Sunday, August 30, 2015

The bells are ringing

The past few mornings I woke up thinking, "Where do I begin this weeks blog?"  It all seems a bit bitter sweet to me.  The "Crazy Love" study has come to an end.   What now?

So much has changed over the past two and a half months.  I started off wanting to see, feel and know of God's crazy.  And in the process I discovered how much I depend upon His love.  And how little I do to earn His unending love and amazing grace.

Last night I was blessed by my sister-in-law, Lisa and her husband Mike.  They invited my husband and me out for a delicious meal. We had some really spectacular conversation.  We talked about our children, our jobs and much more. Life can be overwhelming.  And sometimes we just need an accolade or two to push us in the right direction.  I praise God for a sister-in-law that is direct, honest and willing to share her heart with me.  And, as a result of her words of encouragement, she helped give me direction for this weeks blog post.  Thank you Lisa!

In August of 1992, on the beach in OCMD, I accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior.  I was reading a book my Dad had lent me, "Letters from the oth
er side.  A man came up to me and started a conversation.  During that conversation he picked up some sand and started running it through his fingers.  He then took one grain of sand a placed it in the palm of my hand.  And proceeded to tell me that I was that grain of sand.  He then flecked the grain out of my hand and told me that God found me.  Out of all of the grains on that very beach God had his eye on that grain (me).  And no matter how the wind would shift these grains of sand God would always be able to pick me out.  I have to say that is some pretty crazy loving right there.  I love being on the beach.  There is where I have that anniversary feeling with God.  I am not just a grain of sand.  I am the grain. I have been tossed around, placed in a bucket, trampled on, used, and submerged in the ocean.  And all of this has been for His glory.  I am being refined daily.  Wherever the wind decides to that me,  I know He will find me there.

Sometimes God uses situations to reveal to us that He is pursuing us. As you all my know, or my not know, my oldest "inherited" daughter lives in Istanbul.  And in May of 2013 my main man and I visited her in her stomping grounds.  Everyday, five time a day, we would hear bells or "the call for prayer" resounding.  And then over a mega phone a prayer was chanted.  People all over the town would stop in their tracks and pray.  As I watched this occur throughout our visit it ultimately made me think about my faith and relationship with my God.  I remember thinking as I stood in the midst of this "call to prayer", "I call myself a Christian woman and I sever a living God that deserves to be honored and praised, by me, in this very way."  The emotions that poured over me were overwhelming at that time.  I was feeling a bit ashamed.  I claim to sever a God that is crazy in love with me and I didn't think to give Him the time of day.  As our days continued in Istanbul I found myself praying and seeking God's forgiveness for my nonchalant worship of the past. And felt an overwhelming sense of His presence.  Happy Anniversary!  And then we came home and the "bells" stopped ringing. Honeymoon over.

Have you ever made a commitment to someone or something with full intentions of making it work? I am going to use the "diet" analogy here.  There is a great song by Everybodyduck called, Suzie's diet.  If you haven't heard it I suggest you google it.  We wake up and say today is the day!  I am going to start off with cardio and then I am going drink my water.  And the I am going to eat healthy drink a protein shake or two.  Stay away from the pasta and sweets. Yada yada yada... We make a plan and stick to it all day.  We have our "mountain top" moment.  Then, somehow, by 8pm we are on the sofa with a bowl of ice cream or in my case cheese, full fat mind you, and trisciuts. And we beat ourselves up as we lay in bed.  And once again say, "tomorrow, yep I'll start tomorrow."  This pretty much sums up how I pursued God for most of my life.  I would make a plan to seek Him daily and faithfully be in the word. And then get distracted by the things around me. There were no bells to remind me to follow through. I went an entire 6 months not reading any other book, besides the bible, because of a "plan" I tried to commit to.  And after those six months I didn't reach my goal.  And I felt a bit deflated.  So, what's my point in all of this?  I don't want to lose this "mountain top" feeling I have after these ten beautiful weeks.

