Five Simple Words

Have you every had a day when you just wanted to sit down and have a good cry?  You may not have know why you needed to cry but knew that it would help.  Today was that day for me.  This has been a full week.  We have dear friends that came to visit last Saturday and we were having a great time catching up.  Our house was filled with the sound of friends again.  Monday evening we went to get our daughter and all of us went out to dinner together when Anna got very sick.  The short of it is that she ended up very sick in the hospital ICU for 4 days. I realized that I just went into the mode of caretaker at that point.  I tried to help out anyway I could but Tuesday I came down with a bad sinus thing and couldn’t go see my friend for fear I would make her worse.  So I tried to lend as much as I could to taking some load off Toby and helping with the kiddos’.  Not sure how much help I was but I felt a little helpless to know what to do.  Things were crazy at work and I ended up putting in overtime this week.  My sister contacted me that my mom’s husband was back in the hospital and the prognosis isn’t good.  It won’t be long before cancer will claim his life.  Then Friday we received a call from another friend from Vermont that was in town and needed a place to crash for a couple of days that wasnt feeling well either.  Of course, we opened our home to him.  It wasn’t even a question.

Today I woke up feeling horrible, tired and emotionally empty.  Lucky for us our church gathering doesn’t meet until 11:00 a.m. so I could sleep in a little.  I felt so weepy but wanted to keep it together.  Even with leaving a little early we were late to service and worship was just beginning as we came in.

 The theme of this day was letting God help you.

Acknowledging your need for him and turning to him for help.  While I couldn’t really sing because of my laryngitis by the second song I was totally undone.  I just covered my face and cried and tried not to look the fool.  I was hoping that the people around me couldn’t hear. I kept telling myself in my head to keep it together.  The last song of worship was My Help by the Brooklyn Tabernacle.  Our worship team tore it up, it was done so well, but It made me a  hot mess.  I wasn’t sure I would be able to pull it back together.

 After Wesley brought the word they sang the song again and as I sat there I remember thinking  Lord I just need someone to listen to me.  Someone to just listen.  I don’t need answers, I don’t need reminded of anything, I just need a real person to be present with me right now.

The service ended and I stood up, blew my nose, and grabbed my coat.  When I looked up I saw Kim, Wesley’s wife walk to me and ask, “Can I pray for you?”  Do you know what healing oil that was to me in that moment?

Five simple words.

Five simple words at the right moment.  She didn’t know what was going on with me.  She just hugged me and prayed fervently for me.  She was “God with flesh on” in that moment.  She allowed me to just stand there and cry.

How is it that one person in the span of a couple of months can see God work out miracle after miracle for them and is walking a life of faith and trust forget in the most important moments that God is my help?  What is wrong with me?  I have been living every day learning to trust him with our home, our finances, our life but in the moment I started leaning on me instead of Him.  It is so subtle.  It isn’t a deliberate choice, more a sliding into old behavior.  I want to be that person who breathes out God I need  you at every moment good and bad.  I want to know that my heart and mind and spirit will turn to Him by instinct.  O what a process this life of faith is.  I hate seeing the journey of the people of Israel play out in my life.  I hate admitting that I have to learn my own way instead of from their example.  I hate that at this point in my life I am still trying to learn this basic principle of my spiritual journey.

O but even in my weakness, He is strong.  Even in my moments of stumbling He knows my heart.  Even in my moment’s of stubbornness He is persistent.  Today he showed me that He is listening and He is speaking and reminding me of how much He loves me.  That He sent one servant to show me that He cares about what I need, not only financially, or physically but emotionally as well.  Five Simple Words communicated more to me about God and His love for me than a thousand sermons could ever say.  God was speaking those five simple words through His servant and was telling me,

“Karrie I see you.  I love you,  I hear you.”

Standard

I know that He is Real

During the night a whisper worked its way into my mind.

“What if He’s not real?”

I immediately started to pray.

“God I trust you, please work a miracle for us”

Then I drifted back to sleep.

