Lent Post 3: Rat Race

Within the last few weeks, I’ve recently started going to the gym faithfully again.  I like to people watch, so while on the elliptical or treadmill I try to casually look around (hopefully without appearing creepy) and see what workouts others are doing.  Sometimes I take in a panoramic view of the whole gym and think how silly we all would look to, say, a 191h Century pioneer plopped smack dab into our 21st Century modern world.  Most Pioneers got a majority of their exercise plowing the fields, even washing clothes by hand.  There life’s work was their exercise, and  was largely a means to and end – to put food on the table and keep their families safe.

I am all for going to the gym, even though my job keeps me on my feet and lifting, bending, climbing ladders.   I’ve still made it a goal to go 3-4 times per week, and I’ve mostly been able to stick with my goal – except for last week when I only made it twice.  As good as I feel in my faithfulness to going to the gym this season – I can think back to many, many times when I fell off the wagon.  Paying for a gym membership I’m not using is nothing new to me.

Striving: It’s something most of us know very well.  Always setting goals for ourselves, making to-do lists, missing sleep to finish one more task.  It’s never-ending.  Just like a gym full of people running on a treadmill that won’t take us anywhere…how often do we strive to be better versions of ourselves and beat ourselves up when we don’t measure up?  I’ve got news for you, you won’t ever measure up.  I won’t ever measure up.  I’m all about reading books and listening to podcasts about productivity – but I know me, and I know I may never be the introverted underdog turned motivational speaker/singer/famous (insert noun) that would make me finally feel like I’d arrived.  None of us will ever fully arrive – and that’s okay.

I have a friend – a newer friend but one I hope to continue to get to know more.  She couldn’t be more sweat.  We share a mutual fondness of houseplants, but we don’t share the same Religious beliefs.  She is a Buddhist, I am a Christian.  Not long ago we got together and ended up discussing our Religions during a Whole Foods salad bar run.  I was reminded of the Buddhist belief in karma, and that if someone sins (resulting in bad karma) that person must engage in acts of good karma to “try” and atone for that sin.  It’s a constant striving – and honestly seems exhausting to me.  As a Christian, I believe that all people are sinners and we can never make up for or atone fully for our own sins without Jesus.  Christianity is meant to be a life free of burdens because we believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection paid the price for our sins.  We are to do good in order to be more like Jesus, but not in order to earn forgiveness/a place in Heaven.  Even knowing intellectually that I shouldn’t have to do good works to strive/earn God’s love, I so often fall into that trap as a Christian.  I am thankful that Jesus has not given up on me or you!

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Matthew 11:30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

If you feel like you are in the rat race of life with no way to slow down, send us a message and we can let you know how to welcome Jesus into your life for peace and to remove the striving/burdens.

 

Lent Post 2: What is Lent?

After writing the first post, I realized that while I knew that Lent lasted 40 days and that it involved fasting, I did not really know anything else about it. Not knowing why you are doing something is a dangerous place to be. In the bible, the pharisees often did things that were “religious” without knowing the reasoning behind it. They kept themselves clean as God’s law required on the outside, but Jesus called them dead and unclean on the inside because they missed the point of the law (Matthew 23:27-28). They took God’s law to the extreme. They were so focused on doing no work on the sabbath day of rest that they got angry with Jesus for healing someone on the sabbath instead of rejoicing in the miracle. They missed the point of the sabbath. I don’t want my lack of knowledge of Lent to make me like the Pharisees, so please join me as I learn more about it.

Lent first started with the early Christians. The first written account of a Lent observance is from 325 AD (Fairchild, 2018). Lent lasts for 40 days to commemorate the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the desert before he was tempted, as well as the 40 years that the Israelites wandered through the wilderness before reaching the promised land (Fairchild, 2018). Most Christians actually celebrate for the 46 day period from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday (Fairchild, 2018). Sundays are not counted in the 40 days as they are considered like a “mini-Easter” celebration (United Methodist Church, 2019). The Eastern Orthodox church Lent lasts for 40 consecutive days and starts on Clean Monday, seven weeks before Easter (Fairchild, 2018). It ends on Lazarus Saturday, eight days before Easter (Fairchild, 2018).

Regardless of when it is celebrated, Lent is a time to fast, repent of sins, and pray to prepare for Jesus’ resurrection on Easter (United Methodist Church, 2019). It is a time for self-examination, a time to refocus on God. As a person fasts, that fasting is supposed to give them more time to spend with God. If you fast from food, you can spend the time you would normally be eating praying and seeking God. For Lent I am fasting from going on Facebook multiple times per day, so during the time that I would normally go on Facebook, I have been reading the bible and praying. God spoke to me the other day and said “If you want more of me, you need to make more time for me.” Lent is the perfect time to make more time for God.

