Friday, September 21, 2007

Challenged to LIVE IT!

I have been wanting to post something about my trip to see my friend in Illinois, and life just seems to fly by so fast. That whole trip went by TOO fast. I already want to plan the next one, but I don't think it will happen until after we move. : (

On the way home from the conference (we had a 6 hour drive), my friend asked me what was the one thing I took away from the conference. Ya know, I can say the conference was absolutely awesome and we had a great time, but not one thing that was said really stuck out to me. That is not usual for me. Some really great things were said, and I took lots of notes, but typically I will have at least one thing I feel challenged about, and I really didn't.

I had several convictions during the conference but really none were about what the speakers said. As I sat there to think about my friends question, the answer came to me about what I was going to take home with me. I will have to backtrack though.....

When we arrived at the conference center in Nashville, it was exactly 7:00pm, the time the conference started so we were hurrying to get in. On our way in, we saw a homeless man with a white Styrofoam cup asking for money. We stopped and my friend put some money in his cup (she always has the cash) : ) We talked to him for a couple of minutes and then he asked us if we would pray for him. We asked him his name and said of course we would. He said, "No, will you pray for me right now?" So we bowed and prayed for him right there. During the prayer, he kept saying "Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus." We shared a few more words and then went inside. As we entered the building, I just felt like a hypocrite. Here we are going into this "Christian" conference and ignoring this man on the street. We didn't even ask him if he knew Jesus. My friend asked if I wanted to go back out and I said yes. So we went and found Bill. My friend did ask Bill if he knew Jesus and he said, "Yes, I walked faithfully with the Lord for 6 years." When we asked him what happened he just responded, "I made some bad choices." This man sat and quoted scripture to us, AND encouraged US. We got to encourage him as well, and he felt so blessed and thanked us for taking the time to stop and listen.

Another thing that happened during the conference was at lunch time. After walking the streets of Nashville for 30 minutes trying to find a place to eat lunch (with 20,000 other women), we decided to just back to the conference center to eat there. We ended up waiting on line for an hour and a half! It wasn't the waiting that got me frustrated, it was the lady behind me that was complaining about others cutting the line while she continued to push her way in front of us; And it was the man behind the counter who obviously didn't have any respect for OUR time as he took HIS time taking TEN minutes to get ONE dish of nachos! Granted, this frustration was all inside, and people would not have known it.

The last incident I will mention, is a couple of hours later I received a very discouraging phone call that really got me down. We have received some opposition about being in ministry, but this one person in particular has just hit me hard. It bothered me that my joy was robbed, and I had to refocus myself.

Now there really is something in common with these three scenarios. I didn't really think of it until my friend asked me what I was going to take home from the conference. A couple of posts ago, I mentioned this recurring theme of events that continues to happen in my life lately and that God is definitely up to teaching me something. Well, these situations just add to it. The bottom line is that God is refining my heart. I cannot tell you how many times I think I am justified by my actions and God asks me about the attitude of my heart.

In a nutshell this is what I told my friend. "I don't think God wants to fill me with any more knowledge of Him until I can live out the knowledge I already have. I am challenged to LIVE church not just play church. I think in essence that is what we are doing when we pass a homeless guy on the street and walk proudly into a women's conference, raise your hands in worship to the Lord, and then quickly get aggravated with a girl because she is trying to cut the line. And I allowed Satan to steal my joy with a phone call, because I care too much about myself and not about bringing glory to God."

Ultimately I DO want to bring glory to God, and I am thankful that God is teaching me how prideful I am. Over the past few months, He continues to whisper in my ear, "You are so prideful." I argue a little, because I am trying to understand why I do not have ANY rights to be upset over these situations, especially the one regarding the phone call. This is a particularly difficult area for me NOT to hold onto my rights because it is SO hurtful. I feel God has humbled me so much already and one day I just heard Him say, "You are are on your knees, but I want you on your face." I just sat and cried, because I knew exactly what He meant and I saw how I was trying to hold onto those rights, and He only wants me to be free to worship and trust Him, regardless of those hurts. But the difficulty in all this for me, is that I am not just required to overlook this offense, but God is calling me to love. This relationship will not go away, and every time a dagger is thrown, I have to hold up my shield of faith, deflect it, and turn around and love! If I am honest, I will say this is not easy. But I DO see the blessing of being free to love those who hurt you. My friend asked me how we choose to be broken. My answer in my limited knowledge is we don't. We learn to be broken. God chooses the circumstances to break us. We can then choose to recognize the area of sin and repent, or we can ignore it.

