Words Worth Treasuring

“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

Luke 2:17-20

2020. In a handful of hours it will have officially arrived.

I love New Years, I really do.

While I am a staunch believer in the fact that any goal can start anywhere at anytime, month and date aside, there is something about New Years.

You can feel the expectation in the air.

It is the one time of year where we as a society really sit down and think about who we want to be and what we want to do.

For most adults, its the one time of year where we really let ourselves dream, as we imagine and envision the futures we wish to seek.

Think about it.

Impossible goals suddenly become possibly possible and a determination runs through our veins.

Those things our past selves could “never” achieve, our coming selves just might be able to accomplish.

And it is a beautiful thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I am queen of setting goals which are usually not fully met. (However, I run on a strong foundation of shoot for the moon and land among the stars, sort of mentality.)

And I think that is okay. The idea is to move forward. If you happen to take over the world at the same time, great. Meanwhile, keep moving.

Unfortunately many of us once realizing that we might not make the finish line in the time or shape we felt we should have made it in- are prone to stop moving.

We start to let words of doubt and a harsh “reality” shout above the calm, steady and passionate voice of hope.

It happens to all of us somewhere at some point. And it may knock you down for a week, a month, a year…

But- I pray that eventually the calm, steady, excited voice of hope will call to your heart again.

As we move into this New Year, I pray that you dare to dream impossible dreams.

I pray that you would dare to answer the call which the Lord has placed on your life.

I pray that you would realize that no goal or dream is too small nor too big. If it weighs on your heart, I pray that you embrace it.

Most importantly, I pray you step into this New Year like Mary.

Like Mary, I pray that you carefully choose the words you treasure and ponder in your heart. Let the ones which tell you to sit back down fall away, and take the hand of those which call you to step forward.

Like Mary, I pray that you seek God in the center of your plans, dreams and goals and when God calls you to a path that takes an unexpected turn, I pray that you have the courage to bravely take that step- turning to His Word continuously.

It’s a good Word to treasure.

I cannot wait to see you all in 2020! We are going to be doing  exciting things in 2020 and I cannot wait to share them with you! As always, please share any prayer requests and praise reports! We will pray and praise the Lord alongside you as we enter this New Year and you prepare to take on those mountains which you are anointed and intended to conquer!

Shout out to the Christian Planner family and The Hero’s Journal for providing these amazing tools for journaling and tracking types, as myself! 🙏 ⚔️🙌

https://christianplanner.com

https://theherosjournal.co

God’s Gift

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call him Immanuel.”

Isaiah 7:14

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace; and with his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah 53:4-5

I love Christmas cards. I always have.

I have held onto every single one I’ve ever received, ever.

Including this one pictured above. This is a new card believe it or not. I received it from my Bible study leader a few weeks ago.

Of course, it looked a bit different when I first received it. It was perfect, actually.

Then one night the piece of tape displaying it failed me and in the time between it’s falling and my discovery- Reyna found it. (For those who do not know Reyna, she is a just turned 1, 86 pound, fluff ball/ puppy.)

And my beautiful card was crafted into a mess of confetti.

But as I disappointedly picked up the shredded pieces of my lovely card, I came across this final bit.

And I kid you not, I almost threw it away. To be honest I threw it away.

But as I turned away, I reached back and I picked it up, wanting to read the words one more time.

The whole time my world driven vision told me it was a piece of trash. Tarnished. Embarrassing. It would be absurd to hold on to it. Let alone put it back up. Forget the fact I had just grabbed it from my trash can, Lord help me if anyone ever found out.

But… that still small whisper. You know the Christmas story is a lot of things. And if we are honest, those things are tarnished and embarrassing.

Mary was pregnant before she was married- let’s talk about that reputation.

And then she gave birth in a barn. I’ve noticed that never caught on as a trend.

Yet… that story, that beloved and holy Christmas story, is beyond the definition of perfect.

There’s not a single word to fully express the magnitude and the glory of that tarnished and embarrassing story.

In fact, you could string a thousand words together, and just of clipped the iceburg.

We are a couple days past Christmas Day, and I hope yours was perfect. However, if it wasn’t perfect according to Hallmark standards (and I get it- I love Hallmark), I hope you can see that gifts, time and life aside- the victory of that day is never failing.

On a side note, I know many returned to work today, some worked Christmas Day, and those who are off are probably counting down the days subconsciously before they have to return.

Some may have balanced the checkbook today, did school work or cleaned the house.

My point is, as we move past Christmas Day, I pray we will remember to carry it with us.

It’s so hard when it feels as if so little has changed. The world acts as if all is as it has always been.

The angel spoke to Mary. Joseph had a dream. The shepherds heard the angels sing. The wise men saw the star. And the world… the world acted as if all was as it had always been.

As I was in town yesterday running some errands I felt I could see the world acting as if nothing had changed. The store lights, in contrast to Wednesday, were back on. (Never mind some stores did not bother to turn them off at all).

