Friday, January 31, 2014

Mercy Through the Consequences

The Hunger Games is one of my very favorite series.  I love the plot twists and the gut-wrenching emotion!  And I'm not just talking about the movies here, I read the books!  :)

I'm going to use Katniss as an illustration but I'll do my best to stick with the first two books so that I don't spoil anything for those who are just watching the movies.  However - if you haven't seen the latest movie or read the second book, proceed with caution - *spoiler alert* - feel free to skip ahead to where the Scripture (the italicized portion) begins if this is you.  

After volunteering to take Prim's place in the games, Katniss made a few decisions in the arena, bold moves meant to protect herself and Peeta, something she thought only affected the two of them.  After arriving back home, she began to live life as normal - putting those actions and thoughts in her past (as much as she could anyhow).  Little did she know, those heat-of-the-moment choices she made would continue to affect her life, in so many ways in years to come.  Not only is her own life threatened but those of her family and friends.  She does everything in her power to make amends but to no avail.  Her past continues to haunt her.  Her home town is even destroyed!  

The result of the choices of Katniss are much like the choice to sin in our own lives.  (Just to clarify, I'm not saying that her choices were sin - simply comparing the effects is all.)  When we sin, we are making a choice in the heat-of-the-moment because we are thinking only of our flesh.  Days, months, or even years later - that choice is behind us, left in the past.  In fact, we may have already sought and received forgiveness from the Lord.  But suddenly, that sin comes back to haunt us.  Someone reminds us of what we've done (like President Snow), we find that another person was indirectly affected by our choices (Prim, Cinna, etc.), the result of what we did finally catches up with us (her 2nd time back in the arena).  Sin, much like President Snow, is hard to shake.  But we can have full confidence in our Lord that He will be there with mercy and compassion, to deliver us.

Psalm 40:11-13  
11 You, O Lord, will not withhold Your compassion from me; 
 Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.
12 For evils beyond number have surrounded me;
My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to see;
They are more numerous than the hairs of my head,
And my heart has failed me.

13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me;
Make haste, O Lord, to help me.

David is the assumed author of this Psalm.  He was no where near perfect (yet God still used him in a big way - don't you love that?).  When I first read this passage, I thought to myself - I feel like this so very often.  I can barely keep my head above water with all that life is throwing my way.  Yet, this really isn't about what life threw his way.  The evils David is speaking about are a result of the iniquities, or sins of his own past, of his own choices.  You see, sins can take hold of us, "as an officer takes hold of a man her arrests" (Wesley).

Sometimes we can't see past our own consequences.  Just because we are forgiven, does not mean that consequences don't happen.  We sin and because of that sin other things happen.  For the alcoholic, it is broken relationships that continue to haunt.  For the thief, it is the time spent in jail.  For the murderer, it is death row. For the adulterer, it is the loss of a marriage. 

Yes, we still have to deal with the consequences, BUT, God will not withhold his compassion and mercy!  

Despite his situation, despite the fact that "every calamity that held him in its grip was a child of a sin of his," David still had confidence in God (The Expositor's).  He knew that the Lord's compassion and lovingkindness were waiting there for him to grab a hold of.  And so he prayed for the Lord to help him, deliver him, and fast!   

God is always there waiting for us to turn to Him. He knows our sins will creep up on us.  He knows that sin doesn't just damage just one area of our lives or even just us.  The effect of sin is far reaching.  His forgiveness rids us of the burden, saves us from eternal death and damnation.  His mercy will help us through the consequences.  How truly amazing is that!?! 

So the next time you find yourself surrounded by evils that are a result of your iniquities, remain confident in the Lord's compassion and cry out to Him,

Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me;
Make haste, O Lord, to help me. 

And He shall....

Sunday, January 12, 2014

My View from Up Front

Today at church I realized how privileged and blessed I am to be able to stand up front while we worship.  I have been a part of a praise team off and on in different capacities for probably the last 10 years.  And somehow, it took me this long to realize how awesome of an experience that is.

And it isn't awesome because of the reasons you might think.  It isn't awesome because I'm up front for all to see (quite frankly, this is my least favorite part).  It isn't awesome because I get to hold a microphone.  It isn't awesome because everyone gets to hear me sing harmony.  It isn't awesome because I get to help pick out the songs.

Being up front, facing the congregation, is awesome (and I am not using that word lightly) because I get to see things that most everyone else never even notices - a secret window if you would...

As greeting time comes to an end, I see our congregation laughing and hugging, old friends as well as new strangers.

I see hands raised in the back, a woman lost in the presence of our Lord.

I see an older couple, close to 70 years of marriage, holding hands throughout the service.

I see friends leaving their seats in the middle of service and making their way back to sit with a girl they just met so that she doesn't have to sit alone.

I see tears of joy and sadness silently shed as testimonies are shared by others.

I see our entire congregation, young and old, come forward to anoint and pray for the needs of our community.

I see friends and family go to the altar and lay their needs at the feet of the Lord.

I see a beautiful young lady with down syndrome worship fully uninhibited - opening her heart up, lifting her hands, singing at the top of her lungs (even if she only gets one or two notes right), and sometimes dancing - completely and 100% in the presence of God.

I see lives being changed and hearts being touched.  I see Jesus.

And I don't know how I missed it all of this time. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Another Life

I've got two days left in the week to fulfill my goal of two posts a week.  haha.  I can do this right!?!  

This week, for a lot of reasons, I have been thinking quite a bit.  Yep, more so than usual.  Scary isn't it?  :P  If you could live another life, how would it be different?

