Tuesday, June 30, 2009

S.O.A.P. Day 9

Today's section of scripture was Psalms 41-45.

: My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? Psalm 42:2

Observation: I should long for God. He should be a daily necessity like water. Do I constantly desire more of God? Do I look for the next opportunity to be able to meet with God? Or do I feel it an obligation rather than a privilege?

Application: I should be desiring God so much that I am constantly seeking moments I can steal away with him. Time with God should be what I seek most. I should ask myself, "When I can I go and meet with God?" and take every opportunity.

Prayer: Lord, forgive me for taking time with you for granted. I know how much I need this time. Help me to make the most of my time with you and to look for more opportunities to be with you. Amen.

I really enjoyed this Scripture today. It was very convicting to me when the psalmist asked about meeting with God. I have plenty of time each day, multiple times per day, and I certainly don't take advantage of all of them. Many times I'll choose instead to play Hearts on the computer or stare mindlessly at the television. I'm not saying that I'm not supposed to have any leisure time, but sometimes these are worthless habits. I'm staring at the TV not because I need a break, but because I can't think of anything better to do. I need to form new habits, such as reading my Bible or using my gifts to serve others, when I find myself with unoccupied time (re: bored).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

To Those Who Ask Him

God is sooooo incredible! In yesterday's blog, Waiting in Expectation, I shared some from my prayer journal. The beginning of the excerpt was a prayer for a friend who was going to have to do something difficult and stressful today. Well, I spoke with her last night and she had found out that the situation that she was stressed about having to be a part of had been resolved and so she was off the hook. Praise God! I thought back to what I had prayed and was humbled. I had prayed that He had the ability to make the tense situation easy for her but He did even more than that. God eliminated the situation altogether! He blew my mind! "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" ( Matthew 7:11) Talk about a faith boost. Not only am I excited for her, but I am thankful that God was gracious enough to show His love for me as well.

I'm reading Reaching for the Invisible God by Philip Yancey and it deals a lot with faith and doubt. I realize that in my prayer yesterday I acknowledged that I do sometimes doubt the effectiveness of my prayers. The book talks about how doubt is generally present with faith because faith requires believing despite concrete and irrefutable evidence. This obviously leaves room for questioning and doubt. But doubt has the ability to draw you closer to or away from God. I love that God still answers prayers despite my doubts. I think what He likes is honesty about our doubts, fears, and struggles. Only when we're completely open can He do what is needed because we are acknowledging our lack and admitting our need for Him. And God is so faithful. "O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you" Psalm 89:8.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Shout Out

When I started this blog, the purpose was to share what I am learning about and in my relationship with God. The hope was that my experiences would be an encouragement to others as well as a reminder to me.

I know that I am not very good at posting regularly. It definitely seems to be in spurts. After this last void of nearly two weeks I was wondering whether to continue with it as I am not as faithful as I would like to be nor does it seem to be benefiting anyone (for some reason I have decided that the lack of comments equalled the lack of reading, which certainly isn't true. BTB, I realized that my settings didn't allow everyone to comment even if they wanted to so I think I fixed that).

However, shortly after this thought, Adam told me that one of his friends said she was reading it and enjoyed it. Which made me think about the other handful of people who have mentioned that they, too are reading it. So, to those I remember who have let me know they have read it at one point or another, (LB, JKB, NA, MA, JK, KG, QS), thanks! I appreciate the reminder and the encouragement. If I missed your initials, I'm sorry. Thanks for letting me know that this blog is serving a purpose. As always, I welcome comments and feedback (spoken, emailed, posted, whatever).

P.S. - I would encourage you to check out the Stuff Christians Like blog. I thoroughly enjoy its wit and wisdom. The comments posted by others are often just as funny. I would suggest reading this one and/or this one from past posts.

Waiting in Expectation

Jeff's challenge to meditate on Scripture had a successful first day. I was thinking about how Psalm 5:3 talked about David waiting in expectation after presenting his requests to God and what that should look like in my life. I figured my first chance to really apply it would be at this morning's quiet time. Often times I will write out my prayers and I can't tell if that hinders waiting. I guess it's the same to pause in spoken prayer or written prayer to allow God to reveal wisdom to you. I also know that Scripture and other people are where I most often receive godly instruction.

