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Friday, September 30, 2011

Thanksgiving All Year: 61-70

Well, I just barely got in two posts between "thankful" lists this time... I guess that's better than nothing! This has been a super challenging week for me, one in which I've been forced to let go of control in some areas of my life and give God the reins. It's SO not easy for me to do, and yet I KNOW He can handle things better than I ever could. He is teaching me all over again to TRUST HIM. It is hard but I know it is good.

Today I am thankful...

61. For the opportunity to e-mail my missionary friend Lisa back and forth for a whole day, catching up on more of life than we are normally able to!

my friend Lisa, who is now a missionary in Nicaragua,
up at Donner Pass during a visit to Reno in June of 2006

62. For friends who offer Godly wisdom and encouragement, who also PRAY, both for and with me!!

63. That my friend Bev's dad has seen a miraculous turnaround in his health over the past two weeks -- a total answer to prayer!
64. That God has encouraged me twice this past week through Lydia, a newer friend in my life.

65. That my grandmother's surgery last week (yes, I am a week late putting this on my list!) went way better and more quickly than expected... Her doctor said she "looks like a teenager on the inside!"

riding "Thunder Mountain Railroad" with my grandmother at
Disney World in 2009 ~ she can be a teenager on the outside, too!

66. For finding old coupons for free gelato the day before they expire, and for already having planned to spend the night with Ashley that night so I automatically had someone to share them with.

67. That God reveals areas of my life where I have not walked in obedience or trust and, once I have confessed them, forgives me and gives me another chance to learn and grow.

68. For the assurance that "the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." (James 5:16)

69. For encouragement from my quiet times this past week... Specifically for a) the reminder that God has a heart for peace, unity, and reconciliation; b) Julie Ackerman Link's words that "whenever we set out to do something good, even when we're certain that God wants us to do it, we shouldn't be surprised when the situation gets worse before it gets better;" and c) the fact that that sentence ends with the words, "it gets better."

70. For my brother, who for basically as long as I can remember has been a constant source of listening, encouragement, support, and laughs. I am SO blessed.

me & my brudder back in the day

I don't know about you, but I am looking forward to plunging into the weekend and seeing what it and the next week -- as well as the next month, since we are already bidding September farewell -- have in store. Here's to a fresh start!

"Hope is Kindled"

I came across this pin on Pinterest yesterday and was amazed to realize I could still recite the Lord of the Rings poem it comes from...

All that is gold does not glitter
Not all those who wander are lost
The old that is strong does not wither
Deep roots are not reached by the frost
From the ashes a fire shall be woken
A light from the shadows shall spring
Renewed shall be blade that was broken
The crownless again shall be king.
These verses came back to me at a good time. One of the things I LOVE about the "Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy (I know, I know, it's also a book trilogy. And yes, I have read them! But I have seen the movies many more times than I have read the books. I think if books had soundtracks I might be drawn to read them more frequently, because I really think it's the music that brings a movie to life for me, but alas, I digress...) is the overarching theme of courage and HOPE.

"There is still hope." -Arwen
 "But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer." -Samwise
 "Hope is kindled." -Gandalf
"Even the smallest person can change the course of the future." -Galadriel
"A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the Age of Men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight!" -Aragorn
"I come back to you now at the turn of the tide." -Gandalf
Even when things look the most grim, the characters in this story take courage and keep hope. Occasionally they may have a moment of despair, but they always get back up and keep going. They never give up. That resonates with me SO MUCH. It inspires hope when my own story seems to take a dark turn.

My devotional last Saturday included the following statement:
"Whenever we set out to do something good, even when we're certain that God wants us to do it, we shouldn't be surprised when the situation gets worse before it gets better. This doesn't prove that we're doing the wrong thing; it just reminds us that we need God to accomplish everything."
-Julie Ackerman Link
When we face difficult times, we can either lose heart and despair or we can turn our faces to our heavenly Father and find in Him the courage and hope to keep moving, trusting that all is not lost and the best is yet to come. I'm thankful He can use even something like "The Lord of the Rings" to remind me of that.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Devil's Been Talkin' {Who are YOU listening to?}

Something that has come to my attention multiple times lately is how we as Christians (or, really, as humans, whether we realize it or not) have an enemy who seeks endlessly to put (or keep, if we have not yet found freedom in Christ) us in bondage by making us believe things that are not true. John Eldredge makes this point in his book Waking the Dead, which I re-read on our recent family vacation, and our Perspectives readings for last week covered it as well. In both cases, I was reminded of how crucial it is for us not to make subtle agreements with the lies whispered to us or to allow faulty thinking to creep in and take root, because this gives our enemy a foothold in our hearts and lives.

