As I am making final preparations for leaving in 48 hours, I am reminding myself that on a daily basis I am Jesus’ hands and feet. I am His disciple, trying to go where He leads…this week I will be His hands and feet in Ghana, West Africa…next month it may be in Van Wert, Rockford, Ohio City, Lima, Cleveland, and the list could go on and on. He wants to use me EVERYWHERE I go, not just in Ghana. So I am reminding myself NOW that when I get back, after a week or two, there will be the “letdown” that I always feel after I have been in a place of intense ministry, but God is STILL using me: at home, at the store, at church, at CHJCF. His ability to use me doesn’t stop when I am back to my normal routine unless I allow it!!

I remember a song by Casting Crowns called “In Me”, it reminds me that God doesn’t NEED me to do His work, but He WANTS to use me to reach others…whether that’s in Ghana or at home or anyplace in between! He wants to use YOU too! We are ALL part of the body of Christ…each person who believes in Jesus and calls him Saviour has been given a spiritual gift  (1 Corinthians 12:4-30) and He wants you to use it to serve Him!!

Let’s serve Him TOGETHER!

“In Me”

If you ask me to leap
Out of my boat on the crashing waves
If You ask me to go
Preach to the lost world that Jesus saves

I’ll go, but I cannot go alone
Cause I know I’m nothing on my own
But the power of Christ in me makes me strong
Makes me strong

Cause when I’m weak, You make me strong
When I’m blind, You shine Your light on me
Cause I’ll never get by living on my own ability
How refreshing to know You don’t need me
How amazing to find that you want me
So I’ll stand on Your truth, and I’ll fight with Your strength
Until You bring the victory, by the power of Christ in me

If You ask me to run
And carry Your light into foreign land
If You ask me to fight
Deliver Your people from Satan’s hand

To reach out with Your hands
To learn through Your eyes
To love with the love of a savior
To feel with Your heart
And to think with Your mind
I’d give my last breath for Your glory

 
 
an·tici·pa·tion (an tis′ə pāshən) noun. 1. expectant waiting: the feeling of looking forward, usually excitedly or eagerly, to something that is going to happen                          

Synonyms: expectation, expectancy, hope, eagerness, keenness, looking forward

In 72 hours, I will be boarding a plane that will take me to Accra, Ghana, West Africa! I think you can understand my anticipation of that day! I am so excited to see what God has in store for not only our group, but the kids & staff at the orphanage and any others that God will place in our path during our trip because I know that God has GREAT things planned for us while we’re in Ghana!

While I was packing yesterday, I had to ask myself, “Why don’t I have the same anticipation & excitement for heaven?”  As Christians, we should be so full of anticipation for what God has prepared for us when we join Him, yet most of the time we are so bogged down with life that we lose focus on our ultimate destination. I am so excited for my oldest 2 daughters to take this trip, because I know that they have longed to go to Africa for a few years. In the same way shouldn’t we be excited to have our family/ friends/ neighbors, etc…join us in heaven? This Matthew West song has been one of my favorites because when I listen to it I am reminded that we are supposed to long for heaven…after all, this is NOT our home, we’re just passin’ through. It will more beautiful than we can imagine (read Revelation 22:1-6) and nothing here can ever compare, plus we get to spend forever with the love of our life, our Saviour!

A Few More Days~ Matthew West

There is a longing deep inside my soul
There is a place my spirit wants to go
it’s far away from all these chains that bind
There is a world I long to leave behind

So, I wait and I wait and I wait for the moment
when You come for me And rescue my heart
from the pain that it’s seen My troubles are circling
all around me And I can’t stop thinking

chorus: Just a few more days I’ll be going home
Just a few more hours and I’ll be flying
It could be any minute now
That you’ll take me away
Or maybe just a few more days
A few more days

To you a day is like a thousand years
And only you know when the clouds will clear
So, let me not forget and fall away
Because a thousand years could be today


Are YOU longing for that day? Let’s be BOLD in our faith, so that everyone we meet can join us there!!


 
 
The weather we’ve had this week has made me think ~ about storms, both physical & spiritual.

Snow storms usually cause plenty of panic. People rush to the stores to pick up bread, eggs & milk (I heard of one commentator who said this week, “What is it about a snow storm that makes people want to eat french toast?”).  Also, we try to be sure we have plenty of batteries for flashlights and back up heat, etc. And regardless of the severity of the storm, there are things that I just plain dislike about them: the wind, the cold, the possible power outages, the shoveling…the list could go on. But in spite of those things, there are also things I like about snow storms: quiet time with the family with few distractions, the chance to curl up with a blanket, a cup of hot cocoa & a good book, the chance to “slow down” knowing there is nowhere to be.