A few weeks ago I stated that I wanted to love God more faithfully.  And that it would flow naturally.  I don't want to require bells ringing 5 times a day to call me to my knees.  I have been praying that God would give me the heart to seek Him.  And that the Holy Spirit would be upon me as I humbly come before Him.  Psalm 37:4 tells us that if we delight ourselves in the Lord He will give us the desires of our heart.  I find myself thinking more and more about God throughout my day more now than ever.  I wake up and look forward to seeking Him.  My heart is overjoyed.  I am madly in Love with the One who seeks me first.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

I Press On

Sorry for the delay this week.  We just spent our final weekend at the chateau.  God has some pretty spectacular plans.

Nine weeks!  Wow, Can you believe it has been nine weeks of us taking this faith journey, discovering God's crazy love for us, together?  I am so blessed to know that I am doing this with each of you.  I am not sure about you but I am finding myself reflecting on what it means to be loved by God. And also what is means to follow Jesus and call myself a Christian.  How and does my life reflect that I am a follower of Christ?  Am I honestly willing to "drop my net"  and faithfully seek God's perfect will in my life.  And do I trust in His provision?

There are a lot of people out the there who have the wrong idea of Christians.  Most people you ask will tell you that Christians think they are perfect.  And that we Christians think we have got it all together.  And I must admit that over the years I have come across a lot of brothers and sisters in Christ that seem quite judgmental (myself included). Instead of showing God's amazing grace, we are too busy striking the rock with our staff (Numbers 20:11).  And as a result, instead of drawing people closer to our relentless God, we push them in another direction.  We don't step back and realize that this is not what God means by fearing Him.  God wants us to show mercy and grace.

My life is the furthest thing from perfect.  I tend to forget that I am supposed to be slow to anger,  quick to listen, and slow to speak. Often I revert back to my selfishness and think, " It's my way or the highway."  I am a follower in the making.  I can fully relate to the Apostle Paul when he wrote to the Philippians," Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on." Even though I mess up in the delivery my ultimate goal is that I want everyone to know how crazy God is about them.

God uses imperfect people to do extraordinary things. I have encountered so many of these extraordinary people.  Some of them family members and some friends.  And even a stranger.  For many years I worked in the wellness field.  And during that time I met a chiropractor who, in my eyes, exemplified what it means to "drop your net".  I had seen him, at the church I had attended, a few times.  And would watch him take notes in his black binder every week.  It was as if he was in a class room.  He gathered his notes week after week.  And a few months later I went to a seminar for work in Princeton NJ.  And guess who was the lead speaker?  The guy who took notes at church.  And after the first session it became evident to me why he was always taking those notes.  This man dropped his net and found the most eloquent way of telling people about the Fruit of the Spirit.  There were little poster boards around the room with each fruit listed.  And here is the kicker.  The room was filled with non-believers that were captivated by his teachings. This disciple didn't strike a rock.  He spoke God's word with love and passion.  I remember coming home after that weekend and telling my husband that I felt like I was at a Christian conference and not a work seminar. I had gone to his office a few times. And blessed to say I went to a few more of these seminars.  One thing I could honestly say he was consistent in his delivery.  And his message was always clear.  Integrity and love.  God gave him a message, in the form of a rotator cuff injury, and said, "drop your net and follow me.  I have great plans."  And that's just what he did.  As a direct result of his obedience many people, in the wellness industry, are learning to show an agape love to a broken world. 

Like I said earlier I have seen many people in my life "drop their nets". Some have even picked them up again out of fear or derailed faith.  Old habits are hard to break. Even though we have the knowledge that God's will is perfect, and when in His will things turn out perfectly, we often hold on to the comfort of the here and now.  Imagine if you knew exactly what He had planned for your future.  And he handed you a guide that laid out, in detail, exactly what, where, and when his will would look like. Scary.  Yep, just plain horrifying.  If He gave me the story of my life, in advance, I might not have stepped out of my room.  I probably would have been a hermit.  God faithfully lays out His plan. And gives me a heart to follow.  It's my faith that determines whether or not I am going in this direction or that direction. I pray that as I seek Him first that my faith will keep me pressing on.

 I often wonder who is watching me from a distance.  And would my walk make them trip up?  When God says, "Kathleen, drop your net and follow me!" Do I run in another direction?  Or do I stand there and play stupid.  "Huh?!?, Are you talking to me? I am sure you meant someone else.  You must be mistaking me for someone more faithful."  God's has a purpose for each of us.  And one day I will no longer be here.  What legacy will I leave?  Will my children remember me as a faithful follower?  Or will they think of me as a derailed woman? I hope they remember me as a woman who loved and trusted in God's plan.  And one who dropped her net and followed Him out of obedience.  

