Friday, September 30, 2011

Sitting in my puddle

There comes a point at which we having nothing left to try but God.  The day, week, month, maybe even the year, has not gone as planned.  Jobs lost, friendships damaged, children sick, finances looming, everywhere we turn it feels like there is another hurdle to overcome.We ask ourselves why is nothing easy?

 I hate these times, I hate feeling powerless and overwhelmed, not knowing our next move. But I have come to see there is a blessing in them.  It is these times when we rely most on the Lord.  It is often only in our desperation that we completely lie before him and ask him to fix it - whatever it takes.  I find that up until this point my prayers are usually more like suggestions to God about the best way to fix it or I am so frustrated with God (or even embarrassed) that I just don't pray at all. I often will cling to Isaiah 55:8, "'For my thought are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways' declares the Lord." I also remember that He promises when we are weakest He will be strong.   

Sometimes I think God allows me to "sit in my puddle" until I am really ready to listen to Him.  Ready to bend my will to His and take things one day (sometimes one minute) at a time. In fact, in my life He has rarely, if ever, let me see more than one step at a time.  What is the next decision, next conversation, next move? Not what could happen a mile down the road.

He always gets me where I need to be, but one small step at a time.

Monday, August 22, 2011


I have officially hit that point in the summer when I need school to start back up.  It isn't because of the kids bickering (although they are), it isn't because I am staying up way to late (although I am), and it isn't because we have exhausted all of our fun money (although we have).  It is simply because I need structure.  I recognize about this time each year the God created life with a certain rhythm;days and nights, seasons, weather systems sleeping cycles, body cycles, and even lunar cycles, all have a certain predictability and rhythm to them. The summer however, at least in my house, does not.  Each day is different and either packed full or dangerously empty (if you are a parent you understand why empty can be dangerous)!  I find my time with God can easily get pushed to the side; setting my alarm at 6 to get up when I don't have anywhere else I have to be, just doesn't happen. Getting back into the swing this past week (Meridith had drama camp and so we were at the church by 8:30 every day) has actually been freeing.
At the same time, the days are creeping ever closer to when I have to send BOTH of my girls off to public school. This is a first and really hard for me.  I love having them home.  I love the attitudes they have when they are with us all summer.  I love that we are still the primary influence on them both because of priority (we rank over friends right now) and the number of hours we have with them!  So I am realizing as I write this now that I best start setting my alarm for 5 am this year - I think I will need the extra time with God, I am sure I will have lots to talk about!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

You and Me

Working in a church is one of the greatest blessings I can count in my life.  To be constantly surrounded by others with the same goal - growing in Christ and advancing His Kingdom! I recognize regularly how blessed I am to work with people I love and to be constantly surrounded by God's word.  In many ways it is easy to keep God in the forefront where He belongs.  It is certainly easier to guard one's words, thoughts and deeds!

But surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly if you know me well) even in this environment it is easy to get off track . . . to let emotions rule reason . . .  to focus on our own agendas rather than Gods. 

One of the areas I struggle with this is in my private time with the Lord.  I love to get up early (ok I don't love it, but if I don't do it I am not such a nice person)!  I need that hour (today was only 30 minutes, I was really tired) of alone time before my house explodes into action for the day.  That is my time with God, my time to center myself on His will.  But it is not uncommon for that time to get eaten away at by "good things".  I check my email - send off a few encouraging words, or pick up a book (currently Activate by Nelson Searcy), or search through devotionals for just the right thing to share with my staff that day.  None of these are bad things, quite the opposite they are good and necessary for any ministry to grow. But, they are not "best" for my early morning time with God.  He repeatedly reminds me that He wants it to be "You and Me".  Yes, prayer is imperative for our ministries to grow and thrive, but first we must be plugged in to the source of that growth.

