Sunday, September 25, 2016

Dear Anchorage

Dear Anchorage,

You are beautiful. You are the home I longed for when oceans separated me from you for three years. You are unique, majestic, diverse, and welcoming in a special kind of way. I learned to ride a bike on your streets, grew up running your trails, and have learned to appreciate that when I go shopping at the grocery store, I will be shopping alongside the nations of the world. I have lived in East Muldoon and South Kincaid, with quite a few homes in between. Little did I know as I was born into this city on a cold winter day, that I would call the most beautiful place on earth “home.”

This year, I have seen a darkness descend that the snow-capped sentinels guarding our city could not ward off. The jolts of violence have shamed our infamous earthquakes. We are reeling from it all. I am deeply saddened to see my home in such a state, and everyone I have talked with shares the sentiment. There is a pain present that runs deep and will not heal with the change of the season or the passing of this terrible year.

In times like these, how easy it is to fear. Some fear is reasonable and causes us to take safe precautions. Some fear causes us to cower and close our doors, to look for ways to protect our own and forget about others.

As I have pondered these ideas over the past months, a truth as crisp as the fall air has invaded my heart, its message a battle cry for our grieving city:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)

The spirit of overwhelming fear that our city is just not what it used to be, that it tops lists of crime rates in the U.S., these messages paralyze us and are not from God who claims the earth and all therein as His.

Our city is human, full of people like us. People who are in desperate need of the transforming love of Christ—the kind of love that changed the direction of everything in our lives. That turned ugly into beautiful, broken into healed, miserable into joyful. A love that is for perpetrator and victim alike.

Now is not the time to close our doors, shut our blinds, and strap new weapons to our hips. We should step towards our neighbors instead of away from them. Invite a stranger in for dinner, or bring a meal their way. Get to know that kid who we see walking home from school every day and call “trouble.” Feed the hungry. Love the youth of our city. Foster the abused and neglected. Respond to cries for help. Welcome the refugee. Be someone’s family.

Love loudly. Love humbly. Love people in ways that shock them.

May people in our city start asking for an explanation for this kind of love.

And may we be ready to give the beautiful gospel answer. The one that does not make sense because it’s just that good. That acknowledges pain, but refuses to let it determine the direction of our lives. The message that finds us sitting in the mire, even sits with us, but sets our feet on high and safe places again.

The only stories I know in which fear wins, more life is destroyed than saved. May this not be the story of our city.

Anchorage, these days will not be your legacy, because love lives here, and we are not afraid.


A lover of this city and its people

Friday, September 23, 2016

When the Dragon Fights Back

This particular sin-dragon is stubborn. It doesn't want to die. Maybe part of me is holding on to it, feeding it in the shadows of my heart. Maybe it's bigger and stronger than the others. Just when I think this dragon is nearly dead, it opens its yellow eyes and gives yet another fiery blast. In shame, I look upon the damage I have caused. I am embarrassed that it happened...again. Why won't the victory come quickly? Why does it have to be so drawn out?

Some sin-dragons die quickly when we lay them down in repentance at Jesus' feet. Sometimes we get complete and instantaneous victory. Other times it's a long series of battles...over and over and over.

The bad news: The battle is exhausting. It can take every ounce of our strength.

The good news: The battle has already been won. Jesus has already conquered sin and death. We just might have to wait awhile to see it with our own eyes.

The Apostle Paul had these same struggles...
"So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin." --Romans 7:21-25 ESV (emphasis added)
Our sin nature wants to rule our earthly bodies. It wars against the Holy Spirit who lives inside us. In this life, we will constantly struggle against sin. Our sin-dragons may still be active, but they have received a mortal wound. It is just a matter of time until their final demise. 

What do we do in the meantime?

We wage war!!
"For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete." --2 Corinthians 10:3-6 ESV (emphasis added)

1. Surrender daily to God

"My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." --Galatians 2:20 ESV
That old sin-dragon (which is part of us) wants to rear its ugly head. We must surrender ourselves to God each morning...sometimes each hour and each minute. We must "die" to ourselves, our wants, our temptations.

