To the new year

Fireworks_tallWelcome new year.

Welcome blank slate. Welcome fresh start.

Welcome new challenges. Welcome the old faithful ones.

Welcome temptations. Welcome trials. Welcome hardships. Welcome stretching experiences.

Welcome new friends. Welcome unexplored places. Welcome firsts.

Welcome health; welcome sickness. Welcome riches; welcome empty pockets.

Welcome laughter; welcome sadness. Welcome births; welcome deaths.

If I truly believe God is in control and sovereign over this new year with its good and bad, joys and sorrows, easy and hard times, then I welcome them all. If…

…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

…then – welcome. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for His glory in 2015.

Fireworks_long

I’m linking up with Five Minute Friday.

Advertisements

Day 30: Seeking the True Kingdom

Fall LeavesYou may be asking yourself what the deal is with all this kingdom talk. It’s not normal in our day and age to talk about kingdoms. Why should it matter?

When we live for ourselves, we are focused on things that satisfy ourselves. At our worst, we hurt others to achieve the things we want. At best, we are seeking only our own good – or the good of others to promote our purposes. All of this falls short. In Isaiah, it says that the good things we do are equivalent to filthy rags:

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Forget the good things we try to do, which clearly don’t amount to anything worthwhile – our iniquities or sins sweep us away like the wind carries off dead leaves. A few chapters earlier, Isaiah speaks prophetically of Jesus as being crushed for our iniquities:

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

God caused his son to pay the penalty of our sins, death, in our place. In exchange, we are given the righteousness of God. By faith in his name that exchange happens, and we are reconciled to (restored to a good relationship with) God.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Once that reconciling has occurred and relationship is restored, we are then free to focus on building his kingdom rather than our own. From the passage of scripture mentioned in Day 8, we set our minds on things above, not on things of the earth. We put to death the things in us that build our own kingdoms. In their place, we:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness,humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

