Saturday, January 29, 2011

Perfect Strength

One of our Zambia team members took incredible pictures! I cannot take credit for this photo; but seeing this photo that my friend took reminded me of another experience that seems to be paralleling my spiritual journey at this very moment. The Zambian women are very strong because life is not easy. They have learned that when they place things on their head they are able to carry the load much better. We stayed overnight in the remote village of Mayobo. While we were there, we helped work on a chicken coop the village was building so they could raise chickens for eggs. We foolishly thought we could help them carry water so the men could mix the cement. One of the younger village ladies was sent to show us how, which she did reluctantly. Once we filled our containers about half full, she looked at us with a bit of disgust and said, "Now how are you going to manage?" Two of us decided to share the load and take turns carrying the water; however, even at that it was difficult! We were hungry, tired, and very hot and we soon realized that our strength did not even come close to comparing with the strength of these beautiful Zambian women. I felt foolish and weak. After we were about three quarters of the way back, our Zambian companion couldn't watch us struggle one more minute and took the water from us and placed it on her head.
I know she was strong enough to manage the heavy load (which was only half of what she usually carries) because she had been doing it all her life; however, I couldn't help but be ashamed that even with a friend, I struggled to make it all the way back. Shame. There really was no reason to be ashamed; the only reason I was ashamed was because I so desperately wanted to show them that I could do it! That wasn't a very good motive. I shouldn't have been serving to show my strength; I should have been serving out of love. Serving out of love wouldn't worry about appearances and would rely on others' strengths to get the job done.

I am currently finding myself in a situation where I feel completely inadequate and not able to do what needs to be done. God has reminded me of this moment as I have been struggling with the fear of failure. God has been reminding me that it is okay to let Him pick up the heavy load and carry it for me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says that God's power is made perfect in our weakness. Praise God! I need to remember that when God has asked me to complete something that He will provide the tools I need to get it done. I am so weak; however, God is stronger than I can even comprehend.



Are you relying on your strength or God's?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Zambia


I haven't mentioned much about my Zambia experience since coming back because I have had so much to sort through. Over the next few posts, I want to share some pictures with you and just give you a taste of why I have so much to sort through. The picture in this post is a group of people that we met on Sunday morning at church in Zambia. These are the precious children that came dressed in their finest. It was an odd experience to think that we caused such a stir that the church had its best attendance in a long time and that everyone dressed in their best.

We were not supposed to eat lunch there; we were going to return to the guest house and eat there. That didn't happen because they were so honored by our presence that they cooked us a meal with the very little food they had. They came together as a community and shared their resources to feed us Americans. We were the only ones to eat that day. I felt ashamed and selfish; however, it would have dishonored them to not eat. They gave us their very best and didn't eat so we could. Can I help you understand that these people living in poverty fed us healthy and "rich" (we are rich!) Americans while they didn't eat themselves? They cooked the meal outside during church knowing that they would not eat what they were cooking! And I also want to point out that they did this with much joy!

Romans 12:1-2 says, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." God wants us to sacrifice for Him! What is our spiritual sacrifice? To be transformed by the renewing of our mind! These beautiful Zambians taught me a lesson in sacrifice. It is not about looking at ourselves, but it is looking at God and rejoicing in the honor that we get to sacrifice for Him!

Are you joyful in our sacrifice to God?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Breathe


2 Timothy 3:16-17

The last few weeks have certainly been interesting for me! We traveled to Michigan and Illinois to visit relatives over Christmas. After returning home for a few days, my husband and I traveled to Florida for a pastor's conference and then had an opportunity to take a 4 day cruise to the Bahamas (thanks Mom!) which ended with a bang of being stranded in airports for 2 and a half days! Needless to say, I'm tired and have some catching up to do. Thankfully, my mother-in-law watched our children, so I came home to a clean home! My experience in the Bahamas lead me to my next memory verse for the year. Please turn to 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

The last memory verse was Psalm 90:14 where it talks of being satisfied with God's love. I had an interesting experience when we were on the cruise and went snorkeling. This was the first time I've been snorkeling and it took me a while to get used to breathing in the tube. I found myself in a small panic when I first stuck my face in the water and started breathing; it went against all that I knew about water and breathing. After a while, I began to trust that the tube would provide the air I needed to breath and that I would be okay. It was then that I was able to truly enjoy everything around me and see God's beautiful creation under water.
Our faith can sometimes feel a little like breathing under water. Sometimes God takes us out of our comfort and wants us to rely on Him in a new way. Just as I had never breathed under water before, God wants us to breath in His life in a whole new way. We know that scripture is God breathed and that we can rely on it for how we are to live no matter where God has placed us. Psalm 90:10 says, "Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you." So, even if we feel like God put us in a place where we are under water we can know that God will not leave us stranded in the ocean with no way to breathe; we just need to trust in the devices He has given us to breathe.