Psalm 46:10 reminds me that I must "be still and know that I am God".  I need to guard my morning time, lay it before the Lord as an offering, seek His forgiveness, guidance, wisdom and peace.  Any relationship needs alone time to grow, to get to know each other, discover more about each other (and by default ourselves).  So today I will remember to Seek Him First, and find some You and Me time.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Unexpected Turns

When I graduated from college I hated that I had a degree in Early Childhood Development with a teaching certificate K-12.  I just wanted to be a certified Elementary teacher (I realize of course it is totally different now).  When I went on job interviews I would have to explain the degree and I was always frustrated by it. But of course now I can look back and see how that was God's hand!! It was precisely the degree and training I would need to run a preschool!
 Fast forward five years and we are settled with an 18 month old in North Jersey, I am working a church with my best friends (Jeff and Kari Gibelius - Jeff was the head pastor).  I love my job, we love our friends . .  but our family is going to expand and our tiny little townhouse can barely hold us.  So after months of house shopping and finding nothing we could afford in a school system we liked, Kevin made a bold proposal, "We need to move to South Jersey."  WHAT?? But things are good here, all is well, you have a job and so do I, I couldn't wrap my head around it.  But after a lot of prayer I realized he was right. We put out resumes for Kevin and put our house on the market (I was going to be a full time stay at home mom-HA!).  Within a week he had two job interviews (one of which is the job he is still doing 7 years later) and we had sold our house. God seemed to be opening all the doors - so we just had to walk through in faith.  Of course now I can't imagine life anywhere else.
 I could tell a similar story of how I started at Hope . . . tried going to the church I grew up in  but it wasn't a good fit any longer, went to HOPE loved it.  Long story short, about a month later I was working  at HOPE using everything God had taught me at the first church.  I would never have had the knowledge or confidence to take on Children's Ministry at HOPE without my experiences growing the children's program in North Jersey.  And then he led me to the Preschool and every step of the way, through every trial (and there were many) God has provided the right person, mentor, staff member; He is eternally faithful.
 I guess I share this to remind myself and encourage you - He knows best.  I would never have plotted my life this way, but I thank Him daily that He knows better than me! Even facing the toughest trials, nights of tears, painful goodbyes, He was abundantly faithful and I am so blessed. Sometimes I just need that reminder, need to look back on God's faithful track record and know His is the road I want to be on.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The ultimate soccer parent

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

I love this scripture and have a hard time believing it all at the same time.  I mean I get that God is with me and certainly believe that he is mighty to save.  Those I don't even have to think twice about!  I can even wrap my head around Him delighting in us, I can picture him smiling down when we are singing praise songs, or when we are doing something particularly "holy".  But the reality is it isn't just then, He has made us exactly who we are and we bring Him joy just because. We are His and He is ours, and just like I will watch my girls just being (playing together, enjoying an ice cream, giggling over a joke, amazed by a new discovery), God takes those same pleasures in us.  In fact, the very next thing the scripture tells us is that he will quiet you with His love. Those days we are beyond ourselves, the days we work ourselves into a tizzy, the days we feel alone and misunderstood . . . . .His love is enough. Just like a mommy's hug is enough for the bumped knee, His love is enough to quiet us.

It is this last part I find almost unbelievable, He will rejoice over you with singing. What??? No way. I cannot even wrap my mind around the fact that the Lord of Lords, Creator of the Universe could ever, ever, rejoice over me with singing. Some other translations say with "shouts of joy".  So, God is in the bleachers cheering me on?  He is watching me like a dad at a soccer game, shouting words of encouragement and celebrating my victories? Wow, I can almost hear it, "Keep your eyes on the ball Heather, you can do this", "Watch his elbow, he is playing dirty", "Pick yourself up, your not outta this game!" And shouts of pure joy when a battle is won, His word is shared,or a temptation avoided. Can you imagine the celebrations of a life lived for Christ when we arrive in heaven?  Talk about bleacher clearing, gatoraide dumping, champagne popping! That will be a celebration worth a lifetime of training, sacrifice, skinned knees, and play books memorized; to stand before the ultimate soccer dad and hear, "Well done my good and faithful one."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I Don't WANNA!!!!

So obedience seems to be the lesson of the day.  Everywhere I have turned it seems God is trying once again to impress upon me the importance of being obedient.  Sometimes I find that obedience is easy - a choice I want to make, a passion I get to follow, an activity I enjoy.  But, I was also reminded today of how utterly painful obedience can be as well.  God tells us in Isaiah, "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  You promise to lead us, but all to often I don't want to listen, you say turn to the left but I think the right looks far more interesting; or turning left would require me to let go of something I desperately want to hold tight to. There have been plenty of times that I have tried desperately to convince YOU that my way can work with your way.  But I have yet to see my plans prosper, instead that usually ends in pain, or a watered down version of what you want for me, empty.