Not all Christians celebrate Lent and in my opinion, that is OK. Lent is not a holiday in the bible, but a man-made tradition, much like the Pharisees’ tradition of no work on the sabbath. Is it bad to celebrate Lent? No. I think fasting during Lent can help bring a person closer to God and is a great way to deepen your faith. But as you celebrate Lent, make sure that you are not looking down on other Christians who decide not to celebrate. Looking down on others for not following religious practices is something that the Pharisees would do, and no one wants to be like that brood of vipers!

References:

Fairchild, M. (2018). Learn about Lent and how the Lenten season is observed. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-lent-700774

The United Methodist Church. (2019). What is Lent and why does it last forty days? http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/what-is-lent-and-why-does-it-last-forty-days

Lent Post 1: Our Everything

During lent, we give up something. I t might be chocolate, pop, coffee, or something else unhealthy. It might be electronic games, or some other way that we spend our time that we’re addicted to. I personally am planning on giving up Facebook for Lent and only going on once a day. (I would be embarrassed to tell you how often I usually check it a day!) In the time that I normally spend on Facebook, I plan to read the bible and pray.

It’s good to give things up for a time. It shows that we value God over those things. But God doesn’t just call us to give up one thing. He calls us to give up everything.

Most Christians know the story of Abraham and Isaac laid out in Genesis 21-22. If you need a refresher, take a break and read it now. Basically, God promised Abraham that he would have a son and Abraham waited and waited for that son. Abraham desired a son because in that culture, it was the only way to preserve his legacy. If he had a son, all of his possessions would go to the son. If he didn’t, all that he owned would go to a servant. It took 20 years of waiting for Abraham to have a son after God originally promised that he would have one. He was over 100 years old when his son was born! You can be sure that Abraham treasured his son above all else. Abraham’s son was everything to him.

God acknowledges this in Genesis 22:2 when he asks Abraham to “Take your son, your only son, whom you love–Isaac–and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” If I heard that, I would have trouble believing that it was God and would ask for a sign. But Abraham was faithful and did what God said. He made the long journey to and up the mountain in Moriah. Right before he kills Isaac, with his blade up in the air, God tells him to stop and provides a ram for the sacrifice instead. What really stands out is that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, his everything, for God. He honored God above all else and held nothing back from him.

So what do we consider our everything? Is is money, our job, our family? What have we prayed for above all else? And if God asked us to, would we be willing to give it up?

Instead of choosing your own item to give up this lent, prayerfully consider what God might be asking you to give up. It might not be the thing we’re most attached to, but pray about it. You might be surprised by the answer.

Nature of the Beast

I know someone who’s constantly saying “It is what it is”, and, “It’s just the nature of the beast” every time I mention a process that doesn’t make sense to me  or somebody who I feel is being treated unfairly.  In essence, she’s saying — this won’t change, just live with it.

I’ve come to loathe those phrases mentioned above.  Why?  To me, they sound like a cop-out,  It’s a “roll over and play dead” mentality in a world that will eat you alive if you don’t find some ways to stick up for yourself and others.  That might sound surprising coming from me, because I’m pretty timid most of the time.  Still, the thought of injustice in the world, both near and far, is sickening.  I’ve slowly been learning over the years how to stick up for myself – and I hope for others.  There’s so much more to do, but I’m not willing to just give up and succumb to the pressures and bullies of this world.  How about you?

A few years ago I had a dream – very odd as dreams often go – especially considering I seem to have a vivid subconscious imagination.  Anyway, in the dream, an evil spirit was terrorizing myself and those around me.  I ran into a building, which turned into a hospital.  The evil spirit came in and had a baby.  The baby immediately looked at its “mother” and shook its head no back and forth like a chastisement.

The takeaway from that strange dream today — For 2019 and beyond, you may be like the baby in the dream.  God has birthed courage in you even when you can’t see or feel it.  Do what right, stick up for others.  And please, don’t forget to stick up for yourself if you are being mistreated.  It’s not selfish.  It’s self-care.  And you can do it in a way that glorifies God and not a way that is just vindictive in nature.

I would love for you to comment below and let us know in what way(s) God may be showing you how to stick up for yourself and others.

Isaiah 40:29 —He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.

Advent Day 24: Bridge Over Trouble

Have you ever seen those movies that involve a rickety rope and wood bridge that stretch over a deep ravine – usually in the jungle.  Many of the wooden boards are missing, others are rotted, the rope is frayed…but the enemy is hot on the trail so the brave protagonist has no choice but to cross the bridge  The bridge of course breaks when our hero is only half way across.  Amazingly, He or she always manages to survive.

