is not water Psalm 63:1

 

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants (longs) for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God…. Psalm 42:1-2

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Choose Joy!

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Life’s troubles don’t stop just because it’s Christmas. In fact, somehow whatever  we may be struggling with seems to get magnified during the holiday season. I know I often feel “extra” single between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. When families gather with their kids to take a holiday photo in front of the tree I’m usually over here like, “It’s cool I’ll just take a selfie”. (true story) It doesn’t help that November and December is the most popular time of year to get engaged. I usually count the engagements. This is a slow year at only 3, last year I believe it was 12, but give it time.  Am I complaining? No! I love the holidays and my heart is filled with joy over engagements and cute kids at Christimas. I’m just pretty sure some people can relate with my struggle.

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There are so many issues that can get magnified during the holidays. Just looking over my facebook feed each day always supplies me with a list of prayers; divorce, sick children, loss of a parent, unemployment, chronic pain, depression. My heart aches for the pain of my friends and these are the things that are publicy shared, I can’t imagine the deeper struggles people don’t post on social media. We don’t always know what people are going through.  Surprisingly, I was reminded of this the other day when a man yelled at me in a parking lot for not moving when I was waiting for an elderly lady to get into her car and when a car bolted around me when I was turning right into rush hour traffic because I didn’t go fast enough. I wondered what was going on in these people’s lives. What is their deeper hurt? Does anyone see them? Are they loved? Can they pay the rent this month? I’m not saying that I’m always the most perfect driver or that I overflow with patience and kindness in LA traffic, but somehow the holiday season heightens my awareness of people’s pain.

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I think I’m sensitive to other people’s pain during the holidays because I’ve been there. Last year during our Christmas Eve candle light service I went by myself and sat amongst a family of people I knew and though I knew them I felt very alone anyway. When I briefly got up my seat was taken. People were packed in like sardines and there was literally no room for me. I went to the bathroom and sobbed…I mean loudly sobbed.  I couldn’t even be quiet or hold it in. People heard me, but no one said a word.  I felt invisible. At that moment the enemy almost won and stole my joy.  I almost left the church that night, but God had other plans. I ran into a few dear friends on my way out and ended up in the balcony worshipping my savior, holding my candle and feeling the love of my church family all around me. It wasn’t easy. I wanted to leave. I didn’t want to tell anyone how much pain I was in. I choose joy.  I worshipped my God I praised Him for Jesus and celebrated his birth.

This is just one example of many struggles and pain I’m sure we all have and it reminds me of one of my favorite verses:

“The Joy of the Lord is your Strength”

 Nehemiah 8:10

I love this verse because when I’m hurting, I can choose to have joy in my Lord! Having joy in my Lord can give me strength! I love it!!  In all the years I’ve quoted this verse, I’m not sure I ever knew it was from Nehemiah or what the context of the verse was. So, I read Nehemiah today. I’m relieved that when I get to heaven and Nehemiah (or Ezra) asks me how I liked his book I can tell him I read it. (I won’t mention the very long list of wall builders..ugh).

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In the book of Nehemiah the Jews were coming out of 70 years in Babylonian captivity. The city walls of their beloved Jerusalem was in shambles. Nehemiah received favor from the Lord and a ton of people came to rebuilt the wall in just 52 days, which was unheard of, and everyone saw it was the hand of God. The building was not easy and enemies surrounded them.

Those who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other.”

Nehemiah 4:17

Could you imagine working with one hand and fending off your enemy with the other? Hmmmm…..isn’t that the spiritual warfare we face each day? As Christians we are always under a spiritual battle where the enemy wants to steal, kill, and destroy us (John 10:10). We have to choose to fight! If you’re passive in a battle you will be wounded and even killed. Pick up your sword which is the word of God (Eph 6) and fight warrior! Choose joy.vintage lights

Nehemiah rebuilt the wall, but he didn’t do it alone. He had a whole community to help him. The book of Nehemiah dedicates chapters to the listing of names that built the wall and when and where they built it. It also includes a long list of the  genealogy of the children of Israel. You know why? So, we can see the importance of community and working together. Smart warriors don’t go into battle alone, they bring an army. Stop thinking you can do this God thing alone and get to church. Pick up your sword and get your army. (now the long lists of wall builders makes sense).