Now this week the point came up for me again as I looked up the lyrics to one of my favorite songs from Needtobreathe's new album "The Reckoning." The song is called "Devil's Been Talkin'" and I think it's very cleverly written... I've posted some of the lyrics below, and lest you read it and think, "What a depressing song! Why in the world would this be one of her favorites?!" let me assure you the gloomy lyrics betray the music, which is upbeat -- even celebratory. I think this in and of itself is clever, because upon hearing the song it sounds wonderfully positive, but upon reading the lyrics the true message is revealed... It's only when you take a deeper look that you realize things aren't what they seem. What I think is so brilliant about this song is that it takes lines you could find and relate to in many other songs and then exposes that these thoughts have a sinister origin from someone who would prefer we not be set free by the truth!

As you read the lyrics below, ask yourself how often similar thoughts pass through your mind, and then ask yourself if you tend to accept them as they come without even realizing it or if you recognize them as lies and reject and correct them with Biblical truth...
The ship is setting off to sea
But it’s sailing without me
I can’t help but feel I’m on
An island born to sink
The devil’s been talkin

We can’t change who we are

We are all alone...

And I can’t move

This hell is cold
The chorus sings
This is home
The devil’s been talkin

Bag of bones and blood red cheeks

Guilty from the words I speak
Say the truth will set you free
But it won’t for me
The devil’s been talkin 
These sorts of ideas -- abandonment, inadequacy, shame -- they aren't coming from our Father. On the contrary, HE tells us...
"I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

...there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1
There is SO MUCH I could say on this topic, but let me sum it up so that this post remains readable:

Our enemy throws lies at us in all sorts of various forms, whether through intentionally hurtful comments, or "innocent" sarcastic comments made by well-meaning friends, or random thoughts that pass through our minds, or the world's ideas of what is "good," or some other source... But our Father speaks, too, through His Word, through other Believers, and through His Spirit -- words of life and hope and freedom and purpose.

My question is, who are YOU listening to?

Thanksgiving All Year: 51-60

Maybe one of these days I will get more than one blog post up between my "Thanksgiving" lists, but clearly, this wasn't the week for it! Today I am thankful...

51. For the cute sweater I got at Kohl's last week for under $4 after using $20 in Kohl's cash.

52. For Needtobreathe's AWESOME new album that came out on Tuesday ~ and a beautiful afternoon to drive around and listen to it!!!

shot of the Truckee River from my Tuesday afternoon drive

53. For the realization that I had an extra paycheck this month, which means I am not "in the hole" after our recent vacation, as I expected to be...

54. ...and I actually have EXTRA money...

55. ...which allowed me to take my mom out to Olive Garden for lunch on Monday...

56. ...and which means I should be able to afford the new windshield I need and was praying about the very day I realized I had an extra check! Praise God for His provision!

57. That God keeps faithfully carrying me through whatever bouts of discouragement come my way.

58. For a fun dinner at Applebee's with Ashley before choir practice on Wednesday.

59. For an impromptu and laugh-filled sleepover with Jessie last night.

with Jessie & her dino pal last week
after a coffee date at Starbucks =)
60. For an encouraging time with Rebecca over lunch at Hacienda today.

Have a great weekend... Happy Fall, Y'all!!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Freedom in Surrender (or, "Stop Thinking and Obey!")

There is freedom in surrender. 

This idea has been playing over and over in my head since last night. The thought just sort of came to me out of nowhere and made itself at home in my mind. The freedom part of it doesn't surprise me -- God's been revealing a lot to me over the past couple of weeks about His intentions for us to have freedom in Him. But the surrender part surprises me, because I can't recall hearing anything about this concept recently.

Last week a friend of mine posted a quote by Oswald Chambers on her Facebook status:
Simplicity is the secret to seeing things clearly... You cannot think a spiritual muddle clear, you have to obey it clear. In intellectual matters you can think things out, but in spiritual matters you will think yourself into a cotton wool.
I'd been wrestling that very morning with whether to continue on a path the Lord had set before me previously. For a long time, this path was crystal clear to me. Metaphorically speaking, the sun was illuminating the world; the crisp air was refreshing me; the birds were creating a cheerful melody for me to enjoy; the leaves on the trees were waving at me as a light breeze ran its fingers through them... There was no doubt in my mind God wanted me to walk in this direction -- I was surrounded by beauty and His hand was evident in everything I saw!