And it dawned on me. We try so hard to bind Christmas to one day. We make it a box, hand it over and say “get in,” forgetting that the reality of Christmas is beyond our comprehension, let alone our box making skills.

Christmas is the time we celebrate when Jesus stepped out of the box, and into the manger. And that celebration continues all year long. It’s a priceless gift freely given, and no sale price can cheapen or negate it. No deal can sweeten it. No amount of time can tarnish or lessen it.

It’s already everything, and then more than we can imagine. As we live in a world that acts as as if nothing is changed; we hear the angels sing, we see the star and we know- that everything has changed. We see it in the pile of dishes, the chaotic filling of email inboxes and in our chewed and torn Christmas cards.

❤️ Merry Christmas friends! My prayers and thoughts are with you all as we finish one year, one decade, and head into the next.

A Love Letter at Christmas

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 (NIV) 

Oh my. It’s time.

I imagine my thoughts echo Mary’s. Though if she did feel as if time ran short, she certainly had more reason to.

However, a part of me whispers that God reassured her as He seeks to reassure us now.

Case in point- I try really hard to avoid the hustle and bustle portion of the season.

This is not a season I want to rush. Even then, it seems to slip by faster and faster each year.

Overall I did really well. I almost made the finish line.

However, in that final lap, I missed a hurdle and then hit a wall.

Disappointment and frustration. Somebody wasn’t holding up their end of the bargain and the order didn’t arrive correctly.

And in both instances the conviction hit my heart instantly. Though it was pinprick compared to the guilt which overwhelmed me.

There’s a difference you know, between God’s conviction and the enemy’s taunting.

God’s conviction speaks to you in the moment, encourages you to repent, apologize and move forward. Conviction occurs in those moments when it feels like God squeezed your hand to say “hey, remember…, slow down…, let’s reexamine this…”

The enemy’s taunting of guilt and shame though is heavy- it weighs you down and offers you no way out, no direction for improvement or redemption.

The enemy’s taunting ties you down to the situation, while God’s conviction seeks to lift you above the circumstance.

I prayed through the conviction, I turned my eyes back to my Father and to my Savior and apologized to the Holy Spirit for any grief I had caused him. But the guilt still lingered. Similar to a thick fog, I couldn’t see through it and I couldn’t grasp it to cast it aside.

And in the middle of that burdensome guilt I wondered at how God put up with me. Thinking about this season, the love He had and still has for us, and that love’s manifestation through His son, Jesus Christ…

Jesus.

Our savior and our hope. The one who never tires of caring for us or seeking us.

As I wondered how Jesus put up with me, especially during this season, I pictured in my mind a beautiful red envelope nestled in a Christmas tree. And a voice whispered that on Christmas, we all receive a gift we may not physically perceive- but that it is there for each one of us.

Our Christmas letter from Jesus.

I’m not sure what each letter would say. I imagine they would vary, not a corporate cookie-cutter Christmas note, but a personally detailed handwritten letter.

And while I believe they would all vary, I also believe they would all be written with the same intention; a note that we are loved, a proclamation of our innocence and a declaration of joy at our redemption and reunion. …

Perhaps something like this;

Brittany,

Know that I am as excited as a child on Christmas morning to see you each day. To hear from you. There is nothing you say that does not catch my full attention. I know that the words you speak are born out of a portion of your heart, your current emotions and perceptions of your situation. The writers heart I’ve placed in you may lead you astray at times thinking you must discover just the right words. Trust that I’ve placed the words inside you- you need not search they will come as they are called- you need only to trust in me and my ability to completely and fully know and understand every bit of who you are. I see you has who you were created to be, and one day you will fully see it too. Promise. 

Until that day, know that I am so proud of you. This year was hard, but you didn’t lose hope, remember that. Grief does not negate hope, the two coexist in a broken world where grief was never meant to reign. 

Most of the time you are doing much better than you give yourself credit for. And those times when you do fall short, don’t worry I’m here to fill the gap just reach out, my hand is always waiting, never far. It does hurt me when you sin, but it hurts equally to see you needlessly struggling with guilt when you have accepted the forgiveness I’ve freely offered you. Please trust that my love is enough. I love you and you are fearfully and wonderfully made, there is none like you. However, you are not so powerful that you are out of bounds of my grace. Hold tight to the fact that my grace is sufficient. 

I know perseverance is a trait more easily quoted than accomplished. But believe me, you are running your race beautifully. Don’t give up and don’t give in. I am right here! I hope you enjoy your time with family and friends. I know your heart will war between joy and grief. As you ride out the tides of warm memories and deep sorrow, let this truth be always buried at the heart of every thought- and that is today is not merely meant to be a celebration but is a day which recalls that time in which I stepped down from heaven so that I could be with you, all of you. Not one face did not go through my mind as I stepped into that manager, nor when I walked that hill to calvary. And I would do it all over again. But I don’t have to, because I am enough, it was enough and to me you are worth more than enough. Remember how much I love you as you celebrate my birthday. (Can you imagine- existing before the beginning of time and still having a birthday!!- I knew you would appreciate that thought:). 