Now back to my favorite verse in chapter 8

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength”

Nehemiah 8:10

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So what had happen was…. The Israelites had been through it. (can you relate?) They were released from captivity, spent a month and a half working really hard to build a wall, they were struggling, tired, and had to constantly be aware of the enemy of haters surrounding them……When Ezra comes and brings the word. They began to weep. Have you ever felt that way? I have. When you’ve really been going through it and you come to church to worship God and hear a fresh word and you sob. I was there last Christmas, heck I was there last week. Were you?

As the people are weeping hearing God’s word after all they’d been through, Nehemiah tells them to go eat some good food(we don’t eat, we don’t meet right?) , share with those in need, and be filled with the joy of the Lord! Can we do this everyone? Can we choose joy in our difficult times? In our struggle? Even when we are hurting? Can we choose joy in the midst of our situation whatever it may be? Can we help others in need even when we are not having our best moment?snowflake lights

This wasn’t the end of the Israelites struggles, but they had a victory in building the wall, TOGETHER! Celebrate your victories no matter how big or small.  Let’s choose joy this season and on into 2016. Be kind to yourself and be kind to that guy honking at you in the parking lot. Be kind to the check out person with the huge line. Choose joy on freeway and at LAX.  We never know what people are going through. There will always be a battle, but keep fighting and arm yourself with your sword and your army.

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Lost and Found

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On the eve of Halloween I found myself gathering up pieces of my costume in preparation for the Costume Carnival at our church.  I had already thought through what my costume would be and had all the elements needed scattered throughout my house.  I planned on being a pirate and quickly found my wig, sword, stripped black and white shirt, and hoop earrings. Then I hit a bump in the road. Some key pieces of my costume were nowhere to be found. I thought hard trying to remember the last time I’d seen these items. I began to search and thought I’d certainly find them pretty quickly. 10, 20, 30 minutes went by. I began to search harder and harder. I found myself going through drawers 2 and 3 times, pulling clothes out and searching carefully between every item of clothing.  I searched in places I knew my costumes pieces certainly couldn’t be, but I searched anyway. It made no sense! I remembered just seeing these items….but where had they gone?? Had they fallen behind some furniture or under the bed? Had they somehow accidentally been thrown away? I was becoming increasing troubled that I might not find them and would be left without a costume. I was now breaking a sweat! I found myself on my hands and knees crawling around in search of a new perspective.  Then I found myself flat on my stomach searching under the sofa….under the bed…under the furniture…all over! All I seemed to find was frustration, lots of lost socks, and places that were in desperate need of dusting. UGH!

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Lord! Where is my costume? I’d been talking to God all along requesting that He would reveal the location of these lost items. Finally, I just stopped. I stopped and really prayed. I told God that I needed His help because I had literally looked everywhere in my house. EVERYWHERE! I asked Him to teach me a lesson in this journey.  I went to a pile of stuff I had neatly stored in the corner. I had already gone through this pile at least 3 or 4 times. This time I dug deeper. I opened a bag……and there it was!! All the missing pieces to my costume where neatly folded in the bag. I had placed them there to keep all the items together and not lose them……. AND NOT LOSE THEM…..Ha!

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The moment I found them I was so happy! All the stress and anxiety instantly left. I was relieved, happy, and filled with joy.  Throughout this treasure hunt I kept thinking of the parable of the widow and the lost coin.

Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbors: “Celebrate with me? I found my lost coin!” Count on it- that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost sould turns to God”

Luke 15:8-10 (The Message)

The parable of the lost coin is sandwiched between two other parables, The Lost Sheep and The Lost Son. In all three parables something precious has been lost and the search does not stop until the lost is found. These parables and my lost costume experience brought me to some questions.

First, I thought about the salvation of lost people. What would it look like if everyone truly knew Jesus? What if we prayed and went after the lost like we might a lost piece of jewelry, credit card, or wallet?

This reminds me……Earlier this week, I lost my wallet. This is not a normal occurrence for me. I don’t normally lose things. I’ve only lost my wallet one other time in my whole life. I never found my wallet the first time it was lost over 15 years ago, but some nice person did put all my credit cards, ID and other item from my wallet in an envelope and mail it to me. I was thankful for the return of my items.   Last week when I lost my wallet I was dumbfounded to where it might be. It’s a horrible feeling when you lose something.  At the moment something is lost, everything stops! Suddenly, the lost item takes precedence over everything else.

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What if we loved the lost this way? What if our lives were interruptible? With all the people in the world who don’t know Jesus we surely couldn’t drop everything the moment we meet someone who doesn’t know Him. We can however, learn to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit so we know when He is prompting us.

