Friday, December 12, 2014

Christianity Does Not Equal Comfort

I think often people have the vision that when you become a Christian everything is supposed to be right with the world, you're supposed to walk a golden path lined with some invisible bubble of protection. This couldn't be further from the truth, in fact that is why they call the road to Christianity the narrow and hard road. Once you are sold out for Jesus, the enemy will put a target on your back and you will experience storms and trials. 

Becoming a Christian does not qualify you for a life of ease and constant comfort. We are still called to walk through storms and experience circumstances that we don't want to. Often we become angry at God for this, and focus on the constant worries of what we're going through. But often it is in the storms and the great pains of life that we are refined the most, learn the most about ourselves, and experience the greatest growth in our spiritual lives. We have to remind ourselves that absence of pain means absence of progress in a lot of ways.

Is this meant to sound like becoming a Christian is a miserable life and we set ourselves up for struggle and impossible circumstances? Absolutely not. What it does mean is that when we accept Christ and we walk the right path we do have God's protection and nothing that happens to us can come to to pass unless He allows it. He does not cause bad things to happen to us, but there are some instances in which we can be pretty stubborn or make repeated patterns of mistakes. In those cases, Our Almighty Father has to allow consequences to get our attention and have us turn from our ways and run back to him. But in this He keeps a close watch over us, He protects us, and He never leaves our side. Through our trials God gives us strength, hope, and even joy right in the middle of the worst circumstances and situations. It is hard to explain this to a nonbeliever, how to find joy in heartache and loss, but as a follower of Christ we learn along the way that He uses every bad situation to benefit our lives and the greater good of His Kingdom in some way. 

Let's meditate on the Scriptures below which tell us that we will experience trials, but that nothing will reign victorious over God and his protection of us. We will also see that God uses everything as a part of His purpose, our calling, and His greater plan. Let us remember that God sees all things, knows all things, and has seen our end from before we even began. If we can't put our trust in that, what can we put it in?

(Romans 5:3 AMP) “Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance.”

(James 1:12 ESV) “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

(Philippians 4:13 ESV) “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”

(Romans 8:28 NIV) “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

(2 Peter 1:10-11 ESV) “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

(Proverbs 3:5 MSG) “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.” 

(Hebrews 13:8 KJV) “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Make Peace With The Old, Start Loving The New

I struggle with "all-or-nothing" syndrome. I see other people working out five days a week, so I feel I need to work out that much to be good enough. I see other people eating Paleo, vegan, or healthy 5 to 7 days a week, so I feel I have to eat healthy just as often and in just the same ways for me to be good enough. I see several Bible studies happening and feel I need to have an involvement in all of them in order to learn as much as I can and not miss out. Then I hear God's Voice telling me, "They are not you, and I don't want you to be them". A strong reminder that He has made each of us unique for reason, yet every single one of us in the image of Himself. None of our paths should try and mirror anyone else's. As long as we are listening to God, we learn how to love who we are just the way we are, and we spread that same unconditional love to others…then it's not up to us to try to run someone else's race.

So maybe I only take a walk two days a week for an hour. So maybe I only eat healthy for about four days a week, then still pretty healthy another two, and then the last day is a full-on cheat day for me. Maybe my hips and thighs are a bit wider than they used to be, and more bountiful than a lot of the people that I know. But then again my heart has become much bigger than it ever has before, and that's the part of my growth that I want to focus on. And that's what I want other people to focus on...the size of my personality, the size of my heart, the size of my love, giving, and serving. So if I want others to focus on those things inside me and not on my outside appearance, why can I not seem to focus on those same things for myself?

Some of us are programmed to think we are supposed to stay looking like we did when we were 18-years-old, so that everyone will say, "Wow, look how great she still looks!" "Wow, look how tiny she still is!" "Wow, look how great she has been doing!" We want to be validated and feel we've "still got it". But what is it that we had that we want to still know "we've got"? When I look back to my 18-year-old days and into my 20s…I didn't have a lot of depth in knowledge, heart, soul, and priorities. So why do I want to keep myself in a time of my life where the only positives I had going were largely my physical attributes?

When we find Christ, our old selves are stripped away and we are given new selves. Ones who see, think, and live through the eyes and truths of the Lord. Not through the things of this world and what is important to modern day society. My now 40-year-old self realized the attributes I largely possess are internal qualities, and the physical has fallen by the wayside in importance. I realize that I no longer want people to notice those things or recognize those things in me, I no longer want to be validated or feel wanted because of my face, figure, or how I look in a specific outfit. I don't even want to be known for them anymore. Perhaps that is why I have become more comfortable with my new self, instead of taking drastic measures with diet and exercise to alter back to the pre-Debbie that I was just a year ago. I would rather diet on the spiritual truths and living water of our Almighty Father and exercise my heart and my growth in knowing Jesus. That's how I know Christ has changed (and continues to change) my heart.

Instead of being constantly focused on keeping up with others who are losing weight, eating healthier, or changing their lives in certain ways…I would rather keep some of my extra pounds and be filled with agape love that I use to serve in ministry, to take care of my children, to learn and understand God better. Do I want to be healthy? Absolutely. Do I want to eat better? Absolutely. Do I want my life to become something that I feel is so structured that I no longer enjoy it or feel that I'm living? Absolutely not. If I eat healthy sometimes, it's okay. If I am making an effort to get some exercise in and eat better, even if it's not as much as everyone else is doing, and I still happen to keep some of my newly-found pounds on…it's okay.