For I so loved you Brittany, and that love is steadfast and never changing, Jesus ❤ 

… yeah, maybe, something just like that.

I encourage all of you to take a moment during this season as we prepare for Christmas and New Year celebrations and pray to God, asking Him, what would your letter say.

I guarantee it will be exactly what you did not know you were waiting and needing to hear.

My prayers and thoughts are with you all Friends! Do not hesitate to comment or reach out with prayer or praise requests/reports. Happy Christmas Eve to you and yours, I hope that even in the darkest of moments you may feel the pulse of the everlasting joy that flooded our world and which we commemorate today.

Thank you to Kelly for the beautiful photo! – Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Give Careful Thought

 Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.

Haggai 1:5 (NIV) 

Channeling circa 2000 Britney Spears…

Oops… I did it again.

To be honest that tagline started out as a joke… in fact this line was going to read “No, no I didn’t get lost in the game…” But then- I realized- that yeah I did, I did get lost in the game.

B Spears and I may not be talking about the same game but I did do it again… and I didn’t mean to… I just…

I just got too busy.

Working through papers, reading through course books and deciphering class materials in preparation for final projects and exams…

If you toss in some everyday life and purposefully set aside time for family… well, it is really easy to get caught up in the busyness.

Especially at this time of year.

It was the middle of November the last time I looked up, and now we are sitting less than 10 days to Christmas…

13 days to a New Year… a New Decade.

And unfortunately for me, I get caught in the busyness trap more often than I like to admit- and much more often than any one person should…

I keep thinking I have learned my lesson, fast forward a couple months and *bam* back in the busyness trap I go.

And the reality is that school work aside, if given the opportunity I am sure I could present dozens of other reasons behind “being behind.”

The worst part is, I know exactly what I am doing. I take my proclaimed “first priority” and place it on a back burner while I knock out all the “miscellaneous” tasks.

It is at the top of my to do list, forefront of my mind and on fire in my heart- and I do everything I can to set it aside until “the right time” or “enough time” or “the time.”

First priority- placing God first. In placing God first, my next priority becomes doing what He has called me to do.

But gee, sometimes I feel He just doesn’t understand how awkwardly it fits in my schedule. “I really want to do that God, you know I do but… I really need to ________ and then…maybe…”

And as I keep putting my first priority off for the sake of accomplishing whatever it is that I have deemed in need of being accomplished first… the distance between me and my first priority grows.

Eventually that distance becomes unbearable. I am asking where He went and He is standing next to me wondering why I am yelling.

Per usual He never left, I just turned my eyes away.

Thankfully God never tires of shaking me out of the busyness trap, when truly no one- myself included- would blame Him for leaving me there to figure it out on my own.

This time around, as I was explaining about how I know “this and this” was on our to do list, but that “this and that” had shown up on my to do list- God sent me to Haggai.

To be honest, I had never paid too much attention to Haggai. Lesson learned. Haggai has a word that God knew I needed to hear:

 Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.

Haggai 1:5-9

Ta-Da! Lightbulb 💡

And conviction. A fair amount of healthy Spirit driven conviction.

This past month as been a struggle. And now I know why.

Because I got lost in the game. I got caught in the busyness. I was overwhelmed with concern for my house, that I neglected His house.

It is one thing to pray constantly. (And it is an important thing).

But it is another thing to purposefully stop and be still and to know. To stop and worship and to stop and praise.

Stopping and being still is important, essential really. Because in the moments when you truly stop- even if only for a few minutes- you are saying that there is no task- big or small- that is worth a portion of this moment to this privilege.

Take a moment and recall those in the Christmas story who stopped- the shepherds ran and wise men traveled.

By stopping you are not giving half or part of an offering but a whole sacrifice, whole heartedly.

And that offering, that whole, complete moment of worship and awe builds castles for the Lord our God.

As you proceed from that moment you realize that God’s call never fits awkwardly around your schedule/plans but that some of the plans you’ve placed may fit awkwardly around His.

As we enter the final countdown to the celebration of God’s ultimate plan; our deliverance through the birth, life, death and resurrection of His only son- I am overwhelmed and eternally thankful that God did not find our deliverance, my deliverance, too awkward for His schedule.

I am reminded that one character at the First Christmas was so caught in the busyness trap- he missed the miracle right outside his door. No one blames the Innkeeper, he had a full house, and certainly we can all relate to the feeling.

But this Christmas and into the New Year, Friends I encourage you to do as the wise men and the shepherds did and give careful thought to your ways, follow the star and make haste to the King.