2. Arm yourself for battle.

Dragons are protected by thick scales, and they have sharp teeth and claws to aid their fiery breath. We need serious weapons against this kind of monster. Bare hands and human strength just won't do the job. Fortunately, God has provided us with the perfect arsenal in Ephesians 6.
  • The belt of truth: By digging into God's Word, we allow His truth to replace the lies we have believed...the lies that feed our sin-dragons. ("You're not good enough"..."It's not worth the fight"..."It's too hard")
  • The breastplate of righteousness: We can never meet God's standards in our own strength. BUT, Christ offers His righteousness to us. We simply accept it by faith!
  • The shoes of the gospel of peace: We must always keep in mind the foundation of the Gospel...We sinned, God loved us anyways, He paid the price of our sin, He forgives us when we ask. 
  • The shield of faith: With faith, the dragon's fiery breath can't devour us. When we keep our eyes on Jesus, the fiery darts are extinguished.
  • The helmet of salvation: Head injuries are devastating. Without a clear mind, we don't know where to go or how to fight. We must renew our minds daily in the Word of God. His truth purifies our thoughts. 
You might have noticed that all of the above items are defensive. They are vital to warfare, but they don't actually inflict injury on the enemy. God saved the best for last. He gave us the most powerful weapon of all...
  • The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God
Just as Jesus fought Satan's temptations by quoting Scripture, we can do the same.

Find a passage that deals with your particular sin-dragon. Write it on a 3x5 card. Post it everywhere. Memorize it. Whenever the dragon rears its ugly head, pray through that verse.

Just like the vorpal sword wanted to kill the Jabberwocky, the Word of God wants to defeat our sin-dragons. We must be like Alice...we must pull out our Sword and let It do its work.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Better View

Words come slowly to me as I think on and am impacted by not only my own decisions-but the decisions of those around me.

With what seems like a growing understanding of different influences in my life, I feel as if the tainted way that my past colors my perception of my own experiences slowly becomes less and less. The influence of my past to pollute the situations I'm in seems to become less over time.

I am amazed at those times when I get to be celebrated and when I get to celebrate those around me. Oh my gosh, when I spend time with certain people I feel like I'm in some sort of accelerated time warp or something! Time with them goes by so fast that hours can rush by and not only does it feel as if I have only been with them for minutes but my time with them feels like a complete and utter blessing where love, joy, understanding and peace pours over me like the warmth of the sun in the middle of summer…

As I think about how great those times are-

There are occasions when time feels like it slows down to a crawl. When the hurt or disappointment or pain of circumstances around me feels like it draws out seconds to minutes and I feel like time is suspended in a perpetual slow motion of heartache and tangible tenderness.

Today happens to be an odd combination of both and those are the times when I have to willfully make a choice. I find that I long and think of those beautifully joy-filled times and that at the same time, I am feeling deeply the impact of the damage and tremendously saddened about how the choices of others affect not just me but my daughter. Truth be told, I'm angry. I'm angry that there is a need to protect my daughter and myself from people who harm and abuse with their words and actions. I'm angry at the deliberate choice of those who have the ability to bless tremendously through their position or role (and who I have seen do just that) and choose instead to hurt others in a seemingly arbitrary manner. Instead of being a blessing to others there is a extension of pain and frustration.

And the sad thing is…I can put my finger on times when I have behaved or lived in the same manner. I know I have felt that thread of corruption in my heart and I find myself wallowing in the mud of shame and guilt…standing still because it feels like so much work to move.

So today I have to choose. I have to be intentional about the next things that I do and say. I have to be aware of the things that I think and give my energy to…

Instead of moving away from people, as I feel would be most natural right now…it means that I find refuge in those places where I find Jesus. It means to walk toward those who speak words of love, encouragement, empathy and understanding. It means texting those beautiful people and asking them to pray for me. It means that I need to be willing to be vulnerable and show up with what's on my heart and mind with those who can see the unfiltered me and still love me. It means that in my weakest times I cling to the promises given in the Word. It means that I find refuge under the shelter of God's loving grace and divine mercy. It means that I trust and believe that God has the best in mind for me. It means I take a knee and remember that God has a greater plan than the one my feeble mind can see at the moment.

It is there where I gain the courage to love-and the harder thing for me-the courage to be loved by others.

It is there where I understand that God's grace is my supply and my provision.

It is there where I can admit the truth of my tainted heart and with a more honest and loving perspective.

It is where I can let go of my desire to be right and instead choose to honor others in relationship.

And it is there where I see that the only place where my pride is brought to a loving submission of the will of God.