Over and over this whisper would come to me in the night and my response was always the same.  As I got up and started my morning I tried to ignore the whisper, pretend it wasn’t there.  I went out to the store to get a couple of things.  I was alone.  As I was driving home the whisper became a little louder in my mind, so loud it could not be ignored. Almost involuntarily I spoke aloud,

“God I know you are real.  I know you are real.  I won’t believe that you aren’t.  “

I started to cry because it was in that moment I realized that the true fear of my heart was somehow He wasn’t real and I was hoping and trusting in nothing.  But in that moment I had to choose what I would believe.  I Chose Him.

My heart then started to cry out loud to Him,

“I don’t understand why you aren’t answering quicker, I don’t understand the wait.  I know you are trying to teach me something, I know you will receive the glory.  I am trying to be patient, but I’m afraid.  Lord where do I go.  I don’t know what to do.”

Quietly and quickly I heard another whisper that said.

“Stay in the palm of my hand.”

In response, in utter honesty I respond,

“Lord, I can’t find it.  Help me find it.  I feel lost.”

I wish I could say that God immediately brought me peace.  He didn’t.  I had to choose to focus my mind and actions on something else.  I went home and started making muffins to give to the neighbors and my spirit has quieted for a little while.  Sometimes I think we want this faith journey to be like a Hallmark movie.  When things are bad we are waiting for the resolution at the end.  Much of our life isn’t the resolution though, it’s the angst in the middle.  How we navigate this “middle” is important to how the end will look.  I do think one thing though was accomplished this morning, no maybe two.  I addressed the whispers of the enemy to turn my heart from God. and I spent my mental and physical energy in serving someone else.

I still need God to guide me to the palm of His hand.  I still feel a little lost, but the whispers of the enemy to deny God’s existence has been thwarted.

I know that He is Real!

Standard

Because I love You

I woke up early this morning like I do most mornings, long before the alarm and usually I find myself praying without even thinking about it.  Just asking God to provide for us, to take care of us, I pray for Gus and Eythan and the kids.  This morning as I was praying I asked God to please provide what we need and then a thought jumped into my head that wont let me go…

“I provided for you because I want to, because I love you not because you have twisted my arm with tithing.”

See over the past month we have visited a lot of church services and one Sunday in particular we heard 3  sermons on tithing.  By the end of the day I was feed up with hearing about tithing.  Not because I don’t tithe but because I do.  See we have tithed and giving offerings our entire adult life.  I believe in tithing.  But I was frustrated because between hearing about how your bills will never be late, you will have all this stuff like, boats and rv’s, and etc, Gus and I were feeling like God had forsaken us.  Our bills were late.  We barely have 2 cars that are running and no way to fix the one that is on its last leg.  We had no jobs at the time and were down to the end of our provisions.  How does this make sense with what they  were saying, especially when we followed what we believe was God’s call to us to go.  We felt judged and condemned because of the situation we are in.  We took the step of faith into the unknown like Abraham, but God wasn’t providing.  Or was He?

Last Sunday we heard yet another sermon on tithing and I could feel Gus bristle next to me.  Much of what the minister said made sense but again we come to the disclaimer at the end of the sermon about never being late on bills, etc.  How do we reconcile this in our hearts?  Have we sinned?  Have we made a mistake in hearing God?  Did we do something wrong we are being punished for?

And then this morning, hearing what I believe was God speaking to me that He wants to provide for us but not because we are twisting His arm with tithing but because He loves us.

Last night I was having a discussion with Gus while I was soaking in my beautiful garden tub.  I was telling him that I believe that some of these preachers don’t understand that we all have a different journey to walk.  I’m not sure that God is as concerned about late bills as He is about how we handle the late bills.  Do we run away and avoid paying them when we can or do we show we have integrity and work out arrangements and are upfront.  I do want to say that we aren’t in debt with the exception of our late utility bills.  Debt I think is a choice we make that isn’t necessarily about trusting God to provide and I have walked that road as well.  But for today, we don’t have debt of our own creation, it is just keeping up with the utilities that is proving a challenge.