In many ways spiritual storms are the same way. How many times when we see a possible storm approaching, do we panic? Rush around trying to prepare for what may happen? And I can’t think of anyone I know who enjoys this type of storm. I dislike the worry, stress & fear of the unknown that usually accompanies them. But then when the storm has passed (I usually don’t notice it during), I realize that God used that storm to make me “slow down”, re-evaluate my life & priorities…and most important take more time to spend with Him! Too many times when life is going well, it’s easy to get sidetracked and not spend quiet time with Him. I know God always uses the storms in our lives to grow us spiritually, but sometimes I think He is just encouraging us to slow down, grab our Bible & curl up in Him for a little while.


Psalm 9:9 ~ The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.


 
 
 AGAPE - def. – 1. The love of God or Christ for humankind.

2. The love of Christians for other persons, corresponding to the love of God for humankind.

3. Unselfish love of one person for another without sexual implications; brotherly love.

I have had two instances this week that this term has come up and I’ve found myself thinking about it often. I was already familiar with the term & it’s definition, but my thoughts were on how different the world would be if we (Christians) practiced this in our daily life.

Tonight I was reading "Outlive Your Life" by Max Lucado and he was sharing a story about a Christian school who’s football team had a great record, great coaches & was strongly supported by community & parents. This team was scheduled to play a state team who never had a cheering section. The head coach asked if half of their own fans & cheerleaders would be willing to sit on the visitor's side & cheer for them. This in and of itself would be shocking in most communities, perhaps even more so because the opposing team would be playing in handcuffs with guards as their only spectators. These young men were from a correction facility. Those who volunteered to be fans for the other team even learned the names & numbers for the young men so they could cheer for them by name. At the end of the game, both teams met on the field for prayer & one of the boys from the state school asked if he could say the prayer. He thanked God that there were still people who would care enough to cheer them on. The boys received a meal, a personal letter & a Bible from the team & fans before heading back to the correction facility.

I tell you this story because I know that we are all guilty of judging someone as unworthy of our attention because of how they look or what "group" they are in. Who is that for you? Convicts? Illegal immigrants? Welfare recipients? Druggies? Prostitutes? Emo teens? Those with strange tattoos or piercing? Those with different political views? The list could go on & on. In Jesus’ day, the outcasts were many of the same…even tax collectors, lepers, Samaritans. But Jesus was all about breaking down barriers. The people that the pharisees looked down upon…those were the very people Jesus CHOSE to hang out with!! Rather than seeing them as problems, Christ saw them as OPPORTUNITIES!

Do we even realize how God could use us if we can overcome our prejudices? We have a choice when we see someone who is different than us…do we neglect or rescue? Label or Love? If we as Christians are not willing to "root for the other team" then who will?! Don’t let class, race, gender, politics, geography, or culture hinder God’s work. Be a bridge not a barrier, because in the end when we cross the field to cheer for the other side…Christ wins!!


    "Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory." Romans 15:7
 
 
Sometimes God uses the smallest things to catch my attention. In the middle of my normal cleaning, it hit me how much "stuff" we have. Unnecessary junk!! I don’t mean our clothes (although we do have an abundance!) or other basic necessities, but I mean the things that eat up our time/attention. Anything from knick-knacks to playstation to everyday clutter. It may be things we have kept out of obligation or sentiment.

I realized that at times I am so comfortable with my "stuff" that it keeps my focus on everything but my Saviour! Sometimes I am sure all this "stuff" makes me less willing to be available to serve God in the way I should ~ anytime & anywhere!

This verse jumped out at me today:

"What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?" 1 Corinthians 4:7(NLT)

Everything I have is really God’s!! I have to remind myself of this often. Not only that but it says in Matthew 6:19-21 that we should be storing up treasures in heaven!! I need to take inventory on where my heart really is & maybe I need to clean house because ultimately do I want to allow the things God has blessed me with get in the way of serving Him?! HE should be the treasure that I seek!


 
 
I was flipping through radio stations as I was driving on Saturday. I skipped over quite a few after listening to a few seconds of each. After I flipped past the last one, I immediately flipped back. I had heard just a snippet of something and was sure I had misunderstood what the dj was saying. As I listened to the dj talking, I couldn't believe my ears! He was talking about a website that people could go to and post their secrets anonymously. Here is what I found when I looked it up (this is from Wikipedia):

    The simple concept of the project was that completely anonymous people decorate a postcard and portray a secret that they had never previously revealed. No restrictions are made on the content of the secret; only that it must be completely truthful and must never have been spoken before. Entries range from admissions of sexual misconduct and criminal activity to confessions of secret desires, embarrassing habits, hopes and dreams.[1] The secrets are meant to be empowering both to the author and to those who read it. Frank Warren claims that the postcards are inspirational to those who read them, have healing powers for those who write them, give hope to people who identify with a stranger's secret, and create an anonymous community of acceptance.[2 

