Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mr. Cory

I did not realize until now that my last post was the day before my Step-Dad died on April 28th.  I honestly think that I have been avoiding my blog for that reason - and because I want to write about him but don't want to face the pain that brings.

That last post sums it up, though!  Greg was so thankful, up until the very end.  And he also experienced God's love even in his last few days, which is such a testament to me.  It means so much to me to have seen God's faithfulness experienced and accepted by somebody who could just as easily miss or dismiss it under the circumstances.  And now that Greg is gone, and I miss him so badly, I can follow his own example and decide to soak up the love that God has for me.  I can choose to be grateful for all that I have, especially my loved ones who I also have only a finite amount of time with on this earth.  And it's much easier to make those positive decisions knowing that Greg did the same thing himself when he was suffering and dying.

But he was that way when he was healthy, too.  One of the greatest lessons that I learned from my Step-Dad is that it's so important to plan to make time for people who matter, and to really make those plans happen.  He was always thankful for that time, and showed it by making the most of it, by making it fun and memorable.  Greg's loved ones felt loved by this habit of his, as I know first-hand.  I don't know that I'm good at actually doing that yet, but I hope to be by the time I am gone.

I could write (and have written) pages and pages about how blessed I am to have had this man as a Step-Father who welcomed me and cared for me like I was his own.  I hope to keep his memory alive by never stopping acknowledging what a presence he was in my life, good, bad, hilarious and all.  But had I had the chance to speak about him at his memorial, I would have talked about how he made time for all of us and how he made it special, whether it was time vacationing or time spent coaching a hopeless athlete (me - basketball, enough said).

What I did get to do at his memorial - which, by the way, was appropriately packed, appropriately sad to the extreme, but also appropriately humorous - was to pray.  I prayed that we would all be comforted despite our grief by the fact that we will see Greg again (happy and whole!!), thanks to God doing what he did for us through Jesus.  And that really does comfort me when I am crying over my Step-Dad.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Stream of Scripture

I have just been feeling this overwhelming sense of thankfulness and well-being the past couple of days.  It probably started when I spoke to my beautiful little sister yesterday and she reminded me how important it is to be thankful.  She told me a story of someone very dear to us experiencing extreme gratitude and knowing they are so loved by God despite much pain and very unhappy circumstances.  It really moved me that this individual is able to soak up these joys when it would be so easy to be bitter, complain and become overtaken with sadness.  I'm very proud of this person and so grateful that God has answered our prayers by being comforting and revealing himself.  I'm just bursting with excitement over this!

This reminds me of the fact that what we think about creates a reaction from our body, which directly influences how we feel.  I feel so much better when I am thinking about things I am happy about, things I enjoy, things I am thankful for, and things I'm looking forward to.  And there is a lot of that to go around in my little head!

Excuse my stream of consciousness, but the above answered prayer also reminds me that the Lord Jesus and our Father God are SO powerful and they care so much.  Which brings to mind some wonderful things from scripture...

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  And not one of them is forgotten before God.  Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Luke 12:6-7

That's some perspective, isn't it?  God cares even about silly little birds, of which there are zillions?  He must REALLY care about me :)

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock; and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
Matthew 7:7-8

We talked about this in fellowship last night - that when we pray, we can EXPECT and RELY on the fact that, if we are asking within the will of the Lord Jesus, he will answer!  But we can't just pray one time and give up.  The Word makes it clear that we have to PERSEVERE!  (See Luke 18, the parable of the persistent widow)

I love this passage also.  It, too, puts things in perspective for me.

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Ephesians 1:15 - 23

Moral of the story: I want to know Christ for myself!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Bible Reading Strategies

I had really been having trouble getting myself to read the Bible for a while there, but I've come up with something that helps.  Maybe sharing it will inspire somebody else to try something new to make Bible reading more exciting, who knows?

Part of my problem was that I would sit down to read and not really know where in the Bible I should start.  So I would spend my whole time flipping around looking to see if anything would catch my eye, and I'd end up reading casually and quickly because I had run out of time to actually digest the word.  And that's the point, isn't it?  To be able to understand the Word of God and to know him and his son through it?  Even better, to be able to use that information about our God and Savior to make ourselves more like them and more pleasing to them.

So it occurred to me that I should try picking something ahead of time and focusing on it for a certain period of time.  For example, recently, for about a month, I spent my lunch hour reading about Kind David.  When I finished the chosen chunk, I started over.  I got a lot more out of that section than I ever have before because I was focused on it and re-read it a couple of times.