I remember when I was a kid, much of the time we didn’t have running water or electricity.  My dad sometimes would have to take my horse to work because the car was broken and we only had one car.  We didn’t have debt we were just poor and my mom tithed.

So what was that about…Just like we all have our own life journey to walk I am starting to believe that we all have our own faith journey to walk when God will allow us to experience different things to teach us about trust, to teach us about empathy with others, to teach us to watch our attitude when things aren’t all roses and singing birds.  I am learning so much right now about who God is.

And to be honest,  He is providing.  Maybe not how I want Him to, but we have food in our cupboards, we have a roof over our head, our lights are still on and water is running in our sink.  Our old cars are still getting us there and we havent run out of gas. I have a job, while it isn’t enough to pay for everything, it is helping.  He is providing, because He loves me.  I tithe because I love him.  Not because I am twisting His arm to provide but because I want him to know that I trust Him with my life and with my family.  Whatever His provision looks like today.  I will trust Him.  I will choose to have a thankful heart.  I will not mourn what I don’t have but will celebrate what I do have.  Health, children that love God, a husband who loves me and has a heart to follow God, a home to live in, and a community to reach.  Not many can say that even if they have all the money they need so much else is missing.

What about you?  What are you trusting God for?  Are you grateful?  Do you see His provision in your life?  Are you being obedient to Him?  Do you truly love and trust Him?

Today I will choose to say in spite of my circumstances

God is Good to me, all the time.

 

Standard

Choosing between Two Good Things!

Today I find myself wrestling with a choice.  A choice between what appears to be two equally good things.  As I have looked at both I can see pro’s and con’s to both and on the scale they appear to be equal decisions.  So what do I do to find God’s best choice for me?  How do I decide?  A decision must be made.  Saying yes to one is saying no to another and indecision is really a decision to say no to both.

I am usually the one who prays, “God close all the doors except the one I’m to walk through”.  Not happening!

I have always believed you should follow the way of peace.  However, neither choice brings me anxiety.  I believe from what I can see, what I know, that both are equally good.

See this is the problem,  the unknown!  Ugh!  More Faith Required!

There are unknowns in both situations that I can’t control.  Only God knows what will be coming ahead and He isn’t making it clear to me yet.  So again even with deciding between good things there is a measure of faith needed.

I’m finding that living a life of faith isn’t just about trusting God for provision in walking out the things He has told me to do.  It is also trusting Him to help me make the everyday choices between good and best.

I have been reading in Judges and today during my lunch break I was reading about Gideon and how he put out the fleece twice to make sure he heard God right.  I have to admit I have been tempted to do a “fleece” thing with this but I want to be more mature than that.  I want to hear from God’s spirit and act.  I don’t want to have to test Him to be sure I know what to do.

See if it were a decision like pizza or brussel sprouts the answer would be simple……pizza.

Of course I have made this a matter of prayer.  I have talked it through with Gus and even asked what he would do if he were in my place.  I don’t know that he ever gave me an answer. hmmm.

I don’t believe God wants this to be a big mystery from me so what is the problem….to be continued……

Standard

I MUST!

I was feeling a little melancholy tonight.  I had watched the God’s Not Dead movie with my family and after it was over my boys went and played music.  I was feeling a little lonely and wishing I had some local friends.  Not sure what to do with myself I decided to run a hot bath and soak.  I felt a drawing to read my Bible while I was there so I pulled out my nook and opened the ESV Bible I have on it and continued reading in Joshua where I have been reading lately.  It was all the divisions of land and a little boring but as I got to chapter 21 verse 45 jumped out at me.

“Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.”  

Not one had failed; all came to pass.  I read this over and over and pondered what this would mean for me.

Could it be that God is reminding me that His promises will not fail?  Could it be that he was reassuring me that He is a person of His Word?