As I was praying/prayer journaling this morning, I was thinking about the requests I was making and how I would wait expectantly for responses. Especially those that are for other people. Obviously, asking them about it is a good way to see what God has chosen to do. But what about prayers such as guidance for the day? Often times I get sucked into the daily activities and don't even think about looking for where God might want to lead me (or if He is leading me and I'm unaware of it). I really started thinking about prayer and trusting God, especially with other people. I have a friend who has a tough situation that she requested prayer for. I am praying, but I struggle with wondering if my prayers are "powerful and effective" and whether a seeming non answer is a lack of faith on my part or God choosing to do something different. I want to share my prayer thoughts from this morning.

"...I pray that the situation would not be tense but be relatively easy. I know that You have the ability to make that happen. Please help me to trust You to do that. Help me to to trust that You hear my prayers and will answer them. I do struggle a lot with whether You will answer me. I feel like it must hinder my prayer effectiveness. God, I don't know why I am afraid to step out in trust. I have seen Your faithfulness. I am afraid that You will let me down and look foolish. What's wrong with being foolish? You are able to use the foolish, the simple, the meek, the unworthy. You are able to fill in all of the weaknesses with Your strength. Lord, I need You to help me trust You. I need You to help me trust You with my brother, the book, my family, my job, our house, my marriage. None of these things are completely within my control. Many of these things I have limited influence over. Only You can make and keep them blessings. You have influence like none other. You provide hope. You know more about these situations than I do. You know what is needed in each one. Father, help me to trust You and believe in Your goodness. Help me to be confident that You hear my prayers and will act in the necessary ways. Help me not to be afraid to ask You for anything. Help me to approach You confidently. Help me to not be afraid of a "no" or "not yet" looking like an unanswered prayer or evidence to others that You don't exist. I have seen Your hand in my life. You have and continue to provide for me. Help me to trust you at all times. Father, help me to wait expectantly for Your response to my requests..."

I love how in prayer God showed me that it is fear that hinders my trust. Fear of looking foolish in the eyes of others. Isn't it God's approval that I should be seeking? "But they do not know the thoughts of the Lord; they do not understand his plan" ~Micah 4:12 "God's voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding." ~Job 37:5 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." ~Proverbs 3:5-6

I just need to be faithful and trust God to increase my faith and trust. If you can relate to any of this, please share your experience. I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, June 22, 2009

S.O.A.P. Day 1

This morning I worked on the applications from yesterday's message. I read Psalms 2-6 as directed by the piece of paper I typed up last week at work. From this first day I can already tell that I am going to have to go back through Psalms when this is over. There were so many standout verses in these five chapters and I was supposed to pick just one?! Perhaps that's Jeff's hidden objective. To get us all interested in studying the book more intensely. And, for those other CCCers who are like me and follow directions, that means either having 3.5 hours of meditating time each day and trying to remember six different scriptures and applications OR just doing one now and coming back later to go slower through the chapters.

Thus, I forced myself to pick just one. It was mainly between Psalm 3:5 and Psalm 5:3 (interestingly enough). I like Psalm 3:5 (I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.) because it reminds me to trust in God to protect me at all times. I have a Life Application Study Bible and really enjoyed the footnote on the verse. It talked about how when you worry about a situation it's really hard to sleep at times. In stressful times, trusting in God's provision and protection will help you to sleep peacefully despite whatever chaos may be occurring in your life. That's not verbatim, but the meat of it. I enjoyed the reminder/encouragement. While, this was great, I ultimately chose the other for today.

Scripture: In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. Psalm 5:3

Observation: David chooses to start his day in prayer to God. He is confident that God hears him. He is not afraid to ask God. Yet, when he asks, he also waits for an answer. He expects God to do something with his requests.