I pray that as we press on this week that our faith will be made stronger.  And that God will continue to be our first priority.  May you feel His crazy love for you in a crazy amazing way.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

You fill up my senses

Have you ever felt obsessed about someone or something? Do you find yourself every minute of the day thinking about that one thing or someone?  Are there moments that you would do anything, yes anything and everything, just to be with that person or to have your hands wrapped around that one thing.  Well that is exactly what our relationship with God should be like.  I find myself throughout the day trying to make a conscious effort to seek Him first.  But, I want to get to a place in my heart where I am truly obsessed with God.

God is so generous with His love for me.  He never hesitates to shower me with love.  And has already given me the ultimate gift. Life! And here I am putting my personal safety and comfort above what God may have in-store for my life. The past few months the Lord has been putting something on my heart to do.  And I have been dragging my feet.  There is this fear of "what will people think?" that is swimming around my head.  And at times that is a little crippling.  You see, blogging is a bit of a cop out.  I don't have to see peoples faces or hear what is being said after it is received.  But to have to stand in front of a group of tell them about how God is working in and through my life.  Now that is scary. I know that if I am obedient in His will I will be blessed.  By now you all know that I am part of a "blended" family.  And this is what has been placed on my heart to share with the world.  Or my community.  We live in a world of broken homes, broken lives, and just plain brokenness. And I have been hesitating to share my story.  What a brat.  God gave His one and only Son for my salvation.  And I am hedging on sharing how He blessed my life while putting it in a blender.

Many days I hear this voice inside my head that causes me to think that I am just not good enough or that my story isn't captivating.  Why would God want me to share the craziness of "blending" two very different sets of kids together.  And the more I think the more paralyzed I feel.  Fear grips me.  What will my husband think? And the children.  How will they feel about me sharing our story?  Who will listen to me?  Where will I speak?  How do I begin?  Where do I end?  All these thing prevent me from moving in the direction He is calling me to go.  So now what?  

Faith.  I need to stop in my tracks and hold on to my faith.  You see as long as I continue to seek me and what "I" am afraid of.  I will never be able to glorify God in my life.  He wants me to share His story of how He placed two families into a blender and hit the pulse button.  And He wants to be magnified in and through the story of us.  

Imagine if we did all things to glorify God.  Everything that we did we put Him first. And in turn we begin to be filled with His grace and love.  It reminds me of a song from my childhood.  My mom is a huge John Denver fan and I heard this song daily for many of my childhood years.  And I would always think of my parents and how they conquered their tribulations only to be filled with a deeper love.  But this week as I thought about what it would be like to glorify God these lyrics came to mind. "You fill up my senses, Like a night in a forest. Like the mountains in springtime. Like a walk in the rain. Like a storm in the desert. Like a sleepy blue ocean. You fill up my senses. Come fill me again. Come let me love you. Let me give my life to you. Let me drown in your laughter. Let me die in your arms. Let me lay down beside you. Let me always be with you. Come let me love you. Come love me again."  In order for me to be capable of glorifying God.  I need to be filled with His glory.  I have prayed that He would fill my senses with the fragrance of His love.  And that I would feel His abounding love for me as I walk through the valleys and deep forests of this life. To be able to feel His amazing grace to wash over me like rain.  To know deep in my heart that His love for me and forgiveness for me is deeper than any ocean. To be filled so much that His love is overflowing from me on to others.  To give all glory, honor and praise to the One who provides. After-all, it is because of His great love that my "blended" family is what it is today.

