November 3, 2016

I exist

Have you ever stopped and considered the fact that you exist as a person, and yet have no control over this existence?  Some might argue that you do, because you can choose to end your life, but ultimately, you didn't bring about your life, and you don't know when it will end.

All of that seems high and philosophical, but it is really an every day thought.  And it reminds me of what Paul said in Acts 17

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.  From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

(Acts 17:24-28; emphasis added)

Since my existence is dependent upon God, a Being outside of myself, what does this mean for how I live?  Well, it should mean that I spend every waking hour serving Him, and advancing His mission on earth "letting His kingdom come...."  This is harder than it should be, because my selfish heart comes in and steals the joy of this service, replacing its focus on this earthly life with all of its difficulties (or perceived difficulties), pain and labor, and our gaze is shifted from our Good and Loving God, to the dirty dishes sitting in the sink from last night, or the growing pile of unfolded laundry, the unpaid bills, and unmet expectations, and the daily grind of living here.

So how do we look up from what we call life, to see all of the goodness and provision given to us by God?

The author of Hebrews puts it quite simply when he writes:

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

(Hebrews 12:2)

How do we "fix our eyes..."?

Through gratitude, through prayer, through daily immersing our minds, hearts, and actions in God's word, which requires time, attention, attention of the heart.  To step away and be with God is something we must make time for, otherwise we lose our focus and believe lies, which effects our very existence.

Ann Voskamp reminds us that our existence, our longing for the 'Other' can only be completed in giving thanks to God, and in feasting upon Him:

"Eucharisteo, remembering with thanks, this is the bread.  We take the moments as bread and give thanks and the thanks itself becomes bread.  The thanks itself nourishes.  Thanks feeds our trust." 
And Jesus is that nourishment,
Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died.  But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

(John 6: 47-51)

Jesus Christ makes it plain from this text that His body, His word (since He is the WORD), is what gives life.  Why would I want to go one second without this nourishment?  How foolish and arrogant of me to think that I can exist apart from this Life source, and yet does my life match up with seeking it out?  Do I truly "hunger and thirst for righteousness" or is my hunger and thirst "satisfied" with mere earthly morsels, which are soon consumed and discarded?

Too often the later is what I settle for in my pursuit of life.  Ironic, because while I am seeking life, if I am not going to Jesus, the only True Life Source, I am settling for cheap and useless substitutes.  No wonder my heart yearns for something more, no wonder there is a deep, burning hunger inside my bones.  Because, until I am thoroughly convinced (and life accordingly) that JESUS is enough, I will keep going to broken cisterns, and man made wells which CANNOT ever satisfy my soul.

Oh Jesus, may I hunger and thirst for You alone.  You have promised to satisfy my soul need, indeed you have done so initially, help me to be faithful in feeding on You, and not looking to faulty and sinful substitutes which will never quench this craving of my heart.  Please forgive my wavering, roving heart that is on the prowl for some idol to worship, when You are the true and living God!  I look to You, and thank You for being faithful despite my wandering heart.  I love You, but perfect my love so that it is what You desire.  Make my life a worthy sacrifice, fit for Your altar.  Amen. 

September 29, 2016

A love, an inheritance, a faith


R.M. Rilke said: 

"Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it." 

In Ephesians 3:16-19, Paul prays a powerful blessing over the church at Ephesus which resounds similarly to Rilke's words above: 

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Oh! to know God's love!  To truly be captured by His father heart for us. To yearn to love Him with our all in return.  Everything, everything He has done for His creations has been out of love, and with such careful thought and attention to detail.  

Even in the seemingly "mundane" parts of Scripture (is that even a thing?), God's love and devotion to His people shines so brightly, how can we not see it?  In my personal bible study, I am reading in Hebrews, and I decided that it would be good to re-read the giving of the law and the setting up of the first tabernacle in Exodus.  And as I read, the love of God oozed from every detail, every word.  As He commanded Moses on the exact dimensions of and supplies to be used for, the tabernacle.  Only a God of love would be so precise, so direct.  

How do we fail to see His love when it is so apparent?  We choose to turn a blind eye to its overwhelming evidence, and focus on the bad, the evil, the ugly which consumes our fallen world.  The Author of Hebrews rebuked his readers, reminding them of the One thing they should set their gaze towards, "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." 