In October 2007, the PostSecret Community was launched (www.postsecretcommunity.com). Since its inception, more than 80,000 users have registered for the online discussion forum. Questions have been raised about how the forum affects the anonymity of the PostSecret project, but for those involved on the Community board, there seems to be a positive response of people who haven't sent in a postcard or haven't seen their secret on the site sharing their secrets with other PostSecret fans.
According to Youth Trends' February 2008 "Top Ten List Report" PostSecret was the 10th most popular site amongst female students in the USA, with 7% of those polled naming the site as their favorite.[4]

The dj went on to say that this may be a good place to go if you need to "get something off your chest" before the holidays. I was shocked (I know I probably shouldn't be). It made me so sad to think that there are people out there who don't have someone in their life that they can share with and know, that no matter what, that friend/family will love them unconditionally! We are created for RELATIONSHIP!! Not anonymity!! And even more than that: What does that say about the CHURCH?! We are supposed to show LOVE to others, but so many people from outside the church don't want anything to do with believers, because they see us as judgemental and critical. I know that believers cannot excuse sin, but I believe if we loved each other & non-believers with the kind of love that Jesus showed, we wouldn't need "Post Secret" websites. We are supposed to share/ confess our sins to God and each other!  

1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
James 5:16 says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed."

We were created to talk to God and each other. I wonder if our lives have become so busy that we don't take the time to develop authentic relationships...do we really know each other or even want to know each other?! Or are we so scared to share our "secrets" and lives with each other that we have become a society that needs to be anonymous? I hope you will take an opportunity and reach out to others...don't just have conversations where you talk about "the weather"! Listen for God's prompting to speak to others and really HEAR them...sometimes what they don't say is more important than what they do! 

 
 
Do you see the Holy Spirit alive & well in your life? In a ladies’ group that I’m part of we’ve been studying "Forgotten God" by Francis Chan. One of the comments he makes is that if we went to a football game and saw the players huddle up to call plays, then go running back to the bench we would think they were crazy! Who wants to go to a game where they don’t run the plays? But so many times this is what the christian life looks like to a non-believer. We huddle up on Sundays, get fired up, make plans, then run back to the "bench" for the rest of the week!

Shouldn’t we be making a difference?! If you are a believer, you have the Spirit of God inside of YOU!!!! How amazing is that! It can be scary to allow him to use us & work through us, but the rewards…they are amazing!

Galations 5:22-25 says:


"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."

So many times I look at my life and can’t see those attributes at all. So I remind myself that I must be constantly in God’s word and in fellowship with Him. I cannot display these "gifts of the Spirit" if I am not spending time with Him! It says we "live" by the Spirit, not visit Him weekly or speak with Him occasionally, but be constantly "in step" with Him. I know that I must be looking DAILY for opportunities that God puts in my life. Someone once said,
"There are NO accidents, NO coincidences, everything is by DIVINE APPOINTMENT." There are times when I "forget" that the Spirit is working in my life on a daily basis. Then there are days like today when I see it like a beacon in the night. God sends people into our lives to allow us the opportunity to share Him with others. The question is…will you allow the Spirit to use you to "make the play"? Or will you "sit the bench"?

This is a song by Francesca Battistelli that basically reminds me that I need to not be afraid to stand up & stand out. I need to let the Spirit move in my life to reach others!


Lost Get Found

Hello my friend, I remember when you were
So alive with your wide eyes
Then the light that you had in your HEART was stolen
Now you say that it ain't WORTH stayin'
You wanna run but you're hesitatin', I'm talkin' to me

Don't let your LIGHTS go down
Don't let your FIRE burn out
'Cause somewhere
Somebody needs a REASON to believe

Why don't you rise up now?
Don't be afraid to STAND OUT
That's how the lost get found
The LOST get FOUND

So when you get the CHANCE, are you gonna take it?
There's a really big WORLD at your fingertips
And you know you have the chance to CHANGE it
There's a girl on the streets, she's cryin'
There's a man whose faith is dyin', love is CALLIN' you

Why do we go with the flow
Or take an easier road?
Why are we playin' it safe?
LOVE came to show us the way
LOVE is a CHANCE we should take
I'm movin' out of the way

Don't let your LIGHTS go down
Don't let your FIRE burn out
'Cause somewhere
Somebody NEEDS a reason to
BELIEVE

 
 