I am blessed that I can come before my creator and say, "I love you.  And I want to always be near you."  But what is even more spectacular is that He sings this to my heart every day.  He sings this to all of us.  He desires for us to freely love others the same way that He loves us.  If we are to glorify Him we need to love on everyone.  Not just those people in our lives that are easy to love.  We are called to love the people in our lives that can be difficult to be around.  In Luke 14: 12-14 the Lord calls upon us to open our hearts to those who won't give back or cannot give back.  It is easy to love those who reciprocate with love.  But imagine trying to love someone who couldn't or didn't want to love you in return.  I can share with you that in the very beginning of my marriage, to Greg, my precious inherited daughters had no room in their hearts for me. And more often than not, throughout the first few years of "blending" together, I found myself tearfully on my knees praying for God to give me the grace to show them love.  Unconditional love.  And God would remind me how, in the beginning, I wasn't so worthy of His love.  But He walked beside me through each storm.  And eventually we began to dance in the puddles.

One of the most precious gifts God has given me is a heart that is soft.  I normally want to serve, give and forgive. However, there have been moments in my life that I have lost my cool and allowed resentment to build into multiple layers.  One of those days being yesterday.  I have been the one on the receiving end of forgiveness many times due to my heart growing hard.  It is a very humbling and overwhelming experience.  I praise God for giving me a fresh fill of grace each day. I have learned that forgiving without hearing the offender say, "I am sorry." is freeing.  And as the mom of a "blended" crew I had to daily show love, grace, mercy and forgiveness.  If it wasn't for God's gift I am certain things would be much different today.  We have grown so much over the years.  We have gone from being complete strangers to being a family.

Earlier I stated that I want to to be in a place where my heart is truly obsessed with God.  I believe that I am not far off.  I have a love for my God that causes my heart to skip a beat.  I look forward to my quiet moments with Him.  I long to see His face.  I have great joy in my heart when I come home from work and I see that my dad's bible is sitting on the counter.  I get excited to see what God has for my to feast my eyes and heart on.  And I pray daily that my children, all five of them, and there spouses, friends, children and the generations to follow, will seek to glorify God in this precious gift of life that He has graced them with.  I pray that we as a family will be increasingly filled with a true obsession for God.  I know that we are blessed to have each other. And I pray that as we continue to grow we realize that all the passion, love and gifts we have come from Him. I know that He is continuously working on our hearts.  And that He is doing amazing things through each of us in such a way that He is receiving ALL of the glory.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Day Late and A Dollar Short

I pray that this week you were blessed abundantly by God's provisions.  And that you were able to inJOY each moment that you dedicated to the One who relentlessly loves you.

My weekend was packed full of blessings.  We celebrated the birthday of our a 3 year old granddaughter and princess.  And then a farewell gathering for our oldest daughter who is heading back to Istanbul later this week.  So my blog post is coming to you a day late and a dollar short.  Well maybe not a dollar short.  But nonetheless I am behind the self inflicted deadline. 

I just wanted to start off this week by saying that God's crazy love for us is absolute.  He lavishes us with love, treasures and so much more.  All that we have belongs to Him.  But when He says, "Drop your net and follow Me." we hesitate.  Our human nature causes us to hold tightly to the "net" and all the treasures we have gathered throughout the years.  We often give little but gather lots.  Neglecting to focus on the reality that we would have nothing of value if it wasn't for His provision.

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to give it all up to follow Him?  It's a bit like marriage.  The groom provides a home for his bride. All she is required to do is "drop her net" and say, "I do".  She leaves the comfort of her parents and family and starts filling her new "net" along side of her groom.  This is basically what Jesus, the groom, is calling us to do.  We can't take our things with us.  He promises us that there will be a bridal shower.  And a wedding feast that is better than any feast we have ever set our eyes and forks on.  His promise is even greater.  Life everlasting.  An eternity filled with endless joy. I have days where I am really looking forward to that feast and that everlasting life.  However, my lack of faith sometime causes me to doubt that the groom, gifts and food will be good enough. And I question the realness of Heaven.  So, I, like a nervous bride, get cold feet.  And I grab hold of the treasures of this world and feast on the mundane offerings and stay in my comfort zone.  But then I begin to question myself once again.  What if the things of this life are really not the important?  What if there is something greater? This is where faith comes in.  In order for me to have a piece in my heart and have no fear.  I have to have faith.  I would rather live a life filled with faith than live with doubt.