When we look at His face, and see through His eyes, the whole world changes before us.  Yes there is pain and suffering and evil and death and disappointment and heartache, but there is also an abundance of Love.  And when we finally grasp that truth and live it out, the ripples of blessing which go out from our lives, transform the world.  

So, let us love as we are loved, without reserve; willing to sacrifice our hearts and lives so that others will know this Love. 


"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other."
(John 15:9-17)

September 28, 2016

And, so, I kept breathing


I struggle with depression on a weekly basis.  Some days are better than others.  This has been a 'thing' in my life, a burden I have had since I was about 15.  And even though there are really dark moments in my life, I have found HOPE - Jesus Christ.  Without Him, I would have ended my life a long time ago.  

I love what Paul has to say about this life with all of its pain and struggle: 


Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18) 

God has been at work in my life despite this struggle, and the more I allow Him to lead and guide and love me, the smaller the cloud becomes.  His sun shines no matter what kind of day, and His light pierces through the deepest darkness and the thickest confusion.  My part in the story is to accept His love and walk with Him on this journey.  This is a daily decision; an act of our will to obey and be loved. 

August 28, 2016

Phoebe


This gorgeous girl turns 21 today!  Wow!  It blows my mind that she is already an adult, with a big girl job, and adult responsibilities.

I remember being 3.5-4, and wanting a sister so badly.  I must have really pestered my Mom because after sometime, she said to me "well Abby, let's pray for you to have a little sister."  And so, in my childish ways, I prayed simply, that God would give me a baby sister. 

When she joined our family I was THRILLED!  I remember coming home and seeing her for the first time.  What a shot of joy went through my heart.  We gathered around Mom's bed, and "ooed" and "awwwed" over her.  When the midwife pricked her little toes, and Phoebe began to cry, I reached over and stuck my pinky into her mouth, and she calmed down. 

Phoebe, you have been my best friend since that first moment I laid eyes on your sweet little face.  Through the years we have grown closer, and done almost everything we could together.  You have been to me, in many ways, a big sister, and I have leaned hard on your strong shoulders through tough times in my own life.  God made you a bright and radiant light, and a gracious gift to our family, and to the world. 

A lump rises in my throat when I think about you being a kind, intelligent, godly and independent young lady, who any good man would be blessed to have as their wife... not because I don't think you are ready, but because you are more than ready, and I know that day is coming, fast.  I was sad the first day of your first job, because you wouldn't be here for me to chat with, or smile at across the room whenever I wanted to, though I was glad you had a job. :)

I am SO proud, so pleased with all that you have allowed God to do in and through you over the years.  You are patient, kind, smart, talented, gracious, wise, discerning, compassionate, generous, bold, steadfast, ambitious, and the list goes on and on. 

God has amazing things in store for your life, and as you continually seek His will, you will never go astray. 

I love you and I want to say God bless you and Happy Birthday as you celebrate 21 years of life!!

July 28, 2016

I Surrender - All Sons & Daughters

My favorite worship band, All Sons & Daughters is getting ready to release their newest album (Poets and Saints), and they have made one of their songs available which makes me really happy because it means I can share it with you!


July 20, 2016

Relationship status

This is something I wrote in my journal a couple of weeks ago, and wanted to share with you my readers.  I hope that it encourages you as you seek Jesus.

Marriage is not the only key to the only door to service in God's kingdom.  It is a key to a door, but not the only one.  

If you are single, serve Jesus.  If you are in a relationship, serve Jesus.  If you are engaged, serve Jesus.  If you are married, serve Jesus.  If you are divorced, serve Jesus.  If you are widowed, serve Jesus.  The only relationship status that really matters is yours, with Jesus. 

If you're not a Christian, then you've got a need.  Not one to be met by another human, because humans will let you down.  You need a relationship with the definer and creator of relationships, the real love expert: Jesus.  

His love for you will never fail, never cease.  As in any relationship, there will be seasons of plenty, and some of lack, but underneath it all is a steadfast, never-ending love which will give you the kind of stability and security no man or woman can give. 

Because - His love is the only truly sacrificial kind.  So, be satisfied with it, no matter your relationship status.  


July 18, 2016

Family Pictures


L-R - Phoebe, Jaden, Claudia, Caleb (holding Haylie), Julia (Mom), David (Dad), Joel, Christine, Abby (meeeeee) and Jo
L-R - Jo, Phoebe, Claudia, Christine, Abby, Joel, Caleb, and Jaden