The only way to be in tune to the Holy Spirit’s voice is to spend time with Him. What if we desired to spend time with God as much as we seek after lost things? What if we were willing to get on our knees? What if we were willing to lay flat on our stomachs before God to get a new perspective? What if we were willing to stop everything to listen and pray BEFORE we try to figure out the solution on our own?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about losing things, it’s that my prayer life suddenly increases! I’m desperate to find my lost item and I’m fully aware that God can see all things I can’t. I become completely dependent on God’s help. Earlier this week when I lost my wallet, I was so blessed to pretty immediately have 3 friends who I was already texting with pray for me right away. I searched high and low and couldn’t find it. I began to make phone calls to all the places I’d been the day before. I was listening carefully to the Holy Spirit’s voice. As it turns out, I had dropped it in a movie theater in Hunnington Beach. I didn’t mind the hour drive back to Orange County because I was so happy that my wallet had been found. I even ended up getting a free movie while I waited for traffic to die down.

This is my prayer today:

Lord, thank you for loving me and always being there for me. Forgive me for seeking after things rather than you. Forgive me for trusting in myself and others before you. Please help me to seek you first. Help me to have a life that in interruptible. Help me to have a heart for the lost and to be in tune to your voice Holy Spirit. I ask you Lord to make me your vessel. Use me to love others and share the love of God with them. I am yours. In Jesus Name…AMEN

It’s a Journey (Shut Your Mouth and Keep Walking)

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Over the last 2 years I’ve encountered a struggle unlike any I’ve ever experienced in my life. I’m in the midst of changing careers and really the whole trajectory of what I thought my life would be at this point.  I never expected to be unemployed in my 40’s or single for that matter. I never expected that I would struggle to pay my bills, buy food and put gas in my car. I never expected that as a grown woman with a college degree I would be applying at Trader Joe’s. I never expected I’d be so humbled and feel so desperate for God.  I never expected this journey would last over 2 years, but my expectations and God’s plans are not the same.

During this journey, pleading and seeking understanding became a regular thing, “Lord Help!”, “Lord Why?”, “Lord Please…Where are you?”, “Do you still Love me”. Tears would stream down my face as I cried out to God for help and guidance.  This makes no sense God! Fix it! Fix me! The more I tried to understand God the more confused I became. The more I tried to fix my circumstances, the more I was focused on my struggles. Focusing on my problems only made my problems bigger. Have you been there?

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So, I tried check lists 1.Pray 2. Tithe 3.Fast 4.Serve 5.Read my bible 6. Seek wise council. All of my check list items helped and drew me closer to God, but I wanted an immediate relief from my problems. I thought they was a secret formula to FIX my situation. Surely, if I do my Christian check list God will FIX this.

God answered back, “It’s not about what you do, it’s about what I did”.

Are you throwing Christianize at me God? I know all about Jesus. He is awesome! How is this helping my life right now?

“Do you Love me?”, God responded.

Yes, of course I love you!! Seriously God! I talk to you constantly; I do the whole Christian check list thing! I’m seriously putting in my best effort over here!

“Do you trust me” God continued.

Well, ummm….I’m trying to. I really am. I just don’t understand. Then He reminded me of how I’m never promised to get understanding

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…

Isaiah 55:8

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Then I was brought to the story of the Israelites walking around the walls of Jericho from Joshua Chapter 6.  God asked them to do something that made no sense. He told them to walk around the city for 7 days.  Not only did he ask them to do something that didn’t make sense, he told them to be silent.

…Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout, Then Shout”

Joshua 6:10

 

I’m convinced that he had them shut their mouths and keep walking forward so they wouldn’t have a chance to

1. Try and figure it out and  2. Complain!

Do EVERYTHING without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe

Philippians 2: 14-15

 

How often do we get confused because we are trying too hard to figure something out rather than asking God about it? How often do we increase our stress and block the Holy Spirit’s voice by complaining?

If any of us lacks wisdom, we should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you

James 1:5

 

The Israelites walked forward because they trusted God. They knew how much God loved them. They submitted to God and walked forward in Obedience because they knew God’s character. They didn’t understand, but they did it anyway! Isn’t this just how God wants us to be? We need to do our Christian check list not to get what we want or out of obligation, but because we love Him. We desire to be in prayer and be in His word to hear from Him. We long to tithe to give back what He has so generously given us. We are honored to serve others because that’s what He asks of us. We fast to be remind ourselves of the hunger we have for Him. We fast to sacrifice our own need to be reminded of the ultimate sacrifice that was given to us. We seek wise council because He created us, the church, to live and thrive in community. It’s not about what we do, but what was done for us!