Prayers Friends and Tidings of Great Joy ♥️✨

 

 

(In)Dependence

The Lord is good, A strength and stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows [He recognizes, cares for, and understands fully] those who take refuge and trust in Him. 

Nahum 1:7 (AMP)

Wrong… Wrong… Wrong… again- WRONG.

Have you ever felt caught in a continuous existence of wrong- you were wrong, you did wrong, you thought wrong…

You’re trying desperately to find solid ground. But the waves are getting higher, the wind is becoming more fierce and you might as well be stranded on an island by yourself- Because that is how it feels.

Abandoned.

Alone.

And rightfully so, because you are wrong.

There’s no where to turn, no one to turn to. The mist is blinding you, the storm has drowned out every call for help and you’re sinking.

The enemy’s lies charge the door and your barricade shakes. You start questioning your motives, your goals, your past and present decisions and your plans. Every mistake you’ve ever made invades and eventually your own thoughts are driving you mad- your heart begins to falter and your trust begins to fail.

No, no I’m wrong. I got this wrong. How could God… No, no I messed up again, God I am trying I just can’t seem to…

You’re screaming for the peace and rest you cannot find.

Meanwhile the enemy continuously assaults you with doubt, fear, frustration and revelation that-

Your life is a compilation of debts you cannot repay.

And if you are inclined to an “independent” disposition or mindset, that will drive you mad.

Because you may “trust” Jesus… except you’ve got to get to this spot, or do this one thing… before you’re free. Jesus has set you free but…

I need to pay this off…

I need to right this mistake…

I need to…

So my question for you is, what jail have you built for yourself? Trust me I’ve built several of my own.

Prisons God has slowly been bringing to light.

Because I know from Galatians 5:1 that Christ has set us free,

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (NIV)  

Personally, freedom to me, entails the word independence. Which in many ways may be correct- however this past week I found that it is a concept in God’s Word which requires further investigation…

I submit to you 1 Peter 2:16;

Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.” (NIV) 

I’ve heard this verse before, and I am sure most of you have too.

However, I confess that I have a tendency to skip over the last bit and mentally I have read it in the past that “I am free and should use my freedom for good…”

You know, like if I had super powers, a sort of Wonder Woman mentality, where “I’m free and could curse you but I will bless you instead because…” (Insert gratitude from thankful citizens).

What we often skip over though is the “because.” We get the action down- use freedom for good. But we miss the “why”-

Jesus. God. Our Lord. Savior. King.

We are free – but we are not independent.

In fact we are wholly dependent- on Christ who bought our freedom.

And we find freedom difficult when trying to handle it independently. We are human, this life hurts and things go wrong-

Oftentimes they go wrong without us intending them to.

We do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, think the wrong thing… (the famous saying “wrong place, wrong time” ring a bell?)

And we are dependent on the grace extended to us by our King.

We are called to trust and endure. Trust our stronghold will help us endure as we run our race.

I was reading a devotional and it spoke of this tribe who did not have a word for trust. So as the missionary sought to find a way to convey this concept to them, he asked what he was doing when leaning back on two legs of a chair.

Their response, “leaning your whole weight on.”

And that definition hit my heart in a moment of clarity.

Do I sincerely trust my Heavenly Father? Do I trust Jesus?

Truly trusting Him entails that I must be actively leaning my whole weight on him, being fully dependent on Him, while having the courage to act on my belief in Him.

*Note whole weight (as in ALL)

Independently dependent.

Nothing has ever been so humbling and uplifting at the same time.

It doesn’t depend on me, it never did. That’s why I need Jesus, whose yoke is easy and burden is light.

Your life is a compilation of debts you cannot repay. And that is the whole point.

Luckily our Savior is no rookie at tearing those prison walls down and in Him- your debt is covered.

We may forget His presence, but He never forgets us as He stands in the gap- between us and the storm. He calms the waves and lifts us atop the water.

Our stronghold in trouble. Being dependent on Christ, we know that we will never have to endure alone. And there is no “wrong” he cannot right in His time, according to His purpose.

Also, we are fully known by Him, He’s not surprised at the cost. He gets it. He gets us. He saw it coming. He paid it in advance.

So, live fully, freely and dependently friends. Let demolition day begin as Jesus tears down prison walls. Lean your whole weight on Him. (Song “Lean on Me” come to anyone else’s mind?) Take His love to heart and breathe. He is making a way, trust and endure. My prayers and thoughts are with you all, always.

Nothing great was ever done without much enduring

-St. Catherine of Siena

“…if we are willing to be utterly dependent on God, he will enable you to do all he has called you to do.”

-Christine Caine

Girl, Go Home

“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

John 20:21 

“This is no place for a woman.”

I remember my first day in the barn, almost 5 years ago now.

I am no stranger to working in male dominated fields. For three years after I graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in Animal Science and Agricultural Business I worked in large production hog facilities.