As I continued to read Joshua in chapter 24 he recounts to the people of Israel the ways that God has followed through and how He has always been with them, how He has led them to this moment.

I started thinking about the twists and turns my life has taken and all the moments that God has led me through.  Some of those moments He steered and some I have but through it all He has been there.  During the times I allowed Him to steer there were promises that He followed through on.  Promises like.. “I will never leave your or forsake you.” and “He works all things together for our good for those called according to His purpose.”

So right now as I sit in a situation that God has steered me into, am I able to trust His promises?  Can I look back and see how he provided for me in the past and really believe that He will provide for me now?  There is only one answer.

I MUST!

I must believe Him.  I must believe that His promises are true.  I must believe that He wouldn’t lead me where  He would leave me helpless and alone.  I must believe that He is telling me the truth when He says He loves me.  I must believe that when He promises to take care of me, He will.

I must believe that He would not lie.

God put the dream of Atlanta in my heart over 16 years ago for a reason and for a purpose and I must believe that as I have walked this journey that it is all leading me to this moment, to this depth of trust, to this level of obedience and to this new understanding of His love and provision.

Even as I write this my heart is full of fear and terrified of what this will mean but I must believe that God is true.  These are his promises to me;

“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in christ Jesus.”

“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint.”

“And all things, whatever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.”

I could go on and on….

In the end regardless of how tomorrow looks, or the next day, or the day after that

I MUST choose to trust Him with all of my life, anything less than all isn’t TRUST.

Standard

It’s not that easy!

We were driving around our target community when we came across a church and there were some people outside.  We stopped to talk with them a few minutes and found they had a mid week Bible study.  We decided to visit so we got Eythan and headed over for their night service.  We noticed a few things pretty quickly. (This is not in way of judgement just observation).

  • All the caucasian women were in long skirts and had an “old-time” appearance to them.
  • The pastor did everything from driving the bus, to running sound, to “chastising” the adults from the front for not being in the parking lot to help with the kids.
  • The church was in an old grocery store and in the ‘sanctuary’ were old pews and the set up was very 1980’s country church.

But beside all of that what stood out to me most was the preaching.  The pastor’s wife preached. (I was kinda surprised by this)  She spent the bulk of her time trying to get across the point that we need to pick a team, God or Satan.  That God wins and Satan looses and we don’t want to be on a losing team.  That if we just come to church we are picking God’s team.

The last couple of days I have been pondering this.  Is it really that simple?  Is it just about picking a team?  If it were really that easy wouldn’t we all pick God.  Wouldn’t that be the logical jump?  I have been serving Christ consistently since I was 19 but it hasn’t been that simple.  There have been times when I wasn’t sure that serving God was something I wanted or could do anymore.  I felt like it was costing too much.  There were times when He felt so far away and times when I just shut down conversation with Him.

If it was just about attending church I would be the best Christian ever, but I know that isn’t enough.  That isn’t the answer.  I grew up in an era where the belief was that you just needed to get to church and everything was gonna be alright.

Well,  it’s not alright.  How many people have we watched walk in and out our doors attending church to make things alright but walk out just as frustrated as when they came in.  Over this past month I have visited 9  churches, each very different and what I found, as a visitor, is that people just want you there but they don’t know how to keep you there.  They say hello, maybe, and they shake your hand.  they tell you from the front to fill out a card and get a free gift but we are missing the human component in all of that.  I walked away needing friends and finding not even acquaintances.  (the only difference to this was when we attending the Dream Center last Sunday for their morning service, Pastor Paul knows us and he hugged us and even kissed Gus and welcomed us but no one else in the church did anything more than “Hey”)

Listen, I’m not bashing anyone, I’m sure I have been guilty of the same.  Right now I’m on the other side of it.  Right now I’m a Christian in need of love and support and a human being to be Jesus to me.  When I walk in the doors I need someone to really want to know me.  I need to see Jesus up close.  See there is more to this than just “going” to church.  We have to “be” the church even at church service.  We rely too much on the words of the pastor to “do magic” in the life of a person in one moment.