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On the 7th day the Israelites walked around the wall again not just once, but 7 times. Right before their breakthrough, right before their victory, right before the fulfillment of the promise, right before the answered prayer…..God had them push even harder. I’m sure they were tired. They still had to keep their mouths shut and not complain. I think their closed mouths gave them more time to pray. I’m sure they didn’t completely comprehend what would come next. They pushed forward, they walked on, in love….in obedience…in VICTORY! The Walls Fell Down! Their mouths opened and all that came out were shouts of GLORY to GOD!

It may be hard. The journey may be long. You may not understand, but Don’t give up! He is faithful and your Victory is coming. It may become more challenging than ever before as you are on the last half of your 7th lap on the 7th day…..just close your mouth, keep your eyes on Him, and keep pressing on!

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A Mother’s Love

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Is there any love like a Mother’s? She dreams of you before you’re even conceived….long before it’s even a possibility, Imagines what you’ll look like, planning what she’ll name you. She writes your name with hers tracing the loops and circles with her finger looking off into the distance….dreaming of you. She prays for you before you’re even a reality. But, from the moment she knows you are growing…she loves you. And from that moment there is nothing that she would not do for you. As the weeks turn into months and the day approaches, the bond strengthens. From the moment you come into the world there is something that can’t be broken….you are a part of her, you come from her flesh. She’s surprised at how much she loves you and how much it grows, that the tinniest twinkle of your eye can bring her inexpressible joy.  Surprisingly even those babies who are never birth from their mother’s womb somehow you begin to look like her anyway. Your smile the expression on your face, a small gesture, the infection in your voice… still you’ve become a part of her and her love for you grows. As time goes by it only deepens.

And even though you start with kisses and hugs where you never want to leave her side one day you are suddenly embarrassed by her. When the country music is blasting and the windows are rolled down, you sink into the car seat hoping no one will see you and don’t understand why this is funny to her. You’re mortified. When you want to be dropped off a block away to school so no one sees you, when you’re not sure she has any fashion sense at all or wisdom, You think you understand the world better than her, when you don’t like her rules, when you don’t understand her lectures, When you talk back to her and yell calling everything unfair…It’s in these times when you can’t possible begin understand the depth of a mother’s love. Still her love for you grows.

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She stood by your side through every smile, every tear, every illness, broken bone, broken dream, and broken heart always telling you that everything would be alright and assuring you that you can do it!

Then there are times you can’t understand how she still loves you. When you’re caught in a lie, hurt her feelings, feel like you’ve failed her, not understanding why she’s so hard on you. In those years you don’t want to be anything like her….but then one day…. you are and the moment happens that that’s the best thing you could ever be and you realize that’s where your humor comes from, your kindness and your love for God. That she’s the reason you stop and smell all the flowers and having conversations with everyone. Where your laugh sounds just like hers and you finish each other’s sentences…when she has somehow become the wisest and most generous person on earth and she’s become more than your mother……now she’s become your friend

 

Happy Mother’s Day! 2015

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Finding Hope in the Book of Job

We all go through difficult times. Job certainly understands. It wasn’t too long ago that I studied the book of Job and wrote a poem that outlines his troubles, his friends response, satan’s attacks, and God’s faithfulness. When we are struggling we can always turn to the God’s word to find hope and encouragement even in our most dire circumstances. We may not always understand God’s ways, but when we know His love and His character we can confidently lean on Him in faith.

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The Book of Job

Written by: Laura Ann Damschen

There was a righteous man named Job

 Blameless, upright, and true

He feared God, shunned evil

And praised God through and through

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One day Satan approached God

With his sneaky, conniving ways

Requesting to afflict his servant Job

To see if he would still praise

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Job was a wealthy man

And As far as the eye could see

He had everything he could ask for

All the finest luxuries

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Satan surged his power down

Directing all his fury

Stripping Job of all he loved

To be his judge and jury

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Naked I came from my mother’s womb

And naked I will depart

The Lord gives and takes away

Yet, I will love Him with all my heart

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He tore his robe and shaved his head

Covering himself with soot

Mourning the loss of all he had

Still knowing where his hope was put

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His wife said curse God and die

His friends couldn’t even talk

Job told God exactly how he felt

Yet, remained sinless in his shock

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The silence of his friends soon broke

 And the accusations flew

Seeking answers, the blame fell hard

Interrogations would insure

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Job experienced horrible things