As I have been on this process of sowing to the Spirit and keeping short accounts with God, I have felt the Spirit flow through my life like never before. A friend asked me the other night how I define joy. Again, in my limited knowledge, it is being able to have hope in God because you know He is in control. Even in the midst of hardship and tears flowing, joy is being able to lift my hands in worship because of who HE is, not because of what my circumstance is. I am experiencing joy in that way like I never have before. It is because God is refining my heart~to look like His. And His heart is so perfect, so it is a painful process to be called on so many accounts. I am just in awe of how determined He is to make my heart look like His. And He has always wanted that for me, I was just not willing to fully surrender ALL my rights to Him. It is so not worth sacrificing the power of the Holy Spirit in my life, so I can get to a conference on time, or be sure I keep my place in line, or to be determined to not let myself be hurt by another.

So that is what I take home from the conference. No matter where I am, I am required to LIVE the Christian life, not just play it or talk about it. I am challenged to take what I know and LIVE it! To take God's Word more seriously; To love the unlovely; to overlook the offense; to forgive whether someone deserves to be forgiven or not; to give grace!

I will close with this song that is running through my mind: Change my heart O God, make it ever true; Change my heart O God, may I be like you...

Friday, September 7, 2007

On Vacation

I am currently in Illinois visiting my friend (Toknowhim). I am by myself so I am getting lots of work done (I brought stuff to work on while she is a t work.

It is funny, but when my friend moved to Illinois over 3 years ago she met a lady at her church who had an older son with Asperger's Syndrome, which is what my son has. I had contacted her about 3 years ago and she has been a wonderful mentor to me. It's neat how you can connect so easily to a perfect stranger when you have so much in common.

Well, last night I had an opportunity to meet with her and once again, she was a great source of encouragement to me. I am so grateful for her and the blessing she has been to me. She is walking a path that I am currently on, but she is way ahead of me. It is such a blessing to have her to share the things she is currently learning and to share the mistakes to avoid. Thank you Becky, for the godly example that you set before me!

Today, my friend and I leave to go to Nashville, TN (A 6 hour drive) to go to a women's conference. We are so excited. We get to see Beth Moore, Priscilla Shire, and Kay Arthur. Worship will be led by Travis Cotrell and Anthony Evans. It doesn't get much better than that. Great speakers, great worship, and a great friend. I am grateful for this opportunity to get away as life has been very busy for us. It has been good to get some work done too, that I have not had a chance to do.

I am sure my friend will post something about our trip when she gets back, and probably have some pictures too. You can go check out her blog from the side bar (Toknowhim). If you go there now, you can read a post that I wrote about her while she was at work, titled, "A teasured Friend".


Monday, September 3, 2007

Joy In The Journey

Can I just start out by saying that GOD IS GOOD!?!? That may not be a surprise to anyone reading this, but my heart rejoices in Him today even through hurt and disappointment. The past few weeks have brought on some very discouraging circumstances. This process that we are going through is THE most difficult time we have had as a family, yet because of where are hearts are at with the Lord, it does not feel as overwhelming as the less trying times in the past. I hope that makes sense. As God turns up the fire in the refining process, we are are learning to withstand the heat. We have so much hope because of all the ways we have seen Him work through our lives in the past. There has not been a difficult time that we have experienced in the past that has brought on so much joy. Disappointments as well, but because the Lord is teaching us HOW to deal with disappointment, He is turning them to joy.