Application: I have chosen to have quiet times in the morning but I struggle with being consistent when my routine changes (generally the weekends even though I have more time - go figure). Often times, I will pray and then continue on with my day. I do not wait or look for God's responses to my prayers. If I truly believe in the power of prayer, I should be willing to do whatever is needed to pray daily. I should also be expecting an answer and be waiting for it.

Prayer: Father, forgive me for taking prayer lightly and for granted at times. I do know that You are able to do anything. Please help me to be diligent daily in prayer. Remind me to not only ask, but to also wait for and seek Your response. You know that I really struggle with waiting on You. Please help me to grow in this area. Thank you for this pertinent word. You are so good to me. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

I don't know if I will be posting these daily, but I thought I'd title it for the possibility of more S.O.A.P. posts.

The Psalms: Week One

Yesterday we started our new message series titled The Psalms: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. We are going to spend six weeks studying a few individual psalms. Our first psalm of study was Psalm One.

Psalm 1
1Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
2But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
3He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
4Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor the sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6For the Lord watches over the ways of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Jeff reminded us that the Psalms are not to be read as daily devotionals but as spiritual journals. Daily devotionals are generally purposed to encourage you each day but some of the psalms have angry or depressed moods. They won't all make you feel good.

Why aren't the psalms organized according to the various moods/tones? Perhaps because life is messy and consists of a variety of moods/tones at different times. Thus, the psalms are a reflection of real life.

The psalms remind us that God wants us to praise Him but to also bring Him our hurts, sturggles, and wide variety of emotions. There's nothing we can't tell Him or that He can't handle.

What does it mean to be blessed? Supremely happy, fortunate, envied, lucky (in the way that you don't deserve what you have received).

Verse 1 talks about the relational progression into the sinful life > walk...stand...sit. An example of this progression is found in Genesis 13,19 with Lot. He chooses the land that contains Sodom and Gomorrah (even though he knew the people of the cities were wicked and sinful) and sets up his tent outside of Sodom. He then moves into the city to live. Finally we find him sitting in the gateway of the city (as a leader). He was eventually drawn into what he knew from the beginning was harmful. From this is asked, "Who influences you? From whom do you seek council?"

Verse two talks about the blessed man delighting in and meditating on the law of the Lord. Jeff explained that delighting in the law means to want to know what it says. To meditate on it is to think about it. Worry is negative meditation - thinking and mulling something over and over. If you can worry, you can meditate on God's word and it'll be a lot more productive.

Suggestions for Meditating: 1. Choose a time and place. 2. Ask God to meet you in scripture. 3. Read. 4. Meditate on a brief passage.

We were given an outline for meditating using the acrostic S.O.A.P. (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer)

2 Timothy 3:15-17 (Message) "There's nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful in one way or another - showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God's way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us."

What a great reminder. At the end, we were challenged to follow a reading plan that was given to us to help us read through the entire book of Psalms during our series. We were also challenged to use the S.O.A.P. acrostic to meditate on scriptures within our reading.

Personal Application: I am taking up the challenge to follow the reading plan through the end of the series. I am also going to use the S.O.A.P. acrostic to meditate on what I read. Jeff mentioned that writing down what you learn helps you to apply it. I really do want to "do what it says" rather than just hear it (James 1:22). I want to be blessed. I do delight in God's Word, though I certainly don't always act like it. I also desire to yield much fruit and that comes from applying what I know. Hopefully this exercise will help.

If you'd like to hear the full message, click here. It may not be up for a few days because Neal's at camp and he is in charge of uploads.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Wonder Years

This past Sunday's message was shared by Neal. It's about the years between Jesus' childhood and adult ministry. Below are notes and application. You can listen to it here.

Luke 2:41-52

We don't know much about the life of Jesus between when he was a child and age 30. What we can know is gleaned from Luke where it begins with the family's trip to Jerusalem when he was 12.

"And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." v52

Neal expounded on this using alliteration.

Stature - physical growth (Jesus grew up like a normal, typical Jewish boy)

At this point, I was thinking, how can wisdom be an "S" word? Wisdom....sage....sagacity! I then whispered the word to Adam shortly before Neal confirmed my skills.