Yet, blameless did he remain

Through every trial and circumstance

No ground did Satan gain

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Many thought they knew the answers

Of why Job was afflicted

Long winded speeches dragged on and on

And He found himself conflicted

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You all smear me with lies

 Worthless physicians here have come

If you would be all together silent

That would be true wisdom

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The discourse with God continued

As Job poured out his heart

Lord, I trust in all you do

From me you will never depart

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When all at last fell silent

The Almighty began to speak

So small are we in His shadow

And without Him incredibly weak

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The truth flowed out like rivers

Covering all the shame

At last those who convicted

Found they were to blame

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Job prayed over his accusers

He showered them with love

He gave a blessing of mercy

A gift sent from above

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Then the God of restoration

Blessed Job for all he’d lost

He got double for his trouble

And didn’t count the cost

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He lived a long full life of blessing

One Hundred and forty years

The second half outshined the first

And, the Lord calmed all his fears

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We may not have the knowledge

To understand God’s ways

But, He is full of love and mercy

And holds account of all our days

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When we trust Him and choose surrender

He is faithful, just, and true

He fills our life with goodness

Any fire, we can walk through

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hope grows

It was not an easy road for Job and he certainly didn’t understand the reasons why he went through so much suffering for so long, but he continued to put his trust in God. He was honest with God and he cried out to Him, but God is not afraid of our honesty. Job praised God in his pain and suffering and in his deepest pain and sorrow. Even when his friends and his own wife turned against him, he praised God. In this day and age we are so quick to give up. Give up on a job, a marriage, a friendship……God. What would happen if we pushed through and praised God in our most difficult times? What would happen if we stopped trying to understand everything and leaned fully on God? What’s on the other side of suffering when we trust and hope in God?

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You Are Loved!

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Today is February 14th.  Everyone knows that is Valentine’s Day. I think any single person has been dreading this day since the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve or as we like to call it,  “Single’s Awareness Day”. This unofficial created holiday is a huge business day for any florist, card or chocolate company to rake in the dollars since they hike prices up so high. I think in my future relationship I might suggest that we celebrate on February 15th so he can save his money and get me 50% off all chocolate and not be forced to bring me pink roses because they ran out of red. I said, “might” though and that is a future thought. For today on this, “holiday” where we are forced to think about love, my heart is in a different place.

It’s been years since I had a special man in my life to celebrate Valentine’s Day with. In fact, in my last relationship we kingdom_hearts_symbolbroke up on Valentine’s Day. It’s not a great memory, but after all…..it’s just a day.

This year I was aware of the approaching, “holiday” just as I always am, but my heart changed. I experienced love in a new way. I’ve actually been experiencing this love for awhile now, but today I stopped to really be thankful for what I have.

Early in the week, my beautiful and generous mom treated me to lunch and a movie with a red Valentine’s Day bag filled with gifts. She’s done this every year since I’ve been on this planet. She’s amazing.

Yesterday, my dear friend Becca braved rush hour traffic in LA to meet me for dinner and then give me a surprise. She had purchased new seat cushions for my patio chairs and chaise, decor for my table, four Coffee_with_heart_croppedcomplete place settings that matched my color scheme and even brought me coffee and creamer for the morning. She insisted that she had to come decorate tonight so that when I woke up on Valentine’s day I could remember that I was loved. Later, I met up with some of my amazing girlfriends to hang out and watch a movie along with wine and ice cream. My heart is overflowing. I’m surrounded by love and this is the short list.

I think too many of us are waiting around for that sort of romantic love that we are certain will fill us up as if we are Hearts-in-Unity-Logo-LGincomplete without it. We aren’t. Singleness is not a disease, it’s not a punishment, and for most of us….it’s not forever. It’s a season. We have lots of seasons in our lives and the important thing is to really enjoy that season while we are in it. Yes, each season has its ups and downs, but each season also has great beauty.

I would hate to miss the warmth of summer and my feet in the warm ocean waves because I long for the coolness of fall. I would hate to miss the beauty of the turning leaves because and the whistling wind because I long for Christmas. I would hate to miss hot cocoa by the fire and the winter chill because I longed for spring rain. I would hate to miss the budding flowers and fluttering butterflies because I long for summer’s heat.

Each moment, each day, each season is a gift. Savor the time you’re in and know that God is the same February 13th, 14th and 15th ……….Yesterday, Today and Forever.