The looks I received when first walking into a barn varied from “welcome” to “what the…”

But once they realized I was there to do my equal share, most of those looks turned into a form of mutual respect. I say most, not all. Which was okay- it was my job to work in the barn, I’d leave God to work on their hearts.

Meanwhile, I felt a call to serve full time in Ministry, following a season of preparation. I sat on the sidelines for a good long while, until God finally took my hand and helped me out of the boat. Since then I have received my Masters in Ministry, accepted a chaplaincy position, have been a youth pastor, supplied pulpit service and am currently working through my Masters in Divinity.

The uncertainty and gravity of the decision was never one I took lightly. But there was a passion and a dream that filled, and still fills, my whole being night and day. I am not sure where we are going, but every step I take draws me closer to something that is far beyond I could ever fathom.

However, those steps often come with some degree of difficulty. Not the least of which, is the reality of entering another male dominated field. And it is not so much that it is a male dominated field but in that age old question- Does God really want women to serve as leaders in ministry?

For someone whose whole being longs to follow God’s will- the quickest way to put them under water is to imply they are not only working fruitlessly but in direct retaliation to the God they wish to serve.

Last week this issue escalated as esteemed Pastor and Theologian John MacArthur took the stage- and stance- against women preachers. Quite forcibly I might add.

Mind you reading and listening to his comments not only hurt, but at the same time drew me into a moment of reflection. I personally own and have used several of MacArthur’s works for class and personal study. For example 12 Unlikely Men… and 12 Unlikely Women. This wasn’t someone whose opinion I could just discount- in fact it is someone whose opinion I had quoted and drew conclusions from for several assignments.

As the questions and doubts came running to the door I turned the deadbolt and ran to Scripture, reviewing what I knew of Jesus, His life and ministry. He never turned a woman away. Oftentimes He worked in their lives in a way that sent them running to tell the Good News with just as much success as the greatest pastors.

I found women that Paul would mention and commend for their teaching and leadership alongside women of the Old Testament who were often charged with responsibilities in God’s divine plan to bring about salvation and deliverance to God’s people.

There are three sections of Scripture within Paul’s letters in which I believe MacArthur draws his views from. Having studied those Scriptures in class I know a few facts about them that may help clear the muddied waters. Those verses are encased in letters to specific congregations- speaking on specific issues. Most theologians throughout the past several hundred years agree that Paul’s letters were occasional and often directly sought to provide an answer per circumstance. Most theologians agree today that those moments when Paul negatively addressed women in ministry, he was more than likely writing in response to a group of women within the church who were distracting the saints through gossip and destructive talk. (Especially given the reputations of those churches in which the letters were being sent to.)

Note there are several other women Paul mentions by name in his letters, commending them in their work; Lydia, Priscillia, Phoebe, Junia… Paul never condemns or admonishes their involvement in ministry. In fact Romans 16:7 even leads us to believe that Junia was an apostle.

In short, John, I still find that you are a great teacher. However, on this point I disagree. For I find several Biblical cases to be made for a woman to serve, preach, teach and participate in the spreading the Good News. For it is all to the glory of God that we speak.

“There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period. Paragraph. End of discussion.”  -John MacArthur 

“They don’t want equal power to be a plumber. They want to be senators, preachers, congressmen, president…” (MacArthur). 

And personally, if it is the idea of the title which upsets you, you can keep it. It’s not the title or power we are seeking… it is Him and the lost He has ordained for us to find.

Peace John, thank you for your continued work for the Lord. I do not claim to have had divine revelation that no one else has had, allowing my conclusions to be indisputable. But do not believe I have not diligently weighed and reviewed the matter. And I am not alone in my conclusions.

Below are four articles that assisted me, alongside scripture, in finding peace between my place in God and my place according to various world views. These teachers are more experienced and eloquent than I am and I highly recommend all 4- through the third link down is short, sweet and goes straight to the heart of the matter- in a fashion Paul, Apostle of Christ, would applaud.

Max Lucado responds to John MacArthur

Jamie Morgan: Women in Ministry

An Open Letter from the Apostle Paul to John

Women: The Great Commission is your Permission

Living Water

And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

Acts 8:36 (ESV) 

I debated for years… I had been baptized as an infant in the Lutheran Church- which would lovingly raise me for the entirety of my childhood.

Consequently I had also been through confirmation at 13.

In conclusion I had given my life to Christ. I even had documentation.

But as I began moving towards pursuing a career in full time ministry, the internal nudge to get baptized grew.

Let me clarify that this was not because I believed I needed to be baptized to be saved. Jesus saved me the moment I asked him into my heart. Being baptized was not a way to “level up.”

Also, it was not because I felt my Lutheran baptism and upbringing had failed me in any way. On the contrary, I grew up strong in my faith, I had fantastic Godparents and it was that faith community that planted in me the seeds which would eventually bring me back to God after enduring a dark period.