Sagacity - wisdom (everyone was amazed at his knowledge of God)

Spirituality - favor with God (extremely devout family, Jesus was putting into practice what he was learning from God)

Socially - favor with man (relationships, drawing people to God)
>The average man and woman loved Jesus, it was the hypocritical religious leaders that didn't like him.
>Jesus was invited to a wedding indicating that he was well liked and fun. When there was a crisis, people turned to him indicating his dependability in tough situations. This is where he performed his first miracle (John 2:11 - indicating that he hadn't shown any inclination toward supernatural powers previously).

When Jesus was growing up, he was preparing himself for what he was going to do. What are we preparing ourselves for?

Romans 8:15-17 - we are God's children, heirs with Christ; we are also to share in Christ's glory

God has a part for us to play. We need to prepare ourselves and step into our God-given role. Jesus didn't have to fulfill his appointed role. He chose to do it. And so must we.

What is the stage of life you are being called out of for something new? Are you growing in the four "S"s? What is at least one area you can grow in this summer?

Personal Thoughts: I am part of the women's walking group for the summer which indicates social and stature (relationships and health). There is also an element of the spiritual as we have mini devotions and are encouraged to pray for one another and to develop an accountability relationship with another woman. I have that covered in Jill. I am also trying to reach out more to our neighbors as indicated in a previous post and am involved in tennis with others in the neighborhood. I can always use more wisdom and favor with God. I have been remiss at adding scripture to my heart so that it can become part of my life and actions. I should put more effort into practicing what I am learning from God as well as meditating on His Word.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Explicit Lyrics Week 6

I know I'm a little behind in posting this. I was in the nursery during service and then out of town at a wedding the following weekend. Regardless I figured it'd be nice to finish up the series for those who might be interested. You can listen to all six messages here. Below are my notes.

Our Song: In It For the Long Haul
Song of Songs 8:5-14

Jeff asked all of the couples if they have a song. I would probably have to say that "Not Fire Not Ice" is our song because it's what we danced to at our reception. However, we both really enjoy Sister Hazel so they could be considered the background noise of our relationship.

In SoS 8:5 Beloved is building Solomon up.
From verses 6-7 Jeff gave us seven aspects of love:

1. Love is personal - a seal is a mark of ownership
2. Love is protective - fighting for and not against one another
3. Love is powerful - as strong as death
4. Love is possessive - you should be one another's ONLY love (good jealousy)
5. Love is passionate - burns like a fire (white hot, consistent, continuous)
6. Love perseveres - water cannot quench it, rivers cannot wash it away (endures hardship)
7. Love is priceless - you can buy sex, but not love; it can only be given

Marriage is supposed to be a display of God's love. What picture of God is our marriage giving to others? Does our marriage display the seven aspects of love to others?

Beloved's brothers (v 8-9) protected her purity in childhood. A lot of what happens in childhood affects our freedom in our marriage. If you didn't have a perfect childhood, God can heal your past.

Challenge to parents to guard their children's purity. In our culture, chastity is not a virtue, it's a joke. That's why parents need to teach them what God says. Don't believe the lie that they are "just going to do it anyway." We are all fully aware of ourselves and choose who to give ourselves to. Help them to see their value and worth so that they don't act like they are cheap or easy.

We all have failed relationally at some point. We have to believe that God can heal anyone and anything.

Personal application: I need to really consider my marriage and what it is revealing about God. Do we demonstrate the seven aspects of love toward one another and others?
I loved the challenge to parents. I am not yet a parent, but I have a passion for encouraging young women to pursue purity. It's essentially the basis for the book I'm writing. I need to continue to work diligently toward it's completion as this message is relevant and needed.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Door-to-door Jam

A few months ago I was pondering how to become engaged in my community, more specifically with those in my neighborhood. I have met a lot of people through tennis which has been nice. And many of our immediate neighbors are pretty friendly, though we're not always in the loop as we have no kids. However, there are still several on our block I've never met or don't know their names, most particularly our neighbor immediately to our right. I was trying to figure out how to meet everyone. At Halloween a lot of neighbors gather in the cul-de-sac to have a potluck and pass out candy, but that's only once a year. I had thought about hosting a social or something, but we've been too busy to add another event.