But life isn't always sunny and bright, and sometimes this same path seems to be washed out in the aftermath of a downpour or simply covered in a fog that makes me feel like I'm walking through soup, unable to see what exactly I'm planting my feet on... On days like these, I tend to take every step in hesitation, wondering whether it's wise to keep walking, sometimes feeling more than a little bit lost as I try to navigate this journey.

Last week after I'd been wrestling with whether the Lord really wanted me to continue walking this path -- which He'd clearly said "yes" to only a couple weeks earlier on another stormy day -- I came across the Oswald Chambers quote on Facebook, and suddenly the answer was clear once again:
You cannot think a spiritual muddle clear, you have to obey it clear. In intellectual matters you can think things out, but in spiritual matters you will think yourself into a cotton wool.
Being a melancholy I am prone to over-analyze (or over-think) EVERYTHING. I don't think analysis is a bad thing in and of itself... On the contrary, my tendency to think things through thoroughly before acting has probably kept me out of a lot of trouble throughout my lifetime. But when God has clearly given me direction, my over-thinking can be a hindrance that causes me to question what He has already answered and stand still when I should be moving forward.

I'm learning that obedience requires that I surrender my doubts and fears to Him and simply keep walking, trusting Him to lead the way and take care of me. This is the only way to experience joy and freedom in my walk with Him. And I'd MUCH rather walk in joy and freedom than stay trapped in my own thoughts, afraid to surrender and obey!!

Just because my path sometimes seems unclear or risky doesn't mean it's the wrong path! I have to remind myself, as pointless as wandering through the desert must have seemed to the Israelites, God was leading them to the Promised Land. He is leading me, too. I will trust His leading, I will surrender my fears, I will walk in obedience, and I will enjoy the freedom and joy He offers as I follow Him!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thanksgiving All Year: 41-50 - Quote Edition

Forgive me if this seems lazy, but God has given me such great encouragement this week through verses and quotes, I am going to dedicate this week's list to some of them.

Today, I am thankful for the following bits of truth...

41. Though covered with seaweed, Jonah was nonetheless a testimony that God takes no delight in the death of sinners and saboteurs but rather rejoices in their conversion.
-Johannes Verkuyl

42. From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides You, who works for those who wait for Him.
Isaiah 64:4

43. Simplicity is the secret to seeing things clearly... You cannot think a spiritual muddle clear, you have to obey it clear. In intellectual matters you can think things out, but in spiritual matters you will think yourself into a cotton wool.
-Oswald Chambers

44. Missions is not a recruitment project for God's labor force. It is a liberation project from the heavy burdens and hard yokes of other gods (Matthew 11:28-30)... The difference between the true God and the gods of the nations is that the true God carries and the other gods must be carried. God serves, they must be served. God glorifies his might by showing mercy. They glorify theirs by gathering slaves.
-John Piper

45. The Son of man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.
Mark 10:45

46. If you concentrate on your weakness, you will lose your confidence. If you concentrate on God's faithfulness, you will grow in confidence.
-Dr. Ray Pritchard

47. I am encouraged by the certain knowledge that he won't quit half-way through a project. What God starts, he finishes. You can take that to the bank.
-Dr. Ray Pritchard

48. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
Philippians 2:13

49. Then Jonathan said to the young man who was carrying his armor, “Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the LORD will work for us, for the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few.”
1 Samuel 14:6

50. God has called us to live our lives as a bold act of hope... Hope expects all things, large or little, to be overwhelmed and filled with the immense glory of Christ... Lives of hope can face great evil with relentless courage, since there is no telling how soon God will break through with ultimate victory.
-Perspectives Study Guide

Have a great week!!

P.S. Last week's list is now updated with photos, as promised! Enjoy!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Enjoying God

The Son of man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.
Mark 10:45

The difference between the true God and the gods of the nations is that the true God carries and the other gods must be carried. God serves, they must be served... A God who cannot be served is a God who can only be enjoyed. The great sin of the world is not that the human race has failed to work for God so as to increase his glory, but that we have failed to delight in God so as to reflect his glory. For God's glory is most reflected in us when we are most delighted in him.
-John Piper

Let the oppressed see it and be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive!
Psalm 69:32

I love watching a herd of horses grazing in an open pasture or running free across the sage-covered plateaus in Montana. I love hiking in the high country when the wildflowers are blooming - the purple lupine and the Shasta daisies, the Indian paintbrush when it's turning magenta. I love thunderclouds, massive ones. My family loves to sit outside on summer nights and watch the lightning, hear the thunder as a storm rolls in across Colorado. I love water too - the ocean, streams, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, rain. I love jumping off high rocks into lakes with my boys. I love old barns, windmills, the West. I love vineyards. I love it when Stasi is loving something, love watching her delight. I love my boys. I love God...