I'm learning that my effort doesn't have to result in the same outcome that everyone else's does, nor be as restricted or regimented because I need to be and do what works for me and the life I have been blessed with. I'm okay, for the first time in a long time, just being me. If I lose a little weight and look a little better, great! If I don't, I will still serve in ministry just as wholeheartedly, I will still love and take care of my kids just as deeply, I will still feel overwhelming joy in my heart for this life, and most importantly I will still love myself and grow daily in my relationship with God. It's not my jeans size, routine, or trying to mirror someone else's physical changes that make me a woman of God. It is not whether I am physically beautiful by the world's standards that makes me worthy or that will draw someone else to love me. It's the pure love in my heart for Our Savior, the gentleness they will see in my soul, and the overwhelming joy I have for life and serving that make me stand out from the crowd...and that is the beauty I want to be recognized for. So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for my curvier hips, my expanded waistline, and my thicker arms and thighs...they remind me the Lord has provided for me in abundance and are a constant reminder to love myself from the inside out, letting Him shape and form me in His own way and time. Happy Thanksgiving, sweet readers!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"To remain is to know your labor is not in vain. It's to live with hope." - Kelly Minter #WhatLoveIs


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Gratitude Realized....

As I sit in my favorite Bible study chair, tucked in with my fuzzy red blanket, holding a warm cup of coffee in my hand (in my sweet snowman mug) and looking at the Christmas lights and tree lit up in my living room I feel a complete sense of warmth, safety, and joy. I can hear the hum of the refrigerator, the purring of the cats, the chirping of the birds outside on the rose bushes. What a sweet and simple life. That means I have a comfortable and safe home. That means I have fresh food, and electricity for the appliances to work. That means I have furniture, warm clothes and blankets, and the delight of holiday decorations surrounding me. But in this same moment, a sadness overtook me. I started thinking not of all the things I have, but of all of the things others do not…and the things I do, use, and have every single day that I often do not acknowledge or give God gratitude for. Let’s think about a few things that we consider simple and “everyday normalcies” that many do not have this holiday season…or in any of their days:

*A home to stay out of the cold or heat (regardless of how hard we have to work for it)

*A job to pay the bills (regardless of how much we may not enjoy it)

*Electricity to make food and keep our surroundings comfortable (regardless if it goes out sometimes)

*Food in the refrigerator and pantry to keep us nourished (regardless how unhealthy our choices may be, or how mundane our meals seem)

*Clothes to keep us protected when we are outside (regardless if they are last season or may have a stain or two on them)

*Animals to keep us company and make us feel needed (regardless how much we sometimes complain about having to care for and feed them)

*Furniture to sit and be comfortable on (regardless the fact that they may be in slip covers and have seen better days)

*Decorations to bring us cheer and brighten our mood (regardless if we complain about having to put it all away afterwards)

So many people do not have even the least of these. Some people are sleeping on streets or on dirt floors. They are out in the elements of extreme heat, or dangerously cold temperatures. They have no work and cannot find any, so even the simplest thing like electricity or running water is something that is not available to them. Tummies are grumbling and prayers are being said for something as simple as a glass of water and piece of bread, while we are out at fine restaurants or convenient drive-thru eating locations enjoying lattes and bacon burgers. Some have no shoes and their feet are covered in sores and bleeding from the cracks, causing them extreme pain. They have nothing but tattered rags to suffice as covering and comfort. And the only semblance of the holidays they know is walking down an alley or street and catching a glimpse of lights and wreaths and bows as they dumpster dive for discarded clothing or food. Some do not even have dumpsters to scavenger through, and have never seen a holiday decoration in their lives.

When I think of this, as I am in my recliner, typing on my MacBook Air, and sipping Americano with fresh spun honey in my 72 degree living room, finishing up a full day of work with my fuzzy socks and favorite shirt on, with the beautiful tree of lights in the corner and the front door locked safely, my truck in the driveway, tank full of gas, PO Box full of mail and books and things I have ordered for my home and sheer enjoyment…I feel overwhelmingly grateful, but overwhelmingly guilty as well. Don’t get me wrong, my life is not wonderfully rich in material things and comfort. I am a single mother working two jobs. I live very simply and it takes all I have to manage everything and keep the bills paid each month. But how hard do I have it really…when we look at the big picture? Is what I am going through really as much of a struggle as I make it out to be and do I still have ways I can find to give back, even in my present circumstances? If I am honest, yes. We may not want to, because that would make us less comfortable or it would make next week or next month less secure for our family. But on the other hand, doesn’t God say when we give to the least of these, we will reap rewards, be blessed, and store up treasures in heaven? When we help others, we help ourselves. We learn compassion, unconditional love, sacrifice, and kindness.

Do we think daily to give up just one thing, one comfort, one available item for purchase in order to save that money up and each month give what we can to someone in need? Do we have items sitting around our house or garage that have been there forever and are never used that we can bless someone else with who may genuinely need them? Or do we just continually thank God for all we have (overlooking most of the big things and virtually all of the small things) and hope that we don’t lose our comforts while continuing to seek out more for ourselves? During this season of gratitude and thankfulness, may we stop and take a moment to look at our surroundings and realize how fortunate we are and ask God to show us a way we can reach out to someone else and give them a blessing that they can feel gratitude and thankfulness for. Not asking anything in return, just simply giving some of the excess that we have to someone who genuinely has nothing but a smile or teardrop of appreciation to give back to us. No matter how dire some of us think our financial or physical situation is, if we look hard enough…really look…I guarantee we can find some way to bless another life and soul not just this holiday season, but every month of every year. May we love, appreciate, and give as Jesus did, does, and always will…all the time.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Another great video clip from Kelly Minter's new Bible study! #WhatLoveIs

Kelly Minter Video Clip

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bible Study Survey

Please take my research survey for an upcoming project! Your responses are greatly appreciated! Blessings, Debbie
Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014