I've also been enjoying reading different versions of whatever section I choose because it catches my attention to see words that are different than what I'm accustomed to.  My favorite (when I have a little extra time, especially) has become the Companion Bible, because the side notes answer some of my questions or catch my eye and lead me to look into something I wasn't expecting to find in that specific passage.

Another thing that has made my Bible reading more enjoyable recently is trying to read it in the morning and when I get in bed at night.  It seems to give longer sections of Bible more continuity for me, or sometimes it is a chance to read a psalm or proverb before bed instead of "interrupting" or "taking away from" my morning routine of sticking to that one selected section to do so.

I'm so thankful we all have the Word - it is a light that cuts through the darkness.  It gives me so much to look forward to and so much to learn right now.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Science of Rejoicing

I love reading books about the brain and body (i.e. the mind/body connection) because I always learn something about why God tells us to do what he does.  Look at this (see below for the reference to the book I'm quoting)...

"Any form of negative rumination - for example, worrying about your financial future or health - will stimulate the release of destructive neurochemicals." (p25)

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?... Matthew 6:25-34

"Human brains like to ruminate on negative fantasies, and they're also odd in another way: they respond to positive and negative fantasies as if they were real." (p27)

"There is mounting evidence that strongly negative terms can interrupt the normal expression of genes that regulate one of the most important language centers of the brain, Wernicke's area.  This is where we learn how to interpret the meaning of words.  Hostile language also appears to disrupt specific genes that are instrumental in the production of neurochemicals that protect us from physiological stress, and if we are exposed to it during childhood, it can undermine our ability to fend off anxiety, depression, and fear." (p33)

In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.  But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Colossians 3:7-8

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

"But imagination is a two-way street. If you intensely focus on a word like "peace" or "love," the emotional centers in the brain calm down... This is the neurological power of positive thinking, and to date it has been supported by hundreds of well-designed studies." (p27)

"Certain words - like 'peace' and 'love' - may actually have the power to alter the expression of genes throughout the brain and body." (p28)

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in you hearts. to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:14

"According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, one of the world's leading researchers on happiness, if you want to develop lifelong satisfaction you should regularly engage in positive thinking about yourself, share your happiest events with others and savor every positive experience in your life." (p31)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice... Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:4-7

"...Concentrating and meditating on positive thoughts, feelings, and outcomes can be more powerful than any drug in the world, especially when it comes to changing old habits, behaviors, and beliefs." (p35)

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2

And, the definition of some of God's favorite words:

Rejoice - to feel joy or great delight
Delight - to take great pleasure
Joy - the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune, or by the prospect of possessing what one desires

When I know the reason why something should be done, it is so much easier for me to carry it out(which is great motivation for me to try to dig down to find out WHY God wants me to conduct my life a certain way!).  After ingesting all of the above information, I realized that rejoicing is a lot easier than I have ever thought it was.  In this case, the reason God wants us to manage our thoughts is because of how they can so dramatically affect our entire life.  His wanting us to think positively and trust him instead of worrying is clear proof to me that he wants us to be peaceful and healthy.  

When we dwell on and enjoy the well being that we have (especially our spiritual well being, since that is more real and lasting than any other form of health), it changes our perspective and heals us, as scientific research is now able to spell out in black and white.  

It is easy to enjoy life if we choose to fixate on every good thing that happens to us, and every kind thing that God and Jesus Christ have done and will do for us.  In the past couple of months, I have been able to experience this joy first hand as have finally started learning how to focus on good things and let go of unpleasant events, and my personal need to be upset, worried, afraid, etc.

I love how good science proves God every time!

Excerpts from:
Words Can Change Your Brain 
by Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman
Copyright 2012 Hudson Street Press

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Who We Are & What We Have

A partial list of the blessings we have because of Christ.  Some of these are automatic, but many of them only impact us if we live in the truth of them.