But it is not just that I try and merge His perfect will with my imperfect desires, no I am also the queen of timing. Time and again Jesus called out to people to, "Follow me", only to be met with a list of things they wanted to do first.  I am certainly guilty of this-  my timing Lord, not Yours.  I fall into the trap of thinking I can figure out or dictate the timing that would be most appropriate.  Even as I type this I wrestle with timing, how quickly I want things done! But I know that God's timing is perfect, even when I wonder if He really does know what He is doing! 

So again, it all comes back to obedience. Am I willing to trust Him, when it is not my idea, not my timing and it all seems crazy to me?  Yes, I am.  I may have to commit my will to His again and again, moment by moment, but I want to be where He is leading.

Monday, April 18, 2011

He kept his mouth shut!

Isaiah 53
I love this passage.  It talks about the man of sorrows, the one despised by men who would bear the iniquities of us all.  It is when I happen again upon scriptures like these, that I am reminded how amazing our God is.  hundreds of years before Jesus walked amoung us, Isaiah  wrote about this servant. Detailing things like the beatings that would leave him marred and disfigured (Isaiah 52:14); which was later echoed in all of the Gospels as they tell how he was beaten multiple times by the  Sanhedrin, the roman guards and crowds .
Isaiah also tells us he would be despised and rejected; we would “esteem him not”. And again in Matthew we see Christ spat upon, the crowds cheering “crucify him, crucify him!”  Isaiah tells us he will be pierce for our transgressions, it is his punishment that will bring us peace and it is by his wounds we are healed.  I wonder if Isaiah could have imagined what this looked like; how exactly Jesus would fulfill this prophecy.  
Isaiah tells us he was opposed and afflicted yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter.   Matthew tells us how Jesus was dragged before the Sanhedrin (the ruling  Jewish party), we are told that false testimony was given against Jesus, accusations flew.  We know he could have commanded the Angels appear, torn the temple in two with an earthquake, he could have ascended into heaven right before their eyes. 
But he didn’t.  He kept his mouth shut!
He chose the suffering that would follow, for us.  He knew the price for our sin had to be paid; the thought of us being separated from him for eternity was more painful than the beatings, the tauntings, death on the cross.  That is amazing to me.  That he did it for me.  He did it for you.
And I have trouble rolling out of bed to spend time with Him in the morning. 
Thank you Jesus, thank you keeping your mouth shut for me.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

You mean you don't see it my way?

Remember the Lord’s past faithfulness to you, and trust Him now 

 You should make a journal, a brief recording of when you see God at work! I can’t tell you how many times I have suggested this to others who have come and are struggling to see God’s hand.  Any yet do I ever take my own advice? No, of course not. However, I am blessed that seeing God and remembering his faithfulness, is not such a struggle for me. I am blessed to have the gift of faith.   When I look at my life I am able to trust and see God’s hand with very little effort.  I now realize this is not the case for everyone. I just assumed that everyone looked at things they way I did.  In fact this used to be a source of discord for my husband and me.  I couldn’t understand why obstacles would discourage him so. Why if something went wrong he felt God had looked away. It would make me crazy that he couldn't see things the way I did.  I would get so frustrated with him for what I saw as weakness. In actuality I think his faith may be stronger. He has to work twice as hard as I do to pursue God in difficult time - that takes strength!!

 Now don’t let me confuse you, everyone who believes has faith. Ephesians 2:8 clearly says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” so the act of believing at all means we all have faith!
 Once we accept Christ the Holy Spirit begins drawing out and refining the spiritual gifts He has given us. If you've been hanging around a church at all I am sure you've heard of some of them; service, hospitality, teaching, etc. 1 Corinthians 12:8-9 lists still more of the spiritual gifts the Spirit may grow in us once we believe,  “8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit. "   
Here the Bible is quite clear about two things. One - the Holy Spirit is the author of all of these gifts. Two - these gifts are being given out to different people. Now all of these people have faith through grace (otherwise the Spirit wouldn't be there working in them), so we have to conclude that there is something different about that faith given. 

If you haven't quite figured out what your gift is yet, ask God to show you.  Look at your passions; ask your friends, they have even created assessments nowadays.  But seek it out; there is nothing more fulfilling than doing things in your Spirit gifted area!