God help me to focus on you and see you in every situation. Help me to have the courage to welcome others into my places of rawness and vulnerability. Help me to stand on what is true and right and not waiver with the circumstances around me.

Joyfully His,

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The right to remain silent

For those of you who follow my blog posts regularly, you may have noticed that last week I posted a previous blog, rather than writing a new post. I was suffering a bit from writers block, and more-so from a bad attitude. I sat down to write several times and felt like I had nothing beneficial to offer, so ultimately I decided it was best to say nothing at all.

Last week was frustrating for a number of reasons. My body hurts, I'm very eager to be done with my pregnancy and holding my baby, customers at work weren't exactly kind and I dwelled on those things a whole lot more than I should have. 

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
Philippians 4:8 NKJV

I was doing the complete opposite of that. I was thinking of whatever was inconvenient, whatever was discouraging, whatever was frustrating, whatever hurt my feelings, whatever left me feeling impatient and those were the things that were consuming me. It's hard to write a blog, especially a christian blog that's meant to be encouraging, when you're attitude is contrary to scripture. 

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”
Luke 6:45 NASB

This verse was complete truth for me. My mouth spewed out my frustrations, my inconveniences, my pain etc. What was negative and displeasing was what filled my heart, and that's all I could manage to get out. 

Facebook has a feature they released that is called "On This Day" and it allows you to see status', pictures, videos, and other things you've posted over the years. My "On This Day" recently was a big, humbling, embarrassing, wake up call for me. There have been MANY posts in my memories over the years that have said vague, yet negative things such as "I'm so sick of people today!" Or "why do people have to be so rude?!" Or "Man I hate this job today!" Or other things of the sort. Looking back on those things, I have no idea what it was that caused me to have a bad attitude that day. I can't remember was upset me so much so I felt the need to post a status about it. I don't remember who I was sick of, or who was rude. I don't remember why I was hating my job so much, or why I felt the need to vent it on facebook, and although I'm still guilty of it sometimes, seeing that my memories over the years were negative, was a huge wake up call for me. We all have frustrating days, but do I really need to vent my frustrations vaguely on facebook (or on Facebook at all)?! What about outwardly? Do I need to go around venting my frustrations and bad attitude to those around me?

God designed my brain in a funny way. While I was having my ugly attitude, not only did scripture come to mind, but also a scene from one of the Shrek movies. In the scene Shrek and Donkey are being arrested when Donkey says: 

"You're supposed to say I have the right to remain silent! No one said I have the right to remain silent!" 

To which Shrek replied: 
"Donkey! You HAVE the right to remain silent, what you lack is the capacity!"

So for last week's blog, I exercised the right to remain silent.

“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”
Psalms 141:3 NASB

We all have times that are frustrating. I'd venture to say we all encounter frustrating things, discouraging things, stressful things, hurtful things on a very regular basis, but do we need to constantly vent about them? Do we need to post about it, or take it out on other people? Does every negative thing need to be expressed outwardly? Do we need to let those things be what consumes our thoughts until they spill out of our mouths (or hands). 

I pray that if you're like me, if you struggle with letting the negative things eat away at you until they consume your thoughts, you'll be reminded to give it to God. I pray that you'll be able to seek Him for help with thinking about the lovely things instead, and I pray, that until my attitude (or yours) changes, you will be able to remember that you have the right to remain silent. 

In His Love,

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What's In Your Prayer-Warrior Tool Kit?

She came in late, and sat beside me.

I didn't like it.

She wasn't living as she ought, according to my interpretation of Scripture, and I didn't want to be around her. I was tired of her mistakes. She wasn't even trying to get her life together!

And that's when God thumped me on the head.

The words He spoke to my heart went something like this: "Perhaps if someone was standing in the gap, she wouldn't have gotten so far off track. Why aren't you praying for her?"

Immediately, as I recalled the verse in Ezekiel, remorse dropped over my shoulders. Rather than my judgement, she needed my prayers, and I had withheld them.

That very day I got on my face before God and lifted up my dear sister to Him.

"The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have  wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice. I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one." Ez 22:29-30 (emphasis mine)

As we stated last week in our post "Is Anyone Praying", we have a responsibility to pray for each other, to ask God who He would like to us to stand in the gap for. That got me pondering...