Several things have happened in the last couple of weeks that caused a friend of mine to say, "Christina, I think God is trying to teach you something here." The same type of frustrating thing happened 3 times in a week. Then 2 weeks later, a few other events happened that were tough and we once again had to learn to keep our focus on Christ and not be tempted to take Him off the throne. Which I regret to say that I think I was sitting on the throne for about a week before I realized it. God has been teaching us an amazing lesson of how our sin keeps us from walking in fellowship with Him and hearing His voice in our lives. Like in the previous posts, I talked about how our focus needs to be on Him and sowing to the Spirit instead of trying harder. God has made it so clear to me that instead of trying harder, so I can have the power of the Holy Spirit in my life, that I need to break down that brick wall of sin that keeps the Spirit from working. So the past couple of months, as a family, we have been learning to confess our sin to each other rather than justify our attitudes and disappointments. This is so humbling, and it brings so much freedom to our hearts once we've gotten to the place where we can truly put Christ on the throne. God is teaching me how I cannot just SAY I want Him on the throne, when my heart is not in the right place. He is showing me that my heart is what needs to be pure, not my actions ~ and THAT is what is going to release the Spirit's power in my life.

We are making it a priority to learn from every frustration and disappointment that comes our way. It seems God is purging our hearts from so much pride and self reliance. The other night, for the first time as a couple, we literally got on our knees and prayed for about an hour together. We did this because we have come to a place where we realize how desperate we are to be intimate with the Lord, lest we accidentally go down a path He has not called us to go down. We realized in the past couple of weeks that our faith has been weak, and we have not been trusting God enough. If we trust Him to guide our path, then we had better be on our knees asking Him to show us that path. Then when HE reveals the path, we can walk in faith and confidence. We will make many mistakes along our way, and probably travel down the wrong path more times than we'd like to admit, but when these disappointments and frustrations come, we need to see that as the Lord opposing our path, and showing us a different one. Some of these disappointments have happened when we were on the right path (because God's intention was for us to learn through them), but when we allow the disappointments to keep us down, we have learned nothing. We are learning that God is so much more in control than we ever gave Him credit for.

I will end with a couple of really neat miracles that the Lord has done through our son David. When we first started this journey, David was very angry and could not believe God could change his heart about moving to Arkansas. I believe there is an earlier post about his feelings about all of it. And the reason I posted those things is because we were so confident we were walking down the path God has called us, that we knew God would eventually change David's heart. We just didn't know if that would be on the front end of moving or the back end. But either way, we knew that God would not call us down a path that my son could not handle.

Last week, I spoke to someone on the phone that expressed some concerns she had heard from others about our move (about how this would affect David). When I got off the phone I asked David, "David, there are some people that are concerned about you in this move to Arkansas. What do you think about that?" He said, "Oh mommy, I think it is wonderful that you and daddy are going to work for FamilyLife. You are going to help other people in their marriages and families." (I smiled) and continued, "Yes, but how will that affect YOU?" He said, "Mommy, if God has called us to go than we HAVE to go!" (I smiled again) and continued, "Yes, But how does that make YOU FEEL?" He said, "Mommy, at first I was angry, but God has changed my heart. I was worried that I would not have friends, and God has already provided friends." I am so proud of my son that he is adopting the legacy of faith that we so desperately want all our children to have ~ a faith that prayerfully someday will surpass ours.

This morning, I was talking to my dad about some things that David overheard. It was concerning our support. When I got off the phone, David realized by the conversation what we were talking about. Without going into details, we have to backtrack our percentage (for now) about 20%. Now that's a bummer! Before today, we were 45% funded. Now we are 25%. David said, "Mommy, how faithful are you that we are supposed to do this?" I said, "100%." He said, "Than you can handle more of a loss than that!" Oh how I pray that some adults can have as much faith as this precious 12 year old boy! Man, has he stretched mine!

So even in the midst of yet more disappointments, we praise a holy God who is in control and gives us great joy as we put all our trust in Him.

~To the one who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we can ask or imagine......