Oh and my husband, he has the gift of knowledge and teaching – he is so wise when it comes to scripture and I would never want to go head to head with him in a spiritual debate (apologetics) he would kick my butt every time! He can pull up 10 scripture and point to examples supported by history while I would still be looking for my bible.  He teaches me new things every day.  And when things are difficult and He has trouble finding God in a situation, then I can help him.  I can point out God's hand at work and encourage him that God is working all things for the good of those who love Him. 

Guess that is why made us the BODY of Christ, we each have an important role to play. So if you are struggling to remember God's past faithfulness or see His hand at work now, look around, I am willing to bet he has placed someone with the gift of faith in your life.  And they will be blessed to look for God with you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What camp are you in?

OK, so picking up on the third of our responsibilities in receiving our Promised Land:

Be courageous and do not fear (v29)

Seems simple enough, but we know it isn’t right! We are wired with a biological response - fight or flight.  Our first and possibly most natural response to life is often fear! I think it is easiest to see in children.  There are two kinds; the child who has too much fear and the child with no fear. Both can be disastrous.  As we grow older we tend to settle in one of these camps as well. We either live our lives governed by the "what if's" in life; or we decided long ago that there were no rules and whatever feels good goes.   

Today God is talking to those of us who settled somewhere in the camp of "what if".  Now we may live on the outskirts of this camp; we let our kids walk to school (although often with knots in our stomach), we feel rebellious when we put plastic in the microwave, and we resist the urge to go to Web MD for every stubbed toe. But we have to fight to keep our spot; every decision is a pull against fear.  And then there are those of us who truly have given into fear, we live our lives never really experiencing joy because we won't allow it.  You know this type; children under lock and key, often saying no to travel because they wouldn't be able to control what was going on at home, plagued by fears of their health or that of their loved ones, sure that around each corner disaster is impending.  Somehow we have convinced ourselves that we can control things, but really deep down the truth eats away at us.

Please know I am not making fun, I was one of these campers.  In fact, I think for a while I lived in a tower in the middle of that camp waving a huge white flag!  But God had to grab a hold of me and tell me that was NOT how He had created me to live.  That was not my Promised Land and I was not serving him well in this camp!

 In Isaiah alone we are told over 9 times not to fear.  But God doesn't just say it, he backs it up. Each time he tells us not to fear He gives us the reason we don't have to: God is there, He is with us, He has redeemed us, He will respond to our enemies with vengeance, He will provide for his children. Basically He covers it all!    The Bible repeatedly in old and new testaments alike tells us not to fear – and each time the reason given is God. It makes me sing again and again in my head the praise and worship song “If then our God is for us, what could ever stop us. If then our God is for us, what could stand against?”  It is so true – sometimes I forget that the creator of the universe is my God, and He is for me. Wow – makes all my problems seem small.  Of course, I still feel fear pulling at my feet, but I try each and every day to consciously choose to trust God. 

 I guess that is key – keeping all things in proper perspective – God perspective.

Here is a link to the song I was referencing – it is Our God is Greater by Chris Tomlin

Thursday, April 7, 2011

You want me to do WHAT? You've met me right?

Continuing this series I wanted to look at the second of our responsibilities in reaching our Promised Land:    

 Don’t focus on the obstacles or let them stop you.

The bible is full of stories of the underdog, in fact it is all part of God's plan! You see the smaller, less qualified, more dependant we are on HIM then the more glory He receives when we accomplish the task He has called us to (2 Corinthians 12:9). Time and again we see it. Gideon, David, and Esther, all faced odds that should have been insurmountable; but all were victorious because they were willing to submit to God’s direct leading and intervention.  I love Gideon’s response to the Lord when He calls Gideon to lead the Israelites against the Midianites. “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” (Judges 6:14-16)  I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to say the same thing to God, "Excuse me Lord, but you want me to do WHAT?  You've met me right???" 

But all of that said they moved past the obstacles.  Gideon trusted God and ignored the fact that he was outnumbered by the hundred thousands (the Bible tells us there were so many Midianites you couldn’t count them or their camels- they were  thick like locusts). David looked past Goliath’s massive strength. Esther faced the possibility of death and spoke truth to her king. 