Prayer for you:ArrowOfTheHeart

Lord, give us new eyes to see the love that is already all around us. Heal our hurting hearts and fill us with your comfort Holy Spirit. Help us to praise you in whatever season we may be in. Help us to reach out and love others when they need it most. Thank you for your word. Please let it sink deep into us so that we know how deeply you love us, how adored and cherished we are by you. Thank you for the ultimate sacrifice of your son which is the best Valentine we could ever receive………….Amengod-is-love (1)

Scriptures to Ponder on God’s Love:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13)

You have heard it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate you enemy”. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5: 43-45)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hope all thing, endures all things. Love never Fails! (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:30-31)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.                                                             (John13:34-35)

Above all else, keep loving one another earnestly,  since love covers a multitude of sins                                                        (John 14:15)

A friend loves at all times, and a brother (sister) is born for adversity  (Proverbs 17:17)

This is how we know what LOVE is, that Jesus Christ laid down His live for us and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:16)

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our LORD.  (Romans 8:38)

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Little Birdie

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Screenshot_2015-01-30-14-52-28~2About six months ago I put a new bird feeder outside my window and waited with anticipation for all the hungry little birdies to arrive and feast on what I had given them. For years my Mom has had a long slender finch feeder hanging in her backyard. It has several little perching points for a variety of birds to rest while they eat. Her bird feeder is always overflowing with lots of birds in the tray, on the perches, jockeying for position. Gold finches, house finches, and sparrows eat from the feeder while doves pick up what falls to the ground.  Squirrels sometimes make an appearance and enjoy stretching out and basking in the sun after an easy meal.Screenshot_2015-01-30-15-11-03~2

My bird feeder; on the other hand, was more like a ghost town with a tumbleweed rolling through the streets.  I was so excited when I first got my bird feeder! I was certain that I would have a ton of birds the very next day. The next day came and…….crickets. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and my bird feeder remained full. I actually prayed over the birds and my feeder because I wanted the birds to visit me so much.  Not a single bird came to visit.  Time went by and I eventually  completely forgot about my bird feeder.

My lack of feathered friends began to remind me of our relationship with God. How many times has God had our provision, our answered prayer all ready and laid out for us, but we aren’t aware?

You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want so you quarrel and fight. You have not because you do not ask God.                                                                                                                    (James 4:2)

How many times have we been jealous of what someone else receives? How often have we spent time comparing ourselves to others,  wishing we had what they have.  How often have we tried to get something for ourselves and taken over control instead of surrendering to God and trusting Him?  We need to keep our eyes focused on God asking Him for our blessings and provision. When we ask, we also need to trust God’s perfect timing.

I put the bird seed out for the birds so many months ago, but God provided the means for me to do so. The provision for the birds sat untouched because they were not aware of it.  Sometimes I feel like those birds. I’m in a time in my life were I am changing careers and have not had long-term, full-time work in 18 months. At the beginning  of this adventure, I used my own resources and savings, but over time, my own ability to provide for myself reached capacity. I’d never been on unemployment and didn’t even realize I was eligible at first. I was also not really a person who asked for hand outs from friends and family, but God had my bird feeder filled with provision for months, just waiting for me to ask Him for help and allow Him to reveal it to me.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.             (Matthew 7:7-8)                                                                                                                     

Just last week I looked out my window and saw a little birdie at my bird feeder for the very first time, then a friend joined him. I was so excited about the two friends who finally found this blessing that had been waiting for them for so long. The next day my bird feeder was overflowing with birds. There were house finches, sparrows and other birds I can’t even identify yet. Word spread fast!  It was becoming a party! The birds came for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday. Two doves began to come and clean up what was fell to the ground.  One day I saw something large out of the corner of my eye, It was a hawk! A big hawk came to check out what was going on. I was overjoyed! For all this time there was provision just waiting to be found and once it was found, they spread the word to all their friends.0203151119

When we ask God and He provides, it’s so important to share the blessing with others. Encouraging each other and sharing our testimony of God’s great love and provision spurs us on to keep moving forward even in difficult circumstances.  Sometimes, we need to remember how precious we are to God. When we know how loved we are, how adored by our Heavenly Father, we don’t hesitate to turn to Him both in praise and request.

Yet the Lord long to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.                             (Isaiah 30:18)

 

What do we need to trust God for? What do we need to pray about and ask God to provide?  In what areas are we still holding on too tight, trying to control things? How often are we trying to   figure out our solution when God is the solution. He has our blessing waiting for us, just waiting to be found.

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Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying all a single hour to your life?    (Matthew 6:25-27)                                                                                    

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