Does God want to take your faith to a new place? Where is He having you depend on Him in a new way?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Don't Take Yourself Too Seriously

Micah 6:8

Over the last two days, I have explored how we humans like to make resolutions at the beginning of each year. As I have thought about it, God doesn't want this sudden change to happen in us once a year; He wants continual change to happen in our hearts. Yesterday I looked in Titus at how God wants a change in our heart to be a desire to do good. Without that desire to do good and please God, we never will do good and please Him. I explored how we really don't accidentally do good but that it takes a conscious effort on our part to do good. It isn't easy to do good, while it really doesn't take much thought at all to make poor decisions. One of the verses that God put in front of me today was Micah 6:8, which is one of my favorite verses. Since I do have this one memorized in the NIV, I wanted to look at how the Message paraphrased it. Please look at it with me.

God has already laid out the plan for how we are to live. Micah 6:8 tells us to be fair and just, to be compassionate and loyal in our love, and to be humble. The Message says, "Don't take yourself too seriously - take God seriously." I take myself too seriously more often than I'd like to admit. In all honesty, it is when I take myself too seriously that I see my attitude get in the way. In fact, that is when I struggle with being fair, just and compassionate. I am looking at me and not at God. If I looked at God and took Him more seriously, I wouldn't have the other struggles. Often, it is the things that don't matter in the scope of eternity that I take too seriously. I need to make the effort to look at how God sees the situation and not how it effects me.

Where do you find you are taking yourself too seriously?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A New Start

Titus 2:11-14

I shared with you yesterday that I was planning on memorizing two verses a month throughout this year. It may not sound like a huge deal; however, it is an improvement over what little I have been doing. I am not doing this as a resolution; I am making a lifestyle change that I want to last. It did make me think of resolutions. I don't make resolutions because they are usually made up of great ideas and goals that are just not realistic to meet. The most successful I have been at making a positive change in my life is when I have been fed up with the road I am traveling. It most often does not happen at the beginning of the year; I have made major changes at different times. One major change was to start this blog, which has been a very positive change in my life. Another change was when I went on a diet a few years ago and changed my eating habits.

Have you ever noticed that it is really easy to make negative changes without even thinking about it, but it is so difficult to make a change for the positive? It is like we don't have to think about doing something negative, but to live the life that God wants us to live requires a conscious effort on our part. We can read in Titus 2:11-14 where we are reminded that because of the sacrifice Christ made for us, we become "eager to do good." I am eager to do good; however, I sometimes fail at the follow-through. Verse 13 tells that God's grace helps us: "It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." We need to learn to say "no" to the negative behavior and to purposefully do what God desires in our lives. We will mess up along the way, but we can start fresh. This new year is a great reminder of how we can all pick ourselves up and try again. So, for me I am changing the lack of discipline for memorizing scripture and memorizing two verses each month. God can give me the grace I need to complete this task and make a lifestyle change!

Where would God like to see you change? What new "no" do you need to say and replace with a positive godly behavior?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Satisfying Love

Happy New Year! This year has already had a bit of an emotional beginning for me; however, God is so good! God always provides what we need when we need it - whether it is strength and encouragement, or wisdom to know what to do. Praise God that He is always with us!

I will have difficulty posting over the next week because of limited access to the internet, but please continue to visit because I will definitely post when I get the opportunity. The children's ministry at our church is learning about determination; which is a virtue that God wants to see displayed in our lives. I am determined to post when I have the opportunity and access to the internet! I am also determined to learn 2 new memory verses each month throughout the year.

Here is my first verse of the year: "Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." Psalm 90:14. Oh that we can all wake up and be satisfied with the love that God so lavishly pours out on us! I feel that the best way we can connect with God's satisfying love is by spending time with Him and in His Word. I pray that this year you and I will find satisfaction in His love and grow in our love for Him!