I find that I am often crippled by the obstacles – they loom so large my eyes can’t see anything but them.  I’d like to say that I always persevere, always remember to look at God instead. But I don’t. There are times where I have missed opportunities for blessings altogether, or I am dragged kicking and screaming down the path.  But those are the times when my eyes are not on Jesus and my ears have chosen to believe the lies of this world and its father.  So each day I will chose to listen to the voice of truth and trust in God's promises; because He does know me and through Him I can do whatever he calls me to!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Promised Land

Based on Entering the Promised Land by Charles Stanley (Deuteronomy 1:21 - 46), which was published in In Touch Magazine April edition.

So I am reading about the Promised Land, our responsibilities in receiving it and God’s Commitment to us. You see we may be familiar with the literal Promised Land - the land of abundance promised to the Israelites after they fled from Egypt under Moses' leading.  But there is a Promised Land that the Lord has for us right now as well. He wants us to dwell in the land of abundance; abundant joy, peace, and love.  A land where our will matches His, a land where we are walking in step with the Holy Spirit. But, I digress, Charles Stanley breaks down five ways this passage from Deuteronomy shows we need to be responsible in reaching OUR promised land:
1)      Go and take it (v.21)
2)      Don’t focus on the obstacles or let them stop you (v.28)
3)      Be courageous and do not fear (v.29)
4)      Remember the Lord’s past faithfulness to you and trust Him now (vv. 30-32)
5)      Follow Him fully (v.36)
They all sound good.  But it amazes me when I break them down how hard they are. 

1)       Go and take it –I struggle with this.  You see on some level, no matter how much I know better, some hidden part of me stills feel like to be a “good” Christian I should be unhappy, deprived, and striving. So to go and take my promised land feels like cheating.  Shouldn’t I have to wait?  If I am happy aren’t I doing something wrong? But, within this same passage of Deuteronomy God promises the land he gives us is good and fuitful (Deut. 1:25). I recognize that God promises joy as a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:16) and that he wants us to have it always (Philippians 4:4-9). I also know that God wants to bless us abundantly (2 Corinthians 9::8); in fact, in John 10:10 Jesus himself says that he has come that we may have life and have it abundantly.
       But I also want to be clear, living in our Promised Land does not mean life is a cake walk. In fact, it is the opposite there will be battles to fight! BUT the amazing thing is that God promises to fight on our behalf, and show us the way we should go (Deut. 1:30 -33).  As opposed to stumbling around in our own will finally hitting that brick wall, and then asking God to show us the way out! Oh, I have wasted so much time and energy this way!  So, I would rather get over myself and "go take it" .   I want to walk where the Creator of the Universe is going to fight on my behalf! Yes, no matter how hard it may be, this is where I want to be.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What is The Narrow Gate?

OK, so for a while now I've been feeling like maybe I should be blogging.  Don't know why - who on earth would want to read what I am thinking!!  But more for me than anyone else I think I am going to start  . . . who knows what it will lead to??

I think for me this is going to be a place to process and grow in my walk with the Lord, hence The Narrow Gate.  Matthew 7:13 - 14 says  “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. "  I don't know about you but I love the Lord and have chosen the narrow gate; but staying on that narrow path can be difficult! Often I think I have to "hop the fence" cause I've wandered too far down the wide path!  So this will be about my walk, my struggles, my fears, and well I will just see where God leads.  If it helps to know you aren't alone - then feel free to read on, if not, that's OK too - God is using it to help me process - out loud.

 Right now I have been battling apathy.  Things are good, busy, generally going smoothly . . . but I am struggling to feel that same passion; that burning fire that I desire.  Now I know this is perfectly normal - just like any relationship, our relationship with the Lord has its' peeks and valleys.   I also firmly believe that we are the most ineffective when we are apathetic.  When we are scared it is natural to turn to God, when things are awesome we sing His praises, when things are hard we cry out . . . but apathy, it is a useless emotion  it leaves us thinking only of ourselves (if of anything at all).  So I will push through it - commit to dedicate time, thought, and blogging hours to seeking His face more clearly.Knowing and trusting that  when I ask  it will be given to me; if I seek I will find; and when I knock and the door will be opened to me. 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)

Feel free to ask, seek, and knock along with me!