We are justified through faith (declared innocent & guiltless) (Gal 2:16)
We are redeemed (bought back from Satan) (many Psalms, Galatians 3:13)
We are saved from death (Rom 10:13)
We are loved unconditionally (Rom 5:6)
We are more than conquerers through Christ (Rom 8)
We are friends of Christ (John 15)
We are heirs with Christ of eternal life (Rom 8:17)
We are ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20)
We are light to the world (Matt 5:14)
We have been given all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies (Eph 1:3)
We are free from sin & death (Rom 8:2)
We have been created in God's image (Gen 1:26)
We are citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20)
We are sons & daughters of God (Gal 4:6 & Heb 12:7)
We have peace with God through Christ (Eph 2:17)
We are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17)
We died with Christ (Rom 6:8)
We will live with Christ (Rom 6:8)
There is no condemnation for us (Rom 8:1)
We cannot be separated from Christ's love (Rom 8:35)
We will not be put to shame (Rom 10:11)
We are members of the body of Christ (Rom 12:4)
We each have unique gifts (1 Cor)
We are accepted (Rom 15:7)
We have grace from God (1 Cor 1:3)
We do not lack any psiritual gift (1 Cor 1:7)
We will stay strong & will be blameless through Christ (1 Cor 1:8)
We are called into fellowship with Jesus by God (1 Cor 1:9)
We have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16)
We are of Christ & Christ is of God (John 15 & 1 Cor 3:23)
We are washed & sanctified (1 Cor 6:11)
We are given the victory through Christ (over death) (1 Cor 15:57)
We have Christ's sufferings & his comfort in our lives (2 Cor 1:5)
We are established with Christ by God (2 Cor 1:21)

Heck yeah!  THIS is what I should be thinking about all day!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Jesus Listens

Time and time again, I find that if I actually seek God and Christ with my whole heart, they listen and answer.  For me, this has meant that I'm not searching outside of them for answers, but that I go straight to them (or I catch myself as I'm wanting to get advice or comfort from another source, and turn to them instead).

If I show them that I actually believe that they can solve my problem, they always do.  Not that a solution is what always solves the problem, and not that I'm looking for a quick fix for everything - I know that often, all I need to keep going can be provided by a word of comfort or encouragement from my Master or my Father.

But from there you will seek 
the LORD your God 
and you will find him, 
if you search after him 
with all your heart 
and with all your soul.

Deuteronomy 4:29

Monday, January 14, 2013

"In My Distress"

I have a tendency to think that because I've messed something up with my own sin or even just my own silly mistakes, I shouldn't or can't go to God for help.  But as I was reading this verse...:

"In my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me."
Psalm 120:1 ESV

...I realized that much of my distress in life is caused by my own bad attitudes, mistakes or wrong reactions (etc) to things, more so than the things themselves that happen to me.  For example, somebody wrongs me and I start feeling really badly for myself, and the pity turns into more distress than the wrong that was done to me to begin with.  When that happens, I feel it is my own responsibility to "get over" my problems since they seem to be my fault to begin with.

But a good parent wouldn't leave their young child to untangle their own mess - they would lovingly step in when possible.  They would understand that a child can't be perfect, and is still learning and figuring out boundaries, etc.  And when problems arise, as they are sure to, a child really isn't capable of saying "Oh, I know exactly what went wrong - I can handle this no problem now."  Rather, they will be upset from whatever happened, and will need extra support.

So, even when I think my distress is my own fault, I can and should try to turn away from what I know is wrong, and most importantly, ask for help!  God is willing.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Set Apart Living

I recently read a book called "Set Apart Femininity" by Leslie Ludy.  It is about giving our whole lives to the Lord, and not just sprinkling him in to our lives here and there.  I loved the book.  I agree with her message - it's so easy to give God and Christ only the attention that is convenient for us, and to treat them like consultants rather than like they are actually in charge of our lives as they ought to be.

Since reading it in July, I have been going back and forth with questions about how it should look to give my life completely to the Lord and to really put him in charge of it.  Leslie gives the impression that living completely for Christ will mean doing something absolutely world shaking and abnormal.  She uses women like Corrie Ten Boom, Amy Carmichael, Jackie Pullinger, and Sabina Wurmbrand as examples of "set apart femininity" - women who sacrificed absolutely everything most of us hold dear (a "normal" life, a home, marriage, their homeland, children, etc) for the cause of bringing glory to God and loving people.

There is nothing at all wrong with doing mind-blowing things in service to Jesus, but she makes it sound like being an upstanding woman in your community and serving the Lord on a small scale is not important in the Lord's eyes.  I am trying to decide if I believe whether, in totally giving up ones own will to the Lord, he might direct a person to simply serve their own family in some way (for example, caring for a dying parent or a child with a special condition could be all-consuming).  I believe smaller things can be just as radical, and just as important to the Lord, because I believe that he thinks that one person is just as important as many people.

I will be looking into scripture to see what I think, because I have this nagging feeling that one can live radically in a "normal" setting.  Any thoughts??