If you’ve never done this, would you join me as we seek the true kingdom, the kingdom of God? Recognize that your best attempts at being good are still like filthy rags in the eyes of a holy God, accept that God took the responsibility for your sin and exchanges it with the righteousness of Jesus, and then, turning away from the earthly things within you, seek to live a life focused on the true kingdom, with God on the throne.

~~~

Tomorrow is the last day of the series. You can view all the posts on this index page:

crushing your kingdoms

Day 22: You are here – a brief recap

Dear Reader Friend,

There are less than 10 days left in this 31 day challenge. I’ve posted scripture and songs and stories from others. The things going on in my personal life (see Day 2 for a glimpse into THAT) have made it very challenging to carefully craft out a blog post each day. I lost a few days early on and am not quite caught back up yet. But thank you for hanging in there with me.

you-are-here-illustration by hikingartist (CC BY-ND 2.0)

you-are-here-illustration by hikingartist (CC BY-ND 2.0)

So, where are we now?

My goal this month was to look at the things in life that we try to build on, trusting in our own strength or ability rather than leaning wholeheartedly on God, his strength and his peace. I thought I would go through different things we try to rely on and show how they are kingdoms with foundations built on sand that easily crumble. Instead, my physical kingdom, i.e., house, crumbled. Not literally, but with water soaking our entire basement floor and an upstairs crammed with all the furnishings that were down there, it’s been a challenge. I’ve learned that I don’t need to wait until my house is perfectly decorated to invite people over. Instead, I’ve actually had more people in my house this month than probably the past three months combined. It’s hard to swallow pride and ask for help, but the community that has surrounded us has been worth it.

I’ve had some stumbles, too.

Temptations that repeatedly tease with their false hope of something “better” have been taunting me. Being tired and worn thin, it’s been easier to give in, to allow the serpent in the garden sweet talk me into taking a bite of his apple. When I look at it in light of crushing kingdoms, the sins I gravitate toward are often my attempts at building my own kingdom. The idols I manufacture are my attempt at putting myself on the throne.

The next step in this series, though definitely more difficult to spell out in words, is to look at four of those areas that are often classified as the deep idols. These would be the root of the issue, so to speak. If you take the sins you feel you struggle with and start probing even deeper, where does it lead you? At the heart of things, what is it you really long for? How do you figure that out? Here are some questions to begin asking yourself:

What do you worry about the most?
What, if it failed or you lost it, would make you perhaps not want to live anymore?
What do you rely on for comfort?
What do you do to make yourself feel better?
What do think about, or daydream about, when there’s nothing else pressing in?
What gives you your self-worth?
What are you proud of?
What would you want printed on your tombstone?

Think through these, so in the next several posts, you’ll more clearly see what deep idols you are clinging to as you crush your kingdoms.

Thanks for following along with me this month, whether you’ve been a faithful reader for a while or if you’re one of my new friends, many of whom are also participating in #write31days.

me in my World Help shirtHave a blessed day,

Janice
aka Claygirlsings ← (how this name came about)

Day 13: The Words of Others

So, almost immediately after posting last night on all the hard stuff going on and not really knowing what to do with that, I read Laurie Wallin’s post – When We Can’t Control Life (and why that’s a great thing):

Regardless, I get Job because his story is about when life knocks us on our rear end.When we think we know exactly what could or might happen. . . then it unfolds so differently that we scratch our heads and proclaim, “You’re either clueless, helpless, or heartless, God! What gives??!”…

Then today I read a fellow #write31days blogger, Airman 2 Mom, where she says,

Before I left for Afghanistan I remember being scared. I was uncertain I would survive the adventure I was about to embark on. I’m not sure if it was the fear of dying or just the fear of the unknown, but either way I was scared and unsure. The Sunday before I left for training in Indiana the church I attended sang “Take my life and let it be for Your Glory.” I broke down. All the fear and uncertainty I was feeling were poured into that song. I realized I was trying to control a situation I had no control over and I needed to trust in God. Knowing whatever happened it would be for His Glory. Not mine. I couldn’t do this alone. I needed to trust in God. The song was a theme that I focused on during the whole deployment and it is still written on my Facebook page. My life is his and I am here to glorify him…

While I’m sharing from others, there are two blogs that I’ve been enjoying regularly as part of the #write31days challenge.

Tales from a Southern Catholic Momma is really stretching herself and her readers by walking us through the days earlier this year when she severely battled against depression and everything that accompanied it. I’ve never had such a privileged window into the thoughts and feelings (good and bad) of someone with depression. It’s been enlightening and engrossing. I’m on the edge of my seat each day, waiting to hear where the story will go. It’s heartbreaking, but I feel it must have a happy resolution, since she’s being so brave about sharing her story.

The Hope Diaries – blogging under a pseudonym, Caiobhe is writing painful, healing posts of the hope she found/is finding after breaking off an adulterous affair. I think my favorite post so far is Please be my strength, where she says,

Today is about survival. It’s about staying and not running away. It’s about God given strength because there is none of my own. It’s about surrender to God’s love, and a giving up of my will and my plans. It’s about holding on to hope. I have no words.”

crushing your kingdoms

This is just one day in 31 days of posting about crushing kingdoms. Click above to read through all the posts written thus far.

God’s Got This – a peek into His sovereign will