The dark period.

What nudged me, personally, to be baptized was the dark period. While I knew I was saved, that my baptism hadn’t been “nullified” in any way… it occurred to me that I had fallen away from faith for a period of time.

I had never stopped believing in God or Jesus- but we certainly were not on speaking terms for a good two years.

God would knock and I would develop selective hearing.

As I moved out of that dark period and began to feel the call back towards my first love and pursuit, Ministry- every time I went to step out on the water, I hesitated.

This hesitation kept me in the boat for two additional years, and then in 2017 I finally made the jump, as God opened the doors that led me to being enrolled into a Masters in Ministry program. I say I jumped, I think He may of helped with a bit of a push.

Unfortunately, the doubts didn’t stop once I stepped out onto the water. There was one reoccurring thought that I offered to God every night, a question that waged war inside of me-

God I failed you, when things got hard, I ran. I fell and I fell hard. How can you really be calling me now? Can You really be calling me now? I’m not good at this, I’ve proven I’m not good at this… 

It wasn’t that I needed further assurance in God, I needed assurance in myself.

Peter encountered this. He had ran. And I believe he struggled internally with this, even with Jesus’ forgiveness after His resurrection.

So Jesus asked Peter 3 times if he loved Him. By the third time I can imagine Peter’s despair, he already doubted his own worth and now it may seem Jesus questioned it too. However, as Peter confirmed his love for the Lord, Jesus did not say “Oh, good just checking,” Jesus told Peter to feed and care for his sheep.

Jesus was putting Peter in charge. The man who ran away had a calling– Care for the sheep, because more dark days are coming, but no darkness can compete with the glory that will follow.

Peter vocally confessed his faith to the Lord and the other disciples who were present (including the self proclaimed, “one whom Jesus loved” John… Side Note: I love reading John 💁🏻‍♀️).

The point- Peter made a public declaration in front of other believers. So God put it in my heart. Do you love me? Yes Lord.

And I decided, that like Peter, I had to declare it- publicly in front of other believers. Not necessarily to the benefit of God- but because I needed assurance that I was officially shedding the days of running. God already believed in me. I needed confirmation in my own heart.

When I was originally baptized and confirmed I had not yet experienced how dark this world could be.

I knew now. This time when I made my declaration, I knew exactly what I was getting into. For as Pete and Jesus continued their conversation Jesus stated:

“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” John 21:18

Why? Verse 19 tells us-

“Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “‘Follow me!’” John 21:19

Pete knew dark days. Jesus clarified that more dark days were coming.

And Jesus clarified that He knew Pete could handle the coming dark days. Pete’s running days were done.

So as the Ethiopian exclaimed in the verse at the top, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” I asked myself what is stopping me from being baptized?

In revelation- I knew nothing good was keeping me from making my public declaration. No, that was the work of fear and self-consciousness- of what others would think… or say…

As I was preparing to take the next step- (still hesitating but decidedly hesitating) God sent the people He knew I would need to support me in my journey to the pool.

While he sent several absolutely necessary individuals, there is one pictured in the photo below to my left.

Her name is Averie and two years ago we stood in a baptismal pool as I “took the plunge” and she helped me up (ironically by pushing me down- under water).
Today she is in Africa with a team of amazing individuals (from what I hear) on an 11 month mission trip. She is almost 3 months in- and I miss her terribly… but I am also incredibly proud of her.

I’ve included a link to her blog below.

1. So you can offer her and her team prayers as they continue their journey and embrace Matthew 28:19. What gift she afforded me in standing beside me as I was baptized two years ago, she is now giving to others in nations I can barely pronounce. My heart is full.

2. So you read her crazy stories, see her teammates and of course check out the pictures- they are stunning.

3. And so, if you are able, help sponsor her mission and the movement of Kingdom business as she and her team leave behind the comfort of home with feet covered in the readiness given by the gospel of peace. The widow threw in 2 copper coins- and we remember her today because God can take a little and change the world- in fact it’s His favorite thing. $5 dollars can go further than you ever dared imagine.

Averie’s World Race Blog

As always all of my thoughts and prayers are with all of you. Please feel free to message me or comment below.

For those of you who may be considering being baptized, or re-baptized, I implore you to pray about the decision and speak with a(the) faith mentor(s) in your life. Let God direct your heart, laying aside all other concerns aside from His thought on the matter. His is the voice to follow.

I was given a certificate and photo from my baptism- which I had framed and it now hangs in my “office.”

I have 6 degrees, a handful of rewards and professional certifications-  and I would trade them all for this one. For added all together they are but dust in comparison to living water.

Thank you mrjn Photography on Unsplash for photo!

 

We Who Have Hope

 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 (NIV)

8 months.

8 months since Mom’s earthly life ended and her eternal life began.

How we cried.

How Heaven cheered.