About a month ago I picked strawberries and made waaaaaay too much freezer jam. I decided that passing it out would be a great way to say hi and connect. Who doesn't like strawberry jam, right? (Apparently Neal doesn't.) So I settled on that idea, but have been remiss in following through. Part of it is not knowing when people are home. The other part is I'm not particularly outgoing and the idea of going door to door (even though I'm not selling something) makes me a little nervous.

Recently I've been praying for courage because I know it's something that needs to be done (and the jam is taking up too much space in the freezer). Yesterday afternoon, as I was preparing to go to the gym, I figured it was as good a time as any to drop some off to people so I put six containers in a cooler and headed out. I figured it wouldn't take long. Two and a half hours later I realized I was not visiting the gym that day.

My first stop was our neighbor two doors down. I knew that the woman worked from home so I figured she would be available. Unexpectedly she invited me in to sit and talk. She shared that it seemed like good timing because her family had just learned a week or two before that her husband has cancer. They removed it but he still has to go through radiation. She asked for prayer. Apart from that, I learned a lot about her and her family. It made me thankful that I was finally being faithful to what I needed to do.

My second and third stops were to next door neighbors who were outside. We all chatted for a bit. One of the women is someone I have spent more time with than most of the other neighbors. It wasn't very long, but I passed out jam to both of them.

The fourth stop was to a family I had only spoken to at the Halloween potluck. I learned that the husband recently had surgery and is on disability. They were preparing to go to the pool so I didn't stay very long.

The fifth visit was up the street to the police officer's house. I hadn't really talked to him since Halloween either. He was a little skeptical about my purpose until I told him I lived three houses down. He remembered my husband and asked how Adam was doing. Kind of funny to me.

My last stop of the afternoon was to a house whose inhabitants I had never met. I had seen the woman going in to the house on the way up to number five so I knew someone was home. I rang the door bell and waited as a dog barked inside. I waited long enough that I didn't think anyone was coming. As I was headed back down the driveway the front door opened. So I met the lady and told her who I was. We talked for a while on her front porch. She's lived here since the beginning of the neighborhood. At one point she asked what I was doing and I told her I was trying to meet some of the neighbors and gave her the jam. She's very friendly.

All in all a very successful first venture. Not at all what I had anticipated. Much, much better in fact. I still have a number of other houses to visit, including our next door neighbor, but I am very encouraged after yesterday. I don't really know what all will come of this, but I am enjoying the process all the same as it's stretching me a little.

How has God been stretching you? How do you engage your community?


God is so good! I guess He's reading my blog because he certainly responded to the last one. Obviously, not in the comments section or I wouldn't have to tell you about it.

Okay, so I talked about how God has previously humbled me regarding being frustrated with initiating contact with friends. And I really have been okay with this fact as of late. I made plans to attend a friend's bachelorette party in order to spend some time with her (because we all know you don't talk to the bride or groom at their actual wedding and reception). We all had a blast and I am glad that I was proactive. We are headed up to N.C. next weekend for Adam's high school reunion and I have contacted my friends in Winston-Salem to get together while we're up there. I also called a friend I haven't spoken to since December and left her a message. She left me a message so hopefully we'll connect later this week. All of these people mean enough to me that I am willing to put forth an effort even if I'm always the one making contact. (For those of you who don't hear from me, that doesn't mean that I don't like you. Feel free to call me and let me know you're offended. It'll be a great way for us to K.I.T.)

On top of all this exciting catching up, in the last few days I've had two unexpected contacts. My friend Renee emailed me to say that she and the family will be in Atlanta later this week and to see what my schedule looked like. I am so excited to see her and to meet her kids. I haven't seen her since my wedding nearly three years ago. Last night my friend Kim called to say that she and her family will be stopping in Atlanta on their way to Elizabeth City next week and was wondering what we would be up to. I don't work Tuesdays, generally, so I am looking forward to seeing them. I haven't seen her since her first daughter was born a few months after our wedding so that will be fun. God is truly blessing me!