What are the tools we need to be effective intercessors? 


Prayer Warrior Tool Kit:

 1) War Room: We have several posts on this topic already, so I won't go into detail. Sure, we can pray anywhere, anytime, but there is something powerful about setting a specific meeting with the King of Kings!

2) Notebook: It's a good idea to carry a small notepad in our purse. When we feel led by the Lord to pray for something, or when a friend asks for help, we can jot a note to refer back to later.

3) Phone: Whether it's a verbal conversation, or a quick text/email, it's important to reach out to our sisters to let them know we've got their back.

4) Here and Now: When something comes to mind, we lift it up to God immediately. We can wait for later to have a detailed conversation with Him, but in the moment, we can simply ask for His attention to the matter.

5) Meetings: Usually, praying WITH a friend does more for them than offering to add them to our list. Getting together for prayer is great encouragement for weary souls, so we need to get comfortable speaking to God in front of others.

6) Scripture: God's Word is powerful, and adds a burst of divine energy to our prayers. When we speak His truth and claim His promises, our prayers become more effective.

7) Holy Spirit: This final tool is vital - if we are not praying according to God's will and earnestly seeking His direction, our prayers will fall flat. We need His discernment, and we must be willing to submit to His will.

What are some other tools an intercessor would need?

Blessings, Jen

Monday, September 19, 2016

God's Timing

Have you ever been waiting on God? Waiting for Him to answer a prayer you have been praying for a long time? Have you ever wondered when is God going to answer MY PRAYER? Or is He ever going to respond?

I think we all have been there—In God's waiting room. Waiting for answers, waiting for results, waiting for the unknown. Sometimes waiting in God's waiting room, He teaches us valuable lessons we would have never learned if we weren't in waiting.

I do think God answers our prayers; just not always in the way we may want or like. God may answer us with 'Yes!', or 'No,' or even 'Not yet, or not now.' But these in fact are God's answers to what we ask of Him. Just as a parent doesn't give a child everything their heart desires, because they know what is best for their child, is the same thing God does with us. His delayed responses or answers is not a way to punish us, but a way to help us learn what He is trying to show us.

There are so many lessons we can learn from God's timing. Here are three things I have learned.

3 Things I Have Learned From God's Timing: In God's Timing I learn,

1. It's Always Perfect- God is God. He has the most perfect plans ever. We cannot put a deadline on His timing. When we give God a deadline we are demanding our desires to be God's desires. It doesn't work that way. God's ways and desires are so much better than ours. God created the heavens and the earth; He knows what He's doing. Will you trust God with the plans He has for you?

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:9

2. He has the best plans ever- If I never waited for God in His timing or always went ahead of Him, I'd never know how great the reward of His plans really are. How many times have you gone ahead of God, looked around and said God 'where are you?' Then realize, you never consulted God in the first place? I sure have, many times. My impatience has made me make some not so good choices at times. I have learned when I don't wait on God, I get myself into a whole lot of trouble. I can almost see God tapping his foot with His hands on His hips, saying "If you just wait for my timing, I will have something so much greater and better ahead for you, Just Wait For ME!"

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

3. How important it is to grow my patience- If I never had to wait on God, I would never learn how important it is grow my patience. Waiting in God's waiting room, grows our patience. We need patience when going through and enduring our trials. If our patience was never tested, we would never know we needed the patience's of God to get through what we are going through. If we didn't have patience, how could we ever accomplish what God is asking of us?

Sometimes in our waiting, God reveals to us very convicting, yet valuable lessons. In His waiting room, sometimes I realize, maybe God is really waiting on me? Maybe God is asking me to do something that I have not done yet. It is God's waiting room, He reveals what is in my heart, what He desires of me and that I only need to trust in Him.

God never wastes anything, especially the time He has given us. He desires us to use the time He has given us in a certain way, the way He created it to be used. When you feel like you have been waiting for a long time or don't seem to ever have enough time, ask God "How can I use the time you have
given me more wisely?" "Please Lord, Help me be patient and wait for your timing."

There are great rewards in our patience.

What have you learned from God's timing?

Have you been in God's waiting room for awhile? What is He trying to show you?


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Return to Your Bethel

Here is another great video from Renee.  Has God shown up for you in a powerful way?  Have you wandered away from that moment?  What is your "Bethel" moment?  You can also view this video by clicking here.