Not only a Mom, but a Wife,Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Teacher, Friend…

The titles she carried are endless just as the light she left behind is

The heartache has been acute this past week, coming in waves. It seemed they came without ceasing. One wave would break as another came in to push me back under.

I missed Mom, I missed Jamie, I missed Grandpa… Aunt Ruth… this list could extend out excessively…

And I know that everyone skimming through this post has their own list, their own list of cherished loved ones no longer on this side of Heaven.

Loved ones who withstanding the amount of time they have been gone, still seem to have, contradictorily, been gone a moment and yet an eternity- at the same time.

And the truth is that the waves never fully cease. Complete healing is not possible this side of Heaven. There are several moments when as wave after wave breaks it feels as if you’ve gone under and you are unable to break the surface. Drowning in grief, a deep murky darkness enclosing you.

But then… Jesus.

Ironically enough- my homework led me to the reminders and encouragement I needed. Reading through 1 Thessalonians for an assignment, I could hear that still small voice.

And I decided to camp there for a while, part of me taking comfort in the fact that the Thessalonian believers had needed the same encouragement back in the 1st Century as I did in the 21st Century.

Many of those in the Thessalonica Church had been gentiles in a Greco-Roman culture before they encountered Jesus through the words of His disciples. The Greco-Roman culture had little belief or hope in any sort of resurrection. So much so, that many tombs and grave markers attempted to belittle or make light of a person’s passing and consequently, life.

I’ve included a screenshot from one of my textbooks below that personally, I had to reread several times.

(Bruce W Longenecker (2019). (p. 367). Thinking through Paul: A Survey of His Life, Letters, and Theology.)

“I was not, I was, I am not, I care not”…

My heart cannot fathom a life devoid of hope. Without the hope of Christ, I would crumble.

Because I care, I care about seeing my Mom again and seeing my Best Friend again and all of my loved ones…

I care because I have not moved on. And the truth is I will not move on.

The same week that the waves were coming and my school assignment seemed to align with divine intervention… a TED Talk appeared on Facebook page…

Just to be sure I got the message loud and clear.

In the words of Nora McInerny, “I’ve not moved on… but I’ve moved forward with…”

I encourage everyone to hit the link below and watch this video. It is 4 minutes. 4 minutes of a message that, whether you need to hear it today or to bookmark it for a future day, you will not regret stopping to listen.

This past week we planted mums at Mom’s bench. The waves didn’t come so much that day. There was peace. And there was hope. Because in Jesus Christ we no longer have to grieve as those without hope.

That does not mean we do not grieve, just that as we grieve we recognize deep down it is a momentary separation awaiting eternal joy.

Thessalonians we get it- the struggle is real.

Paul we hear you- our hope is real, and our eyes are set.

Jesus we love you- thank you for loving us first.

Nora continues her talk, stating that “We need to remember, and help each other remember, that grief is a multitasking emotion…”

In this broken world we grieve, we move forward but we are not called to move on- we are called to rely on our hope.

We Don’t “Move on” from Grief. We Move Forward with It

 

 

Here!!

The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.

Psalm 32:8 (NLT) 

Happy Weekend Friends!

I just wanted to drop in after being absent for a week- and what a week it was!

I made a great deal of progress on my book- that’s right- I am writing a book!

And I’ve made some impressive headway- more on that as I come closer to completion!

Meanwhile I also had the honor of marrying two close family friends today, Saturday October 19th! To you both- I hope you know how much it meant to me (and my family) to be apart of your day!

As I sit here, not everything is perfect, in truth almost everything is far from what I had personally planned or expected… yet I sit here astounded by God’s great grace and love. In so many ways, so many things are wrong and then again in so many ways so many things are better than I could have ever dreamed.

Blessings and Prayers as always 🙏♥️🙌

The Roman Imperial Rule v. Paul

 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV) 

As many of you who have read through a blog or two probably know… I should be doing homework. Especially this week- as I have a huge paper due today at midnight. HOWEVER…

My mind needs a recess and I thought what better semi-productive activity than to share with all of you some of the fun facts I have taken away from my current classes!

Primarily that the Early Church was the most peaceful, loving, absolutely insubordinate organization ever to be documented. And luckily for us- it is a rebellion with no end as to be a follow of Christ automatically marks you as one in complete opposition to the powers of this world (John 17:13-21).

Now don’t misunderstand me- in no way was the Early Church seeking to overtake the Roman government, but continuously advised believers to honor authority figures, from paying taxes to praying for them.

However the Early Church did directly challenge the Roman Imperial Rule of the day… in a way that is most impressive. Not until I dove into the historical context in which our Early Church Teachers were writing and living, did I fully understand that I may never fully comprehend the courage they had.