berries of winterWe all have ideas of how we expect things to go in life. We make plans and expect they will turn out as we planned. Large project or small, we start down a course with a set expectation.

Sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s an epic mess. Sometimes we end up with our own version of a Pinterest Fail.

I’m at Camp CUMCITO this week. We planned to have a fully staffed week. We planned to be able to fill the camp with campers. My husband planned to be here with me. My church planned to have a team of 15 people and bring 25 local campers with us.

God’s been teaching me a lot about His sovereignty lately. I had a refresher course a couple of months ago during a class my church taught. God’s in control. He’s so much bigger than my plans. God doesn’t scramble to figure out Plan B. For Him, there is no Plan B. It’s all His Plan A.

Basically, God’s got this.

I’m here at camp as a team of five from my church – not 15. I’m so glad that these four came with me. I’m so thrilled that they committed to serve. God planned exactly who should be here this year.

We ran into difficulties in getting parents on board and ended up not being able to bring any campers with us this year. God is not surprised by this.

My husband had a flare-up of back pain and is not able to work right now, let alone serve a week at camp, so I’m here without him. God orchestrated that he would be home and I would be here.

We not expecting to have a full camp. Campers weren’t able to attend this week for various reasons and we think we’ll be short about 30 campers. God knows and planned the exact campers who will step off the bus on Monday.

We have not been able to find enough volunteers to work at camp this week. Not sure if it’s the Independence Day holiday or what. We are short about 12 staff positions and people are having to stretch and do double-duty and get creative about how we make ends meet. Even this is part of God’s plan.

Not one single bit of this is a surprise to God. While we do all we can to fill the gaps and make plans, God knows exactly who will be here. He’s in charge of exactly what will happen this week. He is in control.

God’s got this.

Maybe there’s something in your life that’s not going according to your plan. Perhaps it seems like everything is falling apart. God is over all. He is at work in your life with His Plan A. He’s got this. I hope you can trust in that today.

winter berries

 

The Lover Of Your Soul Sings Over You

_MG_5323

(Photo credit: flickr-rickr)

Here’s the thing, just as money can’t buy happiness, having a love in your life doesn’t guarantee you will feel loved.

It just doesn’t.

There is only One who loves perfectly. No other love will satisfy. Not fully. Not forever. The whole “you complete me” bit? It’s only gonna be found in one place, and that’s God.

He is your bridegroom, singing over his Beloved.

I adore this song by Kari Jobe. It’s a prayer, one that the Lover of your soul sings for you throughout Scripture.

Listen to it and read the lyrics below. There are verses embedded throughout this song, some of which I’ve listed by each line. If you mouse over them, you’ll see the phrases that are echoing throughout the Bible – a love song for you.

Soak in this prayer by your Bridegroom:

(more…)

Just Write

Joining Five Minute Friday for the first time this year. The writing prompt is encouragement. Set a timer and write for 5 minutes. Go.

This is my first post since mid-November.

Sad, really. I posted daily through October, but then burned out the rest of the year.

It’s because if I can’t have a perfect post, I don’t post at all. If I can’t put an image that inspires next to my words, it’s not worth the time. If I can’t be an Ann Voskamp or Emily Freeman or Mary DeMuth (or Lisa-Jo), why even try?

Of course, you see the lie. I do, too, when I look.
A) God didn’t make me to be those women. I can reach people that they may never have the chance to reach.
B) They didn’t start at the top. They started with faithfully writing and asking God to guide their words. They worked – and hard – to get the platform/tribe/following/whatever that they now have.
C) Hidden in those complaints and excuses is a deeper question:

For whom am I writing?

Is it for some Facebook friend who I hope to impress?
Is it for a Five Minute Friday reader?
Is it for my glory?

Is it for the Lord?

Today’s encouragement is mainly for myself (though you may feel it, too). Write, not for others, but for God. Write to glorify Him and spread the light of His truth.

Just write, or paint, or raise babies, or deliver babies, or clean houses, or sell tools, or clean teeth, or type letters, or park cars, or answer phones, or whatever you do…do it for the Lord.


Thanks for joining this edition of Five Minute Friday. You can go to Lisa Jo Baker’s blog to read more posts on Encouragement.

barren 

Disturbed, Satisfied, and Enough

Why are you crying? C’mon, you can tell me. What’s wrong?

The last click of high school[Day155]*

Photo credit: Chapendra (Creative Commons)

Has anyone ever asked you this, but you couldn’t answer? More than that, you didn’t know the answer?

I can picture myself on the floor by my high school locker, with my best friend, Andre’, patiently trying to figure out what was going on.

Poor boy.
Like he could ever understand a teenage girl. He had no idea what was wrong.

Problem is, sometimes neither did I.

There was so much comfort when I discovered David’s words,

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

David, king of Israel and called a man after God’s own heart, knew what it was like to be down and not fully understand why. Wow! As a confused, hormonal teen, that was music to my ears. Even today, that is so comforting.

Now look back at the beginning of the Psalm (verses 1-2):

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

It all begins with desiring God as a basic necessity for life. Like water to a living thing. Do you remember, as a kid, how you would play and play, not thinking at all about food or drink, when suddenly it’s hits you – you’re starving! And you’re dying of thirst! That’s when drinking from the hose tasted the best (yeah, I know kids aren’t allowed to do that anymore and this blog does not endorse such behavior, blah, blah, blah). But it’s only after being that thirsty that the water tasted best.

I love this song that we sometimes sing in Karis Church, Satisfied in You. It’s one of those songs that I often have to sing as a prayer, because I’m not often in the place where I can say I’m satisfied in God. I want to be. But I’m often not there.