Take a moment, set down the book, and make a list of all the things you love. Don't edit yourself; don't worry about prioritizing or anything of that sort. Simply think of all the things you love. Whether it's the people in your life or the things that bring you joy or the places that are dear to you or your God, you could not love them if you did not have a heart. A life filled with loving is a life most like the one that God lives, which is life as it was meant to be (Eph. 5:1-2). And loving requires a heart alive and awake and free...

You cannot be the person God meant you to be, and you cannot live the life he meant you to live, unless you live from the heart...

Go fall in love then. Do something heroic; save someone's life. Spend a month in some breathtaking spot, doing nothing productive at all. Take up painting. Have yourself a good laugh - the kind that sends tears down your face and makes you grip your side for the ache of it. Listen to a beautiful piece of music. Live with courage. Tuck your child into bed; listen to her prayers; kiss her cheek. Find God...

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, 
because the Lord has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners.
Isaiah 61:1

...Now, Christ could have chosen any one of a thousand other passages to explain his life purpose. He is the Sacrificial Lamb, the Root of Jesse, the Morning Star. But here, at the opening moment of his ministry, he chose this passage above all others; this is the heart of his mission. Everything else he says and does finds its place under this banner. I am here to give you back your heart and set you free. That is why the glory of God is man fully alive; it's what he said he came to do. But of course. The opposite can't be true. "The glory of God is man barely making it, a person hardly alive." How can it bring God glory for his very image, his own children, to remain so badly marred, broken, captive?

...It is simply diabolical, despicable, downright evil that the heart should be so misunderstood, maligned, feared, and dismissed... The war we are in would explain so great a loss. This is the last thing the Enemy wants you to know. His plan from the beginning was to assault the heart... Make them so busy, they ignore the heart. Wound them so deeply, they don't want a heart. Twist their theology, so they despise the heart. Take away their courage. Destroy their creativity. Make intimacy with God impossible for them...

Without your heart you cannot have God. Without your heart you cannot have love. Without your heart you cannot have faith. Without your heart you cannot find the work that you were meant to do. In other words, without your heart you cannot have life

-John Eldredge, Waking the Dead

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10

When was the last time you enjoyed God? I'm sure we can all easily say we appreciate Him. But do we enjoy Him? Do we even realize He is meant to be enjoyed? Last week while my parents and I were on vacation we got to see firsthand some of His most beautiful handiwork as we visited Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon. I came home feeling SO refreshed, simply from taking a break from the everyday grind and getting away where I could focus on God and ENJOY Him and His creation!!

In our Perspectives course we have been learning that God's ultimate objective in human history is to be glorified -- not only because He and He alone deserves glory, but also because He loves us and the most honored position humans can have is being in His presence, which is where we go to worship Him. And it is in His presence that we are transformed and made like Christ... What a privilege that the Creator of the universe offers us the opportunity to fellowship with Him, to enjoy Him, to play a part in His purposes for humanity by lifting up His name, and to watch as He works in the world around us!

Since enjoying God by being in His creation last week, I have been so excited about my relationship with Him and have been more able to keep my heart focused on Him even during difficult moments. When you think about it, it's hard to stay excited about someone when you don't spend any time enjoying the person... Why do we think that is any different with God? I've decided to make an effort to set aside a day or night each week to simply enjoy my heavenly Father -- whether by getting out in the midst of His creation, eating a great meal, taking a nap, going for a walk, reading a great book, listening to some good music, going for a drive, or any other number of things that bring joy to my heart. Think of it as a mini-retreat. In setting aside these "God dates," in making time for Him to refresh me, I believe He will keep my passion for Him fueled and enable me to better reflect His glory instead of trying to manufacture it on my own.

I am excited about my God and so thankful for the freedom He has given us through Christ. May His glory always be my greatest delight!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Thanksgiving All Year: 31-40 - National Parks Vacation Edition

Today I am writing from St. George, Utah, where I've spent the last three nights with my parents!! Oh, the sights that we have seen this week!!! I will update this post with photos in a few days but I haven't uploaded any of them yet... In the meantime, forgive me for a text-only list!!

Today I am thankful...