Bear with me, remembering that the Romans were literally on a track for “taking over the world” of their day, no-one was placing bets on their downfall just yet. While they allowed certain religions to remain intact (i.e. Judaism) they were also known for punishments such as feeding people to animals, whippings within an inch of their life, various forms of torture I would rather not think on and of course- crucifixion.

The Early Church was not risking persecution from just anyone- but from the one who had proven if given a choice between maintaining power and moral conduct- power was the moral of the day.

I have spent a lot of time with Paul the last several weeks. And I, who does not generally use foul language, would have to say Paul was an absolute tough and uncompromising individual, aka he was pretty BA.

While there are several arguments that could be made to back this statement up, I am going to focus on ten ways that Paul directly contradicted the Roman Imperial Rule’s beliefs of the day. And I mean EVERYONE followed these rules and thought processes… reference reason why above…

Reminder that these are statements Paul was not shy about sharing anywhere… Including in Rome itself. In fact he specifically appealed to Caesar and in a sense sent himself to Rome. Without hesitation. Pretty sure that is under the definition of “Holy Spirit Driven.”

1.) Roman Imperial Rule – Heralded Augustus as “son of God,” as he considered the “son” of the Caesar who claimed to be God. (Augustus was actually adopted by Great Uncle Julius Caesar… so have fun tracking that family tree… I did not.)

Paul – Jesus, who is the messianic seed of David, actually the True Son of God.

2.) Roman Imperial Rule – The Roman Emperor = Savior of the World…

Paul – Jesus Christ is the one and only Savior of the World.

3.) Roman Imperial Rule – Emperor is a deity i.e. God

Paul – Only one true God, and He is only known through Son, Jesus Christ.

4.) Roman Imperial Rule – Worship Emperor.

Paul –  Do not worship emperor, that is idolatry. There is only one God, see #3.

5.) Roman Imperial Rule – Rome is highly favored by gods and deemed worthy of ruling world.

Paul – Our citizenship is in heaven, and everything is ultimately under the rule of Jesus Christ.

6.) Roman Imperial Rule – Proclaim the “good news” that the “son of God” Augustus will usher in new era.

Paul – Proclaim the good news of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which has ushered in a new covenant and era.

7.) Roman Imperial Rule – We will unite all nations under Roman Empire.

Paul – There is unity of nations within the body of Christ, all are equal in Christ.

8.) Roman Imperial Rule – Roman Empire has established peace and security throughout the world.

Paul – God alone is able to establish true peace and comfort.

9.) Roman Imperial Rule – “Miscreants” are expendable through crucifixion and other punishments.

Paul – Jesus was crucified through Roman rule and overturned the verdict.

10.) Roman Imperial Rule – Rome’s Empire is sovereign and overseen by gods.

Paul – Only God of Israel is sovereign and has eternal reign established in Jesus Christ.

Yup.

Paul’s letters oftentimes receive a lot of pushback, especially pertaining to household codes and societal issues. However, when one digs deeper they will find that when approached in their historical context, they do not always carry the initial meanings our twenty-first century minds conclude.

For example: Paul’s stance on slavery.

Yes he encourages slaves to respect and work for their masters with integrity.

However, to conclude that Paul supports slavery would be completely unfounded. Why?

Paul writes that masters should look on their slaves as equals, treating them well in return, remembering that they too have a master in heaven. In Roman society that was completely unheard of… In the book of Philemon Paul goes as far as to ask that the slave, Onesimus, be welcomed back as a dear brother. This is followed by an appeal for his release so he could come and teach alongside Paul.

Paul lived in a society where 60% of the population were slaves. Meanwhile they, the followers of Jesus Christ, were a small persecuted minority. Paul wasn’t going to change the law. But he planted the seeds for change to occur in the hearts of men, trusting one day they would lead to a cultural change independent from government rule.

Paul’s other writings and teaching on the “household codes” were equally outlandish in the context of Roman society at the time. We could go more into that (and I probably will the next time I have a huge paper looming) but I have 1 more fun fact that I want to share before I sign off.

God watered Paul’s seeds, and while there are countless examples of His work throughout the centuries, lets go back to approximately A.D. 361 – 363. We are under Emperor Julian’s rule, the title/ term “Christian” has been coined and persecution persists.

Regardless of extreme opposition, Emperor Julian is nervous, he is nervous that somehow “Christian’s will take over the whole world through the stealth of their good deeds.” Don’t believe me? Luckily I screenshot it out of the text book, and yes I have the incredible book all this wonderful information came from cited below- which I highly recommend as it covers a vast amount of information, exceedingly more than I have fit in this post, and with a great deal more eloquence.

EmperorJulian&Christianity

Bruce W Longenecker (2019). (p. 367). Thinking through Paul: A Survey of His Life, Letters, and Theology. 

Well, friends, my homework calls and I have just over 14 hours to hit the submit button. I hope you enjoyed meeting Paul as much as I did!

My prayers and thoughts are with you all, as well as hopes for a great weekend!