Just today one of my friends made a comment about being angry and someone commented that he should "breathe in Jesus and breathe out Satan" and his reply was that makes Jesus sound like a cigarette. Not long after the thought occurred to me that we should be more addicted to Jesus than we are to our vices…whatever those may be: Pepsi, chocolate, shopping, tv, facebook, etc… How many days can you go without drinking a pop or watching your favorite show? On the other hand how many days do we go without spending quiet time with God? Reading His word? Praying? When we are having a busy day what is the first thing to be "pushed out" of our schedule? Do you still make time for checking your email or facebook account? Or are you sure to check those while saying you’ll find time later to read your Bible? "Breathe" by Michael W. Smith came to mind when I was thinking about this. Here are the lyrics:

This is the air I breathe

This is the air I breathe

Your Holy presence living in me

This is my daily bread

This is my daily bread

Your very word spoken to me

And I, I’m desperate for You

And I, I’m lost without You


Are we honestly desperate for Him? Is having His spirit in us really as important to us as the air we breathe? Or have we gotten so sidetracked by life and doing good things for Him that we’ve forgotten our first love?

"Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love…Repent and do the things you did at first." Revelation 2:4, 5b

The church in Ephesus had once been commended by Paul for their love for God and others (Ephesians 1:15) but they had lost their passion for God! They were a busy church and did much to benefit themselves and others in the community but it was no longer motivated by a love for God. Is this what we look like? Is this what I look like? Have I become so busy doing things for God that good works is my "addiction" instead of having a passionate love for my Saviour? When many of us first began our relationship with Jesus, we were excited about reading our Bibles and praying, but over time, if we let it, that fades away under the pressures of the world. I think it’s time that when I am running behind and something needs to be cut from my schedule that it’s NOT my time with my Saviour and instead the things of the world! How about you?
Are you as desperate for Jesus as you are for _______?
You fill in the blank!

 
 
Have you ever had one of those relationships where you feel like you put way more effort into it than the other person? You’re the one doing all the giving and the other person all the taking…or at least that the other person isn’t near as interested in building/maintaining the relationship as you are. I’ve had a few of those. It’s so frustrating when the relationship is all one-sided! I recently realized that I have a few "friendships" that I am investing more in than the other person is and I prayed that God will cushion my heart to the hurt that I feel will be inevitable. I really feel lead to pursue those relationships, but know there is potential for heartache in the end. It then occurred to me that this is the way God must feel with us many times. He WANTS a relationship with every one of His children, but not everyone wants a relationship with Him…or even when we say we do, we get sidetracked, distracted or just plain lazy in maintaining that relationship. How heartbreaking that must be for Him! I know how it breaks my heart when I want to spend time with a friend, but they don’t seem to have time to spend with me and that is just a small taste of how God must feel! The following verse really has been speaking to me when I think of these types of friendships:

Proverbs 17:17 says: "A friend loves at all times"

Now this does not mean that you allow someone to abuse you, but it does mean that we should love each other through thick and thin…through the close times and the distant times in our friendships. Too many times we are quick to pull back because of the fear of being hurt. The reality of relationships is that at some point we will be hurt…usually NOT intentionally! But as I think back over all the people who have come and gone in my life, I realize that I would not trade those relationships for anything. They have made me who I am today and God has been able to work through each and every relationship and teach me things that I might not have known otherwise!

"I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love" ~ Mother Theresa


So I will continue to pursue friendships even when I know my heart will be hurt at some point…because God loves us so abundantly even when we break His heart and I know He wants us to follow His example.

 
 
I am officially the mother of a college student! I remember her first day of Kindergarten, then I blinked and now it’s her first day of college! I was so proud of myself when she left last night. No tears or anything (and my girls will tell you I tend to be emotional!). I’m sure she was surprised by that! I realized today that one of the reasons for my composure may be the fact that I feel completely at peace about it. I was already engaged when I was her age…now it set my heart back a few beats thinking about that!! Also, I know that God has her in His hands every step of the way!

Phillipians 4:6-7 ~
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 6:25-27 ~ Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

I am trying hard to practice this! Any time I feel myself getting anxious about something whether it’s my daughter leaving for college or something else that I know is out of my control, I go to God in prayer. After all, He already knows how I feel and if He can breathe the universe into existence, I know He can handle my problems and concerns! And when I acknowledge that God is the one ultimately in control of my life, it helps relieve my anxiety. I wish I could tell you that I never worry about anything at all, but I can tell you I am trying to make more of a conscious effort to work on it daily. There is another verse that comes to mind…

2 Corinthians 10:5 ~
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

When I read that verse, I remind myself that not only is Paul talking about arguments as it says but any thought that represents sin…this includes worry. So when a worry comes to mind, I should automatically start praying and turn it over to God. Remind myself what His word says. And that He wants me to trust Him with everything!!