Movies need conflict to keep our attention.  Our lives? Well, conflict seems to be a natural part of them as well.  Part of the song, “Bridge Over Troubles Water” goes like this…

“When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all (all)
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down”

Read more: Simon And Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Bridges can be scary, but they can be beautiful.  Bridges close the gap – where once there was an obstacle stopping us from reaching our destination.  I want to introduce Jesus as a bridge — His life and death/resurrection made a way for us to be forgiven, have peace and purpose.  While we will still have troubles in life (I wish I could wrap up our Advent posts with a tidy message about life becoming perfect, but that would be a lie), we don’t have to be the big, bad, brave hero that saves the day all by ourselves.  Reach out to God for support.  He will take you over to the other side.

Romans 3:23-24 MSG “Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

Image result for jesus as a bridge

Advent Day 22: No Place Like Home

“Home sweet home, There’s no place like home, Home is where the heart is”…just a few phrases to describe the need for feeling at home – for belonging somewhere.

I’ve always been an introvert and therefore enjoy coming home to unwind at the end of the day, but lately, I can’t get enough of being home.  I know it’s a result of working many hours between 2 jobs (one over 40hrs/wk), but my idea of a perfect day has been sleeping in, lazy breakfast, cleaning/organizing, and Netflix watching.  When I’m home only in the late evenings, I have no energy or motivation.  When I do get some extended time at home (such as some Sundays), I tend to feel more motivated, energized, and rested.

If you think about it, Jesus probably never felt fully “at home” on Earth (beyond the fact that He lived on a world and with people He created).  Born in a barn, His parents on the run from King Herod for possibly the first few years of his life, and as an adult He was always traveling.  In Luke 9:58, Jesus says about himself…”Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

Jesus’ birth, life, and death were all a huge sacrifice made so that we could feel at home with Him.  Anytime we call, He is with us.  We are home.

Advent Day 23: Peace on Earth

The last week of advent is all about peace. When the angels appeared to the shepherds to tell them of Jesus’ birth, they said “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). It says that those who have God’s favor will have peace, but who does God’s favor rest upon? Psalm 5:12 says “Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor”. So the righteous will have God’s favor. No one is righteous on their own, but we are made clean and righteous by our belief in Jesus and the sacrifice that he made for us. So if we trust in Jesus, then the angels’ words are for us and we can expect God’s favor and peace in our lives!

Some time ago, God spoke to me and said this:

“This is the truth. Listen carefully to my word, for my word is true. Peace be with you and flow through you as you follow what it says. Through you go through trials and heartache, I will bring you out into my perfect peace. Do not neglect to remember what I have done, both in my word and in your life. Continue to listen for my voice and I will lead you. You will rise on wings like eagles, you will walk and not grow weary, my arms will hold you steady and you will rest in my protection.”

How encouraging! Though this was spoken to me, I believe these words are meant for each and every one of us who believes in Christ. God’s peace is accessible to us and will be there for us even when we go through trials. As we end this advent season, let us find rest in God’s perfect peace. And let us remember to celebrate the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, our Prince of Peace.

Advent Day 21: Stop Striving

I don’t know about you, but Christmas is always the busiest time of the year for me. It’s filled with fun, family, friends, beautiful lights, gifts, and all kinds of wonderful things. But it’s also filled with shopping, wrapping, and a couple of other things I don’t like very much. Even the things that I do really love to do, like baking, can become stressful when I feel like I do not have enough time for it.

Every year I hold a cookie swap with my friends and it is always one of the highlights of the Christmas season for me. We eat together, laugh, play games, swap cookies, and just enjoy each other’s company. I love that cookie swap and I love hosting it, but with the busyness of the holiday season, sometimes preparing for it can become a chore that sets me over the edge. There’s the cleaning, coming up with the games to play, buying the food, getting prizes, baking the cookies, etc that normally I enjoy but this year especially felt like I did not have time for. A couple of days ago, it caused an anxiety that I just couldn’t shake, that was affecting my behavior towards those closest to me. One morning, in the midst of my anxiety, God spoke to me. This is what he said:

“Take things one step at a time. Do not worry about tomorrow; I have already taken care of it for you. I am at work in your past, present, and future. Trust in me and I will give you the desires of your heart. You are striving to do things in your own strength. Stop striving and let me work.”

I realized that what he said was true. I was planning each minute detail of the party, but I hadn’t really stopped to consider what God might be trying to do in it. The day of the party came and I felt like I did not have enough games planned, barely got the fudge I made cut up and bagged in time, and had to ask my husband for help cleaning the house. But despite my feelings of unpreparedness, the swap went wonderfully. During the event, I looked around the room at all of the women from different churches that I had attended, laughing and talking together and realized that God was doing something. It did not matter that I did not have the exact mints that I had wanted to buy, or that I only planned three games for the evening. Everyone had a wonderful time and there was a companionship and joy in the room that could only come from the unity that we have in Jesus.