31. For Cracker Barrel cornbread.

32. For our waitress at Cracker Barrel last night who, when hearing how disappointed I was to learn they had run out of cornbread and finding out we were visiting from Reno, had a manager cook up a special batch!! Eight delectable cornbread muffins, fresh out of the oven, just for me!!! =D (No, I didn't eat all eight of them.)

33. For the towering canyon walls of Zion National Park.

34. For the endless variety of shapes and colors in the many rock formations at Bryce Canyon.

35. For the dizzying depths of the Grand Canyon.

36. That my mom has faced her fear of heights all week long and done things she never thought she would do (and, therefore, seen things she never thought she would see).

37. For the two rocker dudes who urged me to climb up on top of the rock at the end of Bright Angel Point yesterday at the Grand Canyon, giving me one of my favorite moments of the trip -- probably because it was the most nervous I was all week about looking out from a great height, but I climbed up there anyway!

38. For John Eldredge's book Waking the Dead, which I think had more of an impact on my life when I read it several years ago than I realized until I started re-reading it this week.

39. For Starbucks' pumpkin frappuccino, which may become my go-to drink for the fall.

40. For my Great Uncle Dale who went to be with the Lord yesterday.

We will be headed back to Reno soon and I will upload photos to accompany this week's list as soon as I can. Have a great weekend!

{Updated 9/16/11 ~ photos included at last! Sorry I had nothing to accompany the last three items on my list! Enjoy!}

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Good Ole Rocky Top

I have never, ever followed football faithfully (with the exception of my high school team when I was a student), but I have ALWAYS loved the feel of it. It's one sport I actually understand fairly well. I LOVE how the feeling of fall is just wrapped up in the whole setting. Crisp, clear, cool air. The buzz of excitement in the crowd. Hoodies and blankets. The rhythm of snare drums being played by the marching band. (I honestly don't know which I enjoy more -- the game or the band!) To me, it all screams, "FALL IS HERE!!!"

Even though I don't keep up with any teams, I think college ball is the most fun to watch. Seeing a bazillion posts about Game Day on Facebook this morning has made me miss living in Vol Country. In Tennessee you could tell it was fall when suddenly you could go ANYWHERE on any given Saturday and be bombarded with the sight of folks decked out in orange. (I very distinctly remember this from working at Chick-fil-A in the Johnson City Mall.) I have never been to a single game at Neyland Stadium and likely never will, but the sight of it makes me happy and makes me MISS spending falls in my old home state. I probably never will follow the game faithfully, but I will definitely join my friends back east today in saying GO BIG ORANGE!!!

Rocky Top, you'll always be home sweet home to me -- Good ole Rocky Top! Rocky Top Tennessee!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Thanksgiving All Year: 21-30

Haven't had a lot of time for blogging this week, so I've skipped right from one "thankful" list to the next with no updates in between! Hopefully I'll have more down time this coming week. In the meantime...

Today I am thankful...

21. For friends who help me to process my thoughts simply by allowing me to share them. A trusted friend's willingness to simply LISTEN (or read, for those of you who don't live in Reno) greatly relieves the mental burden of being an analytical melancholy.

22. That I was able to get caught up on a TON of stuff at home this week.

23. For new music on my ipod ~ Shawn McDonald, Mat Kearney, Jason Gray, Brandon Heath, Josh Wilson, Abandon, MIKESCHAIR.

24. For old music on my ipod ~ Mumford and Sons, Phil Wickham, Kristopher Stipech, Bebo Norman.

25. For a beautiful, fall-ish, afternoon drive in the lovely town of Truckee accompanied by a recent playlist on my ipod (see #s 23 and 24). I love driving, I love music, and I love fall, and I REALLY love them when combined!

26. For that moment in "Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King" where Sam and Frodo come across the beheaded statue of a king and, as a ray of light shines through the clouds, notice that a wreath of flowers has grown around the detached head, giving them a brief glimpse of promise that "the crown-less again shall be king," which encourages them in their journey before the sun disappears again.

"Mister Frodo, look..."
"The king has got a crown again."

27. That God gave me an encouraging "ray of light" moment this week in my own journey.

28. For sandwiches involving avocado and bacon.

29. For finding Hello Panda at an Asian market in Reno and for fun memories of visiting Chinatown in San Francisco last summer.

I tried to resist but Jake and Ashley made me do it!

30. That God wants what is best, not just FOR me but FROM me, which means He is constantly working on my heart so that I can be more of what He wants me to be for others.

Have a great week -- and Happy September!