Yesterday, Justin and Trisha Davis posted The Most Important Question on their blog. Please click over and read the whole post, but in case you don’t, here’s the question: “Is Jesus enough?…Is he truly enough or do I desire the things he gives me more than I desire him? If everything else goes away…is Jesus enough?” The post goes on to list specific scenarios. You may find yourself in one or more of them. I did.

So where are you today? Disturbed and downcast? Satisfied and thirsting for God? A little of both?

Will you, with me, live these words from the song?

Let my sighs give way to songs that sing about Your faithfulness.
Let my pain reveal Your glory as my only real rest.
Let my losses show me all I truly have is You. Because all I truly have is You.

I’m linking up with

Day 31: True Rest – the Beginning to Never Needing

fall roadThe month of October has sped by and I feel like I’ve barely touched on the topic of rest. I think I was hoping to uncover some secret to feeling at rest, but instead, I ended up frazzled and stretched throughout the whole month.

Much like I wrote in the very first post for this series, Called to Rest, I long for the break. In this case, the end of the month. Here’s what I said 31 days ago:

We spend so much of our lives striving for something. We work to fit in with peers, we fill our calendars with events, we climb the corporate ladder…But how many of us, when the day is done and the party is over and we’re finally alone in our homes, are just plain worn out? We kick off our shoes and get into some comfy sweats and sigh deeply. We long for the weekends, vacation, a holiday or just a day off, but even then we fill those to the brim, finally exclaiming, “I need a vacation from my vacation!”

I’m starting to wonder if we really ever do feel at rest, completely rested in this life. The success of that involves us totally surrendering our lives and schedules, hopes and dreams on the Lord. But since my sinful heart continually fights to grasp at control of my life, it only comes in bits and spurts. Moments of peace, seconds of rest. A Sabbath here and there.

It’s good to want the rest, but it becomes tarnished when rest becomes an idol consuming our days.

The reward may not be in the resting after all. The goal may be the One in whom we rest. That desire we all have for rest may be a longing for Heaven and home with God.

And it keeps me wanting
That mysterious thing
Like a night is waiting for a dawn

The joy is in the waiting
Somewhere in the grand design
It’s good to be unsatisfied
It keeps the faith and hope
A little more alive

This is such a fun song with which to close out the month, from my Canadian friends again.

Every prayer I say (a little closer)
To my resting place (a little closer)
Where my final breath
Is the beginning
To never needing
And I will find my last Amen.

Doesn’t that sound like true rest – the beginning to never needing? Total, 100% surrender to God, trusting him absolutely?

Rest indeed.

Until we reach that last Amen of true rest, continue to give up those bits of crazy in your life to find glimpses of rest. Keep reminding each other to surrender control, to trust God, and to rest in Him. Encourage “one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” — Hebrews 3:13

If you want to a little further reading on rest, take a look at Hebrews 3-4, comparing the Israelites who were not allowed to enter God’s rest with those who believe and are allowed to enter His rest.

Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…

Thank you for journeying with me through 31 Days of Rest. I pray that you find that true rest.

Day 30: Rest in Your Mess

Photo credit: Jennifer @ http://www.jenbh.blogspot.com/

I’m a mess.

I stay up too late at night so I’m groggy and cranky when the alarm goes off – IF I hear the alarm go off. I run late – EVERY.WHERE. I lost a lot of weight, got new clothes, then gained the weight back and now nothing fits right. I put off emptying the dishwasher until the sink is full of dishes. “Luckily?,” I have a cat who can’t get it through her thick skull that she’s not allowed on the kitchen counters, so I have to keep the counters clean or she’d be licking anything left on the counter. I nag and complain and am rude to my husband when I think he should be home helping me clean. I get sidetracked by Facebook or Pinterest or blog reading instead of doing something constructive. I procrastinate. I’m jealous. I get angry. I covet my neighbor’s…well, everything.

Let’s just stop there for now. I could go on, but we all get the point – I’m a mess.

You’re a mess, too. I don’t mean to sound rude, but you know it’s true. Even if you don’t let anyone see it, you know it.

We are all messes. That should actually be comforting. Because God meets us in our mess – we don’t have to clean up our act before He wants us or before He will accept us. Romans 5:6-8 says:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Weak = messes. Sinners = messes.

We don’t have to hide our messes from one another in community, though, pretending we are already perfect. God is perfecting us as we grow closer to Him, but we’ll never be absolutely perfect this side of eternity. Pretending to be so is really only adding to the mess.

Be willing to show your mess to your friends. Be real about your mess in community. It only creates more opportunity for grace to abound (Romans 5-6) or, as Mary DeMuth put it, it’s where grace will find a home.

Rest in your mess because God shows His love for you in your mess. Then grow in grace, releasing more and more of your mess into His hands, allowing Him to work in you. My prayer for you from Philippians 1:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace…And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Can you believe it’s Day 30 of the series on Rest?

31Days_Rest_thumb

  • Hi, I'm Janice. I'm part bookworm and part creative. I love both science and music (and the science of music). I'm stumbling around trying to grow closer to God. Click the photo to read more about me.

  • I’m so glad you’re here!

    Thanks for taking time to read my posts in the midst of all the great blogs out in the blogosphere! If you like what you read, please follow me, or sign up to get my posts in your inbox. I'd love to hear from you, so please leave a comment!
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 755 other followers

  • Follow me on Twitter

  • Check these out:

    31Days_Rest_thumb
  • Copyright 2014 Claygirlsings | all rights reserved

  • Advertisements