Now I want to clarify - I absolutely love my life.  God has surprised me in so many ways and has taught me so much.  I wouldn't ask to be anywhere else than where I'm at right now.  But it is always fun to wonder what my life would have been like if I had been a different person.  What would my life look like if I hadn't wanted to be a mom? If I hadn't decided that small town life was what I craved?

I like to think my life would have led to Broadway.  I absolutely love to sing.  God has given me a talent that I love to use - especially in the kitchen or the shower....  hehe.  Every once in awhile I put in my Wicked soundtrack and sing at the top of my lungs.  I may not be Idina Menzel but the dishes in my kitchen sink would never know my skin isn't painted a lovely shade of green!  I close my eyes and go to the zone.  Broadway doesn't know what they are missing!  Picture it with me:

I decide to skip college and take dancing classes (because, trust me, I need them).  Then, once I've figured out exactly how to use these two foreign objects other people call feet, I will move to New York City, living with 5-10 other people (because who can afford an apartment there?) - all of us trying to make it big.  I'd take a job at a diner as a waitress, entertaining guests with intermitent singing and hastily choreographed dance routines.  One day, a producer walks through the door and he is amazed by my unswerving talent.  I start training for Broadway's next #1 show the following day.  My name is on signs as tall as buildings, right in the middle of Time Square!  Say goodbye to multiple roommates and late night shifts - I have made it!

haha.  Yeah right.  First of all, there's no way I would survive more than a night or two in NYC.  I am not made for the  Second, and probably more importantly, even Anna Pavlova could not teach me how to dance.  My brain and my feet just don't communicate.  I walk into walls and trip over air - add any obstacles and your asking for trouble.  Its like watching a syfy movie on a low budget - it just hurts.  But seriously, I decided a long time ago that God and family would come first in my life.  Broadway just doesn't fit that bill for me.  I want to be home more than I'm away.  I don't want to have to choose between my career and my kids or my husband.  I don't need the added pressure and temptation that fame brings to get in the way of my relationship with the Lord.  That isn't the life I was called to.

But in another life...I'd be all over that!  ;)

But this life, the one I'm actually living, not the one in a New York diner, still has potential for me to live out a dream.  There is another part of me that desperately wants to write a book.  Which is why I love writing these blog posts to begin with!  I want to be a world-changer, a life-changer.  I want to open people's eyes to what lies between the lines of Scripture - I want to show them what comes to the surface when you take the time to do your research.  I want people to get excited about something they've read 100 times before and just missed.  God's word is at our fingertips and so often it becomes just another book that sits on the shelf and gets dusty.  And even if we read it everyday it is so easy to just read the words and go through the motions.  Those words should bring life to every person that reads them - they should set a fire to the soul!  I want to help make that happen!  So someday, just maybe, you will walk into a Christian bookstore and my name will be there in a pretty feminine print on the end cap.  It might not be a playbill or a giant sign in Times Square...but it would still be pretty awesome!  We shall see what God has in store... 

No matter what, I'm happy.  And no matter what, my goal each day is to live a life God would be proud of.  It might not happen everyday, but I keep trying.  Every morning brings a new day.  And every day brings a new start. 

Paul said it best, "I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus" - Philippians 3:14


If you could dream up a different life, practical or not, what would it look like?  


What dreams do you have that could maybe, just possibly, happen someday?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Every Moment

Yep, it is that time again.  The time of year when you look back and reflect upon all of the craziness of the past year.  A whole year!  How can you fit that into a 140 character tweet or a Facebook status or even a blog post?

Every day things change.  Every moment brings a choice, big or small, and those choices change the course of history.  This past year for Hubby and I has been overwhelmingly joyous and difficult.  Some changes brought laughter and fond memories.  Other changes brought pain and tears.  But through it all I am amazingly thankful for a few things:

1. That God has been with us through it all.

I can honestly say that without this assurance, without the complete knowledge of His presence and love I would have not gotten through the past year the past couple of months without Him.  Regrettably, because of some changes and poor choices on my part, my time with Him has been lax and less than ideal.  And I miss that.  I have grown so much but I know that if I had daily been in His word, daily setting aside time to be with just Him that I would have grown so much more. Thankfully, He loves me anyways.  How amazing is that!?!

2. Our marriage is stronger.

Between the good and the bad, I can definitely say that Hubby and I are better because of it.  We have made some major life changes and decisions this past year - from uprooting our lives, jobs and all, to starting the process of buying our first home, things have been stressful to say the least.  But I feel like we are closer than ever.  In the past few months we have actually attended two separate couples classes.  While I can't give you bullet points of what we have learned (without looking at my notes anyways), I can tell you that we fight better (and less) and we are both a little less selfish.  

3. Friends and family.

I don't know how people survive with only surface relationships.  I cannot imagine going through life without true connections.  God has given us a wealth of amazing people in our lives.  We wouldn't be here today without their love and support.  We have been given laughter, shoulders to cry on, and free labor!  ;)  And so very much more.

I am so, so excited for the year to come!  We have hopes and plans but I know God's probably got different ones.  ;)  But regardless of what the future holds, I can continually strive to make every moment better.

So as of today, I commit to:
  • Laugh more.  Essentially that means more intentional time with friends and family.  Because let's face it, the laughter they bring me is much more authentic than anything TV or Facebook has to offer...
  • Do more.  Staying with the idea of less TV and Facebook I want to get outdoors and away from screens.  Being healthier means being active.
  • Breath more.  Worry less.  I need to remember, in the heat of the moment, just exactly Who holds me and my future.
  • Write more.  God has given me a passion and, dare I say, a talent, to write.  I need to use it more than every once in awhile.  I need to use it often.  He has given me talents for reasons I may not even know.  How can He use my talents if I never do?  Going to give it my best!

What about you?  What are you thankful for in the past year?  And how are you going to better yourself in the coming year?