What am I doing right now that requires faith?  Well that is a loaded question.  Daily I know that I have to walk in faith.  I have days that I would much rather stay in bed and not have to be concerned with the world around me.  You know what I mean.  Just to be the girl in the bubble.  Nothing going out nothing coming in.  But this is not reality.  I am consistently learning to lean on God.  Each step throughout the course of my day in a step in faith.  Over my lifetime I have learned that once I surrender it all to Him is get easier.  And probably the greatest faith moments were the storms.  Some were sun showers and others devastating hurricanes. Falling off a bike, stitches, broken bones, pregnancies, loss of pregnancies marriage, divorce, moving, remarriage, blending families, loss of a parent, loss of a sibling, children moving away, children cutting you off, loss of a friend, etc....  In all of these storms I felt God's presence grow deeper and deeper in my life.  And when the clouds started to part a rainbow appeared.  A beautiful sign of God promise, "I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sigh of the covenant between me and the earth.". Because of my faith he has restored my life.  He has blessed me with a growing family, and an abundance of friends, and a life that I am not worthy of.  And I know, because of faith, that there are even greater things to come.

God has absolutely blessed my life.  And I think how do I magnify Him in all these blessings? The treasure of people that He has placed before me is outstanding.  Last week at church the visiting pastor talked about the triangle of God, us and others.  And as I reflected on this concept over the past week. It lead me to ask myself, "When I interact with the people around me would I be able to characterize my love as sacrificial love?".   How does my life reflect that God is in control?  When we allow ourselves to be filled with God's love it should be natural for us to blanket others with that love.  And in turn we lead other to a life of faith and understand of God's amazing grace and crazy love.  And then in turn they too will pay it forward so to speak.  And hallelujah He is exalted. I have to tell you that I am not always the perfect reflection of His love.  I am working on that whole, "Love your neighbor as yourself" concept.  Normally I don't have a problem.  But when someone come along that is just really difficult to love, well, let's just say I trip over the difficulty.  We have a neighbor at the beach that fit's this "difficult the love" profile.  Last year my husband and I arrived for a nice weekend away.  We pulled up to our chateau and there was a car parked on our lot.  Well we stepped out of the car.  And I was the lucky one who stepped into dog poop.  And it wasn't from our dog.  I was, to say the least, ticked.  I held my tongue.  That time.  The following week we went down again and this time his dog was tied to our deck and the dog's bowls were on the deck.  And more poop.  I flipped my lid.  I went in the trailer and grabbed a few paper plated and did the passive aggressive thing.  I started flicking the poop onto his yard.  My husband shook his head.  And told me to go inside.  Well, every single time we go, still to this day, our neighbor still continues in his rudeness.  He has taken rude to a whole other level.  I may be laughing at the paper plate event.  But I am really feeling a bit embarrassed. I failed to show this guy God's love.  God never flicks my mess back in my yard.  He sent His one and only Son to be my personal pooper scooper.  Christ keeps my yard looking pretty sweet.  And here I am neglecting to do the one thing required.  "Love my neighbor".  I know that I have to change my heart toward my neighbor.  Through pray and practice I know it will happen.  I just need to keep my eyes on Christ and learn by His example.

Over this next week let's practice letting our love for and from God overflow to others.  So, when we feel like flinging the poop back on their yard, let's instead grab a bag and help clean it up.  And I pray that if our neighbor needs our help we are willing to loosen our grip on our net and give them what they need.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Before I bring my need I will bring my heart

Hope you are having a blessed day!  And I pray that this past week you found yourself drawing closer to our relentless God.

I don't know about you but I found myself looking deep into my own eyes and my heart.  I questioned myself and my love for God a lot this past week.  I don't want to feel like I have to love God.  Or that I am supposed the do things for Him.  I have to be honest.  I have moments that I really just want to do what I want to do without worrying that I am "in the wrong".  I find myself back peddling to make up for my inadequacies in loving a perfect God.  And sometime I fear that I am really not that in love with Him.  So, I start trying harder.