The “magic” is you loving, living, and getting messy with people.  It is you “being a real, authentic Jesus”.  One that I can get a hug from, one that i can hear  words of hope from, one that listens, one that just stands near me so that for one moment I’m not alone.

So is it just going to church that causes us to pick a team?  No, It us being true to the team we have already picked.

Standard

The Hope Nation Journey

One month ago we loaded up our truck and left Vermont.  We left behind great friends and financial security to follow what we believe was God’s leading to go to Atlanta and start a new missional church.  The journey of the last few months have been full of fear, doubts, excitement, surprises and so much more.  We didn’t have the financial means to make a move like this and travel 20 hours to the unknown.  We tried for several months to secure employment before we left but it was becoming obvious that jobs wouldn’t be found until we reached Atlanta.  So here we are, God provided a beautiful house and the financial means to get here but months later still no jobs.  Not even any real prospects of jobs.  So now what?  Did we hear wrong?  Did we jump ahead of God?  Why aren’t the provisions that God promises in his Word coming to us?

From day to day I go from being faith filled to fear filled.  I watch as the money and resources we have dwindles and try to figure out what the wise thing to do is.  Buying groceries on a tight budget is emotionally draining.  Even putting gas in the car is difficult as we don’t know when we will have money again and what happens when we get jobs….will we have enough to even get to work?  All the emotions swirl in my head and once in a while panic will set in. Gus and I seem to take turns being in the emotional soup pot.  Today I happen to be doing okay.  Today, I’m not filled with worry but also not filled with wonder.  What is the purpose in this journey?  What is God doing?  What are we supposed to learn?  Is provision on its way?  Did it get hung up somewhere?  Did we disobey?  All of these questions fill my mind.

Yesterday I asked my 14 year old son to be praying that we get a job soon and his response was, I’m praying you don’t get jobs so that you can do the church plant full time.  WOW!  Not what I expected to hear especially with his birthday coming up at the end of the month.  But as I have been thinking about it today…maybe he has a faith that I don’t…maybe he senses that we came here to do something and we should be just doing it.  He knows that when we have jobs we are limited in what we can accomplish in ministry.  He also knows that we are happiest when we are able to do what God has called us to do.  So in pondering this I wonder…..will God just provide?

Is it irresponsible to just start doing the ministry or should we pursue the jobs?  We need to take care of our family and make sure the bills are paid, but even with doing everything we know to do, nothing is happening.  The bills are starting to get behind and we have less that $300 to our name.

I was reading in Joshua the other day about all the battles that the Israelites fought to get their promised land.  God told them that the victory was theirs but they had to go into battle believing it.

The story of the children of Israel crossing the Red Sea also came to mind….the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant had to start walking into the water nearly up to their necks before the water parted.  I wonder what was going through their minds.  Did doubt overtake them?  Did worry about their own life flood their minds?  Did they fill with panic?  Or question if they heard God right?

How does one walk in Faith?

I have heard so much about this since being here but some things just aren’t adding up.  Mostly when preachers talk about walking in faith they refer to tithing or being prosperous. They mention how they were never late on their bills or how God enabled them to purchase things they didn’t have before.  Sometimes they will say that they can give more but what if you are walking in faith, taking big steps and your bills are late, your money is running out; you’re still tithing and being generous as you are able.

Is that person not walking in faith?

Don’t we all have a different road to travel in our journey?  Was Hosea not walking in faith?  God made him marry someone that would only hurt him.  Was Jeremiah not walking in faith?  He was always sad.  Was Paul not walking in faith?  He spent most of his time in prison.  What about John the Baptist?  Wasn’t he basically homeless and eating bugs?

I don’t have this figured out but these are the things that plague my mind.

I know God loves me, but I also know that this life I’m living isn’t supposed to be my own.  So what does walking in Faith look like then?

Standard