I want to remember that evening in the future when I am feeling anxious and hold on to God’s words to me: “Stop striving and let me work.”

In Matthew 1:27, Joseph is told to give his son the name Jesus, which means “The Lord Saves” because he would save his people from their sins. Notice that his name is not “The Lord Helps People Save Themselves.” Jesus did not come to help people save themselves, he came to be their Lord and Savior. We do not need to strive to be perfect, or to save ourselves. All we need is to trust Jesus to be our Savior. So stop striving and let Him work.

Advent Day 20: Opposites

I used to teach preschool. One of the many things I worked on teaching the children was opposites. Sometimes a few of them got their opposites and rhyming mixed up.  Me-“What rhymes with big?” Child-“Little!”

What can I say? Learning any language is hard.  Even harder considering that (in Engliah anyway) different words and phrases mean different things based on context. For instance, the phrase “well done” can be a compliment or a level of steak that is cooked all the way through.

Based on the context of you life – background, Ethnicity, financial status – you probably see/hear things in life from a certain viewpoint. You might relate/don’t relate to God based on your how you grew up.

The quick point I want to make here is that God knows we all come from different Backgrounds and experiences in life. But he speaks to us all in ways that we can relate to if we stop to listen.Furthermore, Jesus came down to Earth and lived here-so He can relate to our humanity, our pain, our joy, our sorrow.

When we feel like God doesn’t hear or Know us, it’s really the opposite.

Advent Day 19: I Choose Joy

I just love this song! I have never heard a song that better depicts God’s joy. When the choir shouts “Joy” I always get goosebumps.

I also love that this song doesn’t sugar coat things. It’s not saying that when things are going great we should have joy. It talks about the stress of life, the horrible stories on the news, and walking through the valley of the shadow of death. I think we can all relate to that first line “Lately, I’ve been reading, watching the nightly news. Don’t seem to find the rhythm, just wanna sing the blues.” It seems like 90% of the news stories are always bad. Just spending an hour watching the news can leave you depressed and deflated.

Just like love, joy is a choice. It’s not something that we’re asked only to do when things are going well and we’re happy. It’s something that should always be a part of our life. (Joy is something that I personally really struggle with, so I’m talking to myself here). “Joy is an emotion that’s acquired by the anticipation, acquisition or even the expectation of something great or wonderful” (Wellman, 2015). And if we are having trouble being joyful, we should turn to God for it, just like the songwriter did here.

Nehemiah 8:10 says “Do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The people had just been read God’s law and were weeping because they felt so convicted of all of the things that they had done wrong. But Nehemiah was basically saying, “Don’t worry about your past. It’s in the past. Enjoy life right now and serve God in your life right now.” God forgives us of anything that we have done wrong in the past, so don’t let anything in your past dictate whether you are able to have joy right now.

If the joy of the Lord is our strength, then when we are not joyful, we must be weak. That makes sense, because I feel like my faith is pretty weak when I’m feeling depressed. If joy is our strength, then we should put it on like armor and wear it wherever we go so that we are ready when we are attacked by the enemy.

So how do we put on joy? First, we have to let go of our worries and give them up to God (Philippians 4:6-7). Then we need to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him. Even on the cross, Jesus was able to look past his physical circumstances to the joy of overcoming death and having us join him in eternity. I would say that the cross is the worst physical and emotional circumstance that anyone could possibly be in, so if Jesus was able to hold on to joy despite that, then we should be able to as well.

Joy and happiness are not the same thing and we don’t have to be happy all the time. Obviously, Jesus was not happy on the cross. In Ecclesiastes 3, the bible says that there is a time for everything, including a time to weep and a time to mourn. So if you are weeping and mourning, don’t feel bad. You don’t have to be happy. But still hold on to your joy.

Galatians 5:22 says that joy is a fruit of the spirit, so it comes from the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, it comes from knowing that God loves us and is there for us. If we want more joy, we need to turn to the Holy Spirit to receive it. Romans 15:13 says “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him…” Joy is something that we receive as a gift from God and we get more of it by drawing closer to him. One thing that really helps me receive more joy is praising God. Even if life is going really badly and I am stressed to the max, if I turn on a worship song and just start praising, I start to feel better and my joy starts to return. I’m not necessarily happy after, but I have a peace and a knowledge that God is going to be there for me and help me through these temporary circumstances that I’m going through. I actually have a specific playlist of worship songs that I turn to when I’m worried. Maybe you could add “I Choose Joy” to yours?

Reference:

Wellman, J. (2015). What is the biblical definition of joy? How does the bible define joy? Christian Crier. Retreived from https://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2015/05/21/what-is-the-biblical-definition-of-joy-how-does-the-bible-define-joy/