God doesn't want to see me frustrated and overwhelmed with fear. He doesn't want loving Him to be a chore.  He just wants to love us. A few months ago I had a conversation with my west coast child.  I occasionally ask my children how they are doing with their faith walk.  And are they seeking a relationship with God.  So naturally I asked Kath how she was doing and where she was in her faith walk.  She shared with me that she had gone to church with a friend and she was a little disturbed with a statement that the pastor had made.  She proceeded to tell me that he said, "The more you love God; the more God will love you." To her this was twisted.  And as a result she didn't return to that church.  Unfortunately, that is not what I think the pastor intended on doing.  And maybe his wording was a little off and slightly offensive to Kath.  But the truth of the matter is that when we draw near to God we feel His presence at a deeper level.  God's love for us doesn't deepen.  He loves us the same today, tomorrow and yesterday.  It's how we love that changes.  So when we are loving God at a deeper level we are able to feel His crazy love in return.

In a letter to the Galatians, Paul writes that we were called to be free.  But that our freedom wasn't intended for us to indulge in the things that this world has to offer. Or that we should live in the flesh.  But that this freedom should encourage us to do for one another.  And to humbly serve.  And he reminds us that the entire law can be summed up in one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." How do love and freedom keep us away from sin?  The deeper our love grows for God through a genuine love, and not from obligation, the more willing we find ourselves to obey God.  And then we have a growing desire to serve our "neighbor" Imagine if you loved your neighbor as much as you loved you. I believe a mighty change would occur. Amazing love would certainly have a domino effect.

So, how do we begin to distinguish serving God out of love as opposed to serving out of obligation. As a young child I was often told that I need to do this and I need to do that.  And when I asked, "why?'" the answer was normally, "Because I said so!".  Well, God doesn't want us to love Him out of obligation.  Being a Christian doesn't mean we are obligated to follow a bunch of rules and regulations.  At least it shouldn't be that way.  These "rules and regulations" should be more like guidelines.  You know those basic instructions before leaving earth. As an adult and a parent I now see why my parents gave me the "because I said so".  They weren't trying to be dictators.  They just wanted me to lead a life that was good for me.  And in the process I learned to do the right thing.  And if my parents, and me now, know how to give good instruction and gifts to our children, how much more will our Heavenly Father give us! (Matthew 7:11)  He wants us to love Him because He first loved us.  He is so crazy in love with us that He waits for us to fall in love with Him.  He lavishes us with treasures.  Most of them we are too selfish to see.  And He just loves our expression when we find delight in His creation.

Over this past week I reflected on a question I read.  Would I be able to exist in a Heaven without Christ? Initially me answer was "NO Way!!".  And each morning, as I reflected on that question, my answer changed.  I found myself realizing that I often go a whole day without Him in it.  And with that being said I became honest with myself.  And the truth be told,  sadly I could see myself existing in a heaven without Christ.  Crazy because He is the only reason we gained direct entry.  I know that He needs to be more prevalent in my life.  And that I cannot exist without His perfect love.

On Friday morning, as I drove to work, I was reflecting once again on that question.  And GOd gave me a beautiful gift.  A song came on the radio and the words, "Before I bring my need I will bring my heart. Before I lift my cares, I will lift my arms.  I wanna know you. I wanna find you.  In every season. In every moment, before I bring my need I will bring my heart. And seek you first I want to keep you first..."  This just penetrated my heart.  And I want and desire this to be evident in my life.  I want to have a love so deeply rooted in Him that it is just my nature to seek, find and put Him first.

It's time to stop talking about loving God and start spending time with Him.  I encourage you to seek Him with your whole heart this week.  Be honest with Him.  And if a loving relationship is what you desire you need to give it your all.  Ask Him to give you a heart to love Him greater.

First~Lauren Daigle

Before I bring my need I will bring my heart. Before I lift my cares, I will lift my arms. 
I wanna know You. I wanna find You. In every season. In every moment. Before I bring my need
I will bring my heart. And seek You First. I want to seek You. I want to seek You First. I want to keep You. I want to keep You First.  More than anything I want, I want You First

Before I speak a word Let me hear Your voice. And in the midst of pain Let me feel Your joy.
I wanna know You. I wanna find You In every season, In every moment, Before I speak a word
I will bring my heart And seek You First. I want to seek You. I want to seek You First. I want to keep You. I want to keep You First. More than anything I want, I want You First

You are my treasure and my reward. Let nothing ever come before. You are my treasure and my reward. Let nothing ever come before I seek You First. First I want to seek You I want to seek You
First I want to keep You. I want to keep